My friend, Allen Christenson, the dean of Lake Travis fishing guides (operating out of Lakeway Marina) recently wrote in the Lake Travis View newspaper about the night years ago that he fished in the chilling cold on Lake Calaveras, south of San Antonio, catching bass until 4:00 a.m.
I’m not telling you I did that nor that you should. We’ve all done crazy things during our bullet-proof days. But that confirms that in Texas, you can still catch bass in the cold. Another guide, Fermin Fernandez, guides Buchanan, Inks and LBJ, and told me of catching bass and crappie in the warm water discharge channel on LBJ on very cold nights with the steam rising off the warm water.
It CAN get cold, here. I photographed my sister, Betsy Boyt, standing on the middle of Shoal Creek near 24th Street in Austin. It was cold enough to solidly freeze the flowing creek. Possibly during that same freeze, Bruce Munroe told me of fishing the Inks Dam tailrace with icicles forming on his rod tip while getting 29 straight strikes on 30 casts, catching white bass.
And, at the weigh-in of a Lake Austin bass tournament one cold, wet February day, I saw a man whose teeth were chattering so violently he was apt to break a couple. The fool didn’t even have a hat. The winner that day, however, had caught an eight-pounder.
Duke Kinley called me one frigid day with a wind almost strong enough to be named and said he had some big catfish. I asked if he had bought them. For verification, I drove over to Lake Granger and photographed him wrapped up like Nanook the Eskimo posing with several big ‘uns with Granger white-capping behind him.
Shea Seale and I were dressed almost that snuggly on December 14 on Lake Travis. A while after the sun came up, we had to start shedding layers. This IS Texas; cold weather doesn’t last long. And the fishing – and CATCHING – doesn’t necessarily take a day off just because there’s ice around the edge of the lake shore. That’s just to scare the sissies into staying home in front of the fire.
However, some species even prefer cold, blustery weather. Striped bass aren’t native to Texas. They came from the cold Atlantic seaboard. Our winters probably make ‘em homesick. They’ve been stocked in Texas waters since the ‘60s. Lake Texoma on the Oklahoma border was the first lake stocked, but many followed. Hybrid stripers are also popular cold weather fish, being a cross between a white bass and a striper.
Ken Milam was one of the first striper guides on Lake Buchanan and tells of a 19-degree morning when his boat was covered with ice. But they limited early, having to dip their rods in the lake to melt the icy rod tips. Kenny’s son Max now runs the business.
And don’t overlook trout in the Guadalupe below Canyon Dam. They’re also cold-water fish and thrive in wintertime.
John Jefferson is a lifelong outdoorsman, former regulations coordinator at Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept., past executive director of the Texas Chapter of The Wildlife Society, and author of two books on Texas hunting.