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The debate about the top Texas fishing holes could fill hours of discussion around the coffee shop, but there’s one thing everyone can agree on: It’s tough to go wrong with almost any of these fantastic bodies of water in prime months.
Our state waters harbor some of the best angling for more species than you can shake a stick at in both freshwater and saltwater, but there are some that stand out above the rest for quantity, quality or even both, and you should plan your year based on hitting these honey holes at peak times.
With that in mind, here’s a look at the next six months of Texas fishing that is sure to not disappoint even the most accomplished and seasoned anglers.
February Black Drum in the Upper Laguna Madre
This time of year these feisty fish are schooled up and if you come across a swath of them you could find yourself limited out quickly with plenty of nice fillets to take home, and drum are about as good an eating fish as you will find up and down the coast. Anglers may keep five fish per day within a 14- to 30-inch slot limit, and the first place to look is deeper channels and cuts, especially areas near the Intracoastal Waterway.
Drum will take artificials but the easiest way to haul fish in is using live or dead shrimp, sea lice or crabs. Cracking the sea lice and crabs prior to sticking them on a circle or wide-gap hook is an easy way to attract a wad of hungry fish, and one way to use freshly dead shrimp is to thread it on 1/8- or 1/16-ounce jigheads, and it’s a perfect bait to fling from one of the many piers that dot the Intracoastal.
The drum is an everyman’s fish, and pier access near lots of fishy areas makes it your best bet this month across the state.
Texas catfish noodling leaves biologists fishing for answers. http://t.co/UifZPzjMy2
— Will Leschper (@TXOutdoorDigest) September 11, 2013
March Largemouth Bass in Lake Fork
The numbers don’t lie: Of the 50 biggest largemouths caught in Texas, 34 came from Fork, including the 18.18-pound state record caught in 1992 by Barry St. Clair.
The restrictive slot limit of 16 to 24 inches and phenomenal habitat have made Fork the trophy destination for anglers. As temperatures begin to rise, it’s easy to see why. Big sow bass will start to move into the shallows to spawn and are at their most vulnerable for the whole year during time spent lurking near bedding areas cleared off by smaller males.
Among the baits that have been tried and true for catching Fork lunkers are jigs, jerkbaits, spinnerbaits, plastic worms and lizards in a variety of colors. It can be tough to see darker baits, especially on cloudy days, and one tip that seems to work for many veteran anglers is to pick a lighter- or brighter-colored bait that they can see when pitching the shallows in hopes of dragging an offering through a bed.
April Blue Catfish in Lake Buchanan
The Highland Chain of lakes long has been a weekend hotspot for anglers from all of Central Texas, and this blue cat hotspot west of Burnet is your best bet this month. While Buchanan also boasts good numbers of channel cats and flatheads, its blue cat population rivals that of Texoma, which some anglers boast is the best for that species in the state.
The lake offers a variety of cover conducive to sustaining healthy catfish numbers. The eastern portion and the area near the dam are rockier than other spots, boasting ledges and rockpiles, which normally hold fish as temperatures slowly rise during the spring. The western portion of the lake features more flats with brush and vegetation. Catfish in Buchanan are susceptible to any kind of stink bait and cut bait, including punch baits, which easily can be rigged up on a treble hook below a Carolina-rigged egg sinker.
Central Texas catfish angling great in Colorado, Brazos rivers in summer. http://t.co/CWILY3KgnG
— Will Leschper (@TXOutdoorDigest) September 6, 2013
May White Bass in Richland-Chambers
This 40,000-acre reservoir southeast of Corsicana on U.S. Highway 287 also is a fantastic hybrid striper fishery, and “sandie” fishing heats up this month as roving schools of surfacing shad get worked into a frenzy by the big fish from below and the gulls and herons from above. One of the best ways to find schools of sand bass is to watch for bird activity near the surface, but if you don’t see any, the first place to target is the open-water area between the 287 bridge and the dam.
If the fish are working the surface, and where there’s bait you’ll often find hybrids along with the white bass, some of the most exciting fishing is done with any small topwater plugs that mimic the baitfish. If the fish and surfacing activity aren’t easily visible, one of the best items in your arsenal is a fishfinder, and if you find white bass deeper, you should break out slabs and jigging spoons to catch their fancy.
June Striped Bass in Lake Texoma
This is the prime lake for striped bass in all of America, and the 75,000-acre body of water that lies on the Texas-Oklahoma border northwest of Denison features a spawning, self-sustaining population. Texoma stripers migrate up the Red and Washita River arms in February and March; after spawning they move to open-water areas. The best aspect of summer fishing for Texoma stripers is that they will take a wide variety of baits, including live gizzard shad, which is their preferred meal.
Among the best places to fish is along the river channel in the main-lake area. Anglers trolling crankbaits and other deep-running lures often can be as successful as those chunking live bait. Other lures that undoubtedly have caught untold numbers of fish are slabs and heavy jigs, which can be worked vertically when you’re not able to locate schools of fish chasing shad.
One spectacular way to catch stripers during cool summer mornings is with topwater plugs fished near shorelines, which also could produce a hefty smallmouth bass. Other lures that can be fished near the surface are Sassy Shads and jerkbaits.
Texas surf fishing excellent during fall, winter for multiple species. http://t.co/3TjXOsKtnk
— Will Leschper (@TXOutdoorDigest) December 16, 2013
July Speckled Trout in the Upper Laguna Madre
The area from south of Corpus Christi to past Baffin Bay is an ecosystem suited to lots of speckled trout — and big ones, too. If you had to pick one area to focus on during the middle of summer, whether you prefer to fish from a boat or wade, the top portion of the “Mother Lagoon” is your best bet.
The deeper channels of the Intracoastal Waterway often hold fish in many places, as the critters move deeper when temperatures warm and come up shallower onto the flats when it gets cooler. Live bait remains a staple of trout fishing this time of year, and catching your own can be done with a cast net, simply by patrolling shorelines early in the morning in search of roving mullet or piggy perch.
You’re also in luck if you prefer artificials, and spoons, paddletail soft plastics and a variety of flies flung from a long stick will work just as well, especially when you find schoolies. Don’t forget to shuffle your feet to alert stingrays of your presence if you’re wading, and it’s never a bad idea to invest in stingray guards.