Fishing Texas Lakes and Rivers
This article on fishing Texas lakes and rivers will help anglers catch more fish, especially catfish and gar. These fish grow very large and put up a terrific fight. Also, anyone can do this. Other than heavy tackle, special gear is really not required. Kayaks and canoes are the vessels of choice. Anglers fishing from the bank catch plenty of fish as well.
Fishing the Trinity River Texas for catfish and gar
The subject of this blog post will be fishing the Trinity River Texas for catfish and gar. Catfish are an extremely popular freshwater game fish in the United States. They have a very wide range and are found all over the world. Catfish, especially trophy cats, are apex predators. They sometimes get a bad rap for eating garbage on the bottom. However, in most instances, they prefer live prey.
The three primary, and largest, species of catfish in the United States are blue catfish, channel catfish, and flathead or yellow catfish. All three are found throughout large portions of the country. Channel cats are the most plentiful in the smallest. Flathead catfish grow the largest. Blue cats also grow large, over 100 pounds, and their range is spreading.
Most catfish are caught by anglers fishing the Trinity River do so using live bait, cut bait, or commercially prepared catfish baits on the bottom. Catfish are bottom dwellers and that is where they do most of their feeding. They will come up in the water column at times. They prefer some type of structure such as a ledge, submerged timber, or man-made structure such as bridge pilings or docks.
For many anglers, targeting catfish is a casual, relaxing enterprise. Catfish can be caught from banks of lakes and rivers, easily accessible to the public. Anglers can also target catfish from boats. Anchoring an outside bends in river channels, near submerged structure, and in tailwaters produces plenty of catfish. However, this is not the approach that Lacey takes!
Extreme fishing on Texas rivers!
Lacey Miller is our correspondent for this piece. She grew up in a small town in northern California and moved to the Dallas, Texas area five years ago. Lacey does NOT take the easy route and her pursuit of trophy catfish! She is sharing her experiences and techniques for fishing the Trinity River with us here.
“We mainly fish central Dallas & North of Dallas, lakes and the Trinity River, often times enduring extreme weather, sometimes for 36 hours straight. I’ve been fishing my whole life, moved to Texas about 5 years ago and changed my fishing game! I was fishing there in boats, here we fish extreme places. I take long hikes into the fishing holes when bank fishing.
Fishing the Trinity River Texas
On the Trinity we usually kayak about a 15 mile stretch, staying the night somewhere on the water. We pack in as much gear we can fit on the kayak. Then, we start our journey and drift down river, stopping to fish when we see a promising spot. We have encountered many of the river creatures such as gators, snakes, hogs, and beaver while staying on the water.
In late afternoon I stop and build a shelter with whatever the earth has provided and we hunker down for the nights catch. We prepare a meal and then fish all night. That is when the big girls are on the prowl! Most times it is a test of strength I’m still the only female that I know who has endured a 36 hr trip on the Trinity.
This year we decided to start running guided trips on the Trinity during the summer. It is a unique experience that I would like to share with other adventurous anglers. We are going to offer day trips next year, for those that don’t wish to primitive camp, but still want a chance at an alligator gar.
During the winter we fish local lakes for trophy catfish. At times, I fish through the night in 30° weather. It is hit or miss on the fishing with all the rain. Most places are flooded & we wait on swampy shorelines for the bite. I am pro catch & release with catfish and alligator gar. I do everything possible to ensure the fish survive and are released back into the water they came from.
Trinity River catfish and gar tackle
The tackle required when targeting large catfish and gar is fairly heavy. This is not the place for finesse fishing! Lacey has landed catfish to an estimated 50 pounds in the Trinity River and surrounding rivers and lakes. Fish that large are hard to weigh! Her choice is a medium heavy conventional outfit. She likes a 7-10 foot rod (though some anglers prefer rods up to 12 feet) and a casting real loaded with 80 pound braided line for catfish and 150 pound braid for gar. Here is a good conventional outfit at a reasonable price. Click on the link to shop,
Lacey has been using a heavy spinning outfit of late. This is mainly due to the fact that spinning outfits are easier for clients to cast and manage. She likes a Penn Fierce 8000 live liner reel on a stout rod. Below is a link to an 8000 reel on a 10′ rod at a great price. Anglers can click on the link to shop.
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The rig is as simple and basic as the tackle. A bottom bouncing rig works best. This consists of a 4 ounce no roll type sinker. The sinker has a hole in it, allowing the line to pass through. A swivel is then tied on. This provides a stop for the sinker as well as a way to attach the leader. A 10” piece of 80 pound braided line leader is attached to the swivel. A size 6/0 Kahle catfish hook completes the rig. For gar she a uses 12” steel leader and a 5/0 bronze treble hook.
As with all fishing, you never know what to catfish and gar one from one day to the other. If she had to choose one bait to use year-round, Lacey would use buffalo fish. Carp and shad are also productive baits for catching fish. The “big bait equals big fish”theory definitely applies here. Lacey will oftentimes use a very large bait to target a big fish. She understands that she won’t get a lot of action, but when she does, it will be a trophy.
Conditions position fish on Texas Rivers
Conditions are very important when fishing rivers. The height of the water along with the clarity and current speed will dictate fish locations. When the water is high, fast, and muddy, catfish will seek refuge from the strong current. They will position themselves in sloughs and eddies off of the main channel where possible. It is just not efficient for them to fight the strong current while waiting for a meal to come by.
Conversely, when the water is low, fish will stage in the deeper holes. This is particularly true in the heat of summer. There simply is not enough water on the flats near the banks for them to get up and feet and feel comfortable.
Fishing Texas Rivers, techniques
Lacey has some simple advice for anglers new to fishing for river catfish;
“I tell novice anglers fishing the Trinity River that if they want to catch a catfish, the easiest thing to do is target outside bends in the river channel. Current almost always gouges out a deeper hole in these areas. Also cover such as fallen timber and other debris tends to collect in these areas. The depth, cover, and current make these outside bends ideal habitat for catfish and other species.”
While catfish can be caught during the middle of the day, and many are, dusk, Don, and night are the best times to target catfish. This is especially true for anglers seeking a trophy fish. This is one of the huge advantages of overnight camping, once anglers get settled in late afternoon, they can fish the evening bite and is late into the night as they want. Then in the morning, they are all set up and ready to go to catch one early. Hard-core anglers such as Lacey stay up all night and fish, but taking a nap in the middle of the night is okay, too.
Fishing for gar on the Trinity River
Lacey also likes to target trophy gar. While gar can be taken using the same baits and locations as catfish, there are a few tweaks she makes when targeting gar. Here are her tips on catching these prehistoric fish.
“Alligator Gar fishing: I believe they are harder to land than other fish! They have a mouth/teeth like an Alligator & will cut thru the line, this is why we use steel leader. They grab your bait (which is like one or two big taps on your line) and then they run (my favorite part because the Penn reel is screaming!!) until they find a good spot and begin swallowing the bait.
“This is quiet time, you will think you’ve lost the fish. Once they’ve swallowed the bait, which can be minutes later, they continue on their way. This is when some will “set the hook” which is not your typical hook setting. It’s more like your entire body weight thrown the opposite direction of your bait to counter the fish. We prefer to set the hook during the first initial run. By doing this the gar will not swallow the hook & chance for survival is greater.
Once hook is set the fight begins. ( I literally moved to Texas after fighting my first gar while on vacation here from California. I hooked the biggest fish to date I’ve had on rod& reel; we named her Big Sally. After fighting her for almost 2 hours, she jumped our of the water about 4′ from shore & spit the hook right at my feet. Many times the gar spit the bait or snap the line with their teeth. Making a landed gar that much more exciting!
Other Texas rivers and lakes
Lacey’s favorite water to fish is the Trinity River. This River starts an extreme north Texas and flows for 710 miles. The stretch of river that Lacey finds the most productive and enjoyable to fish is from the heart of Dallas all the way down to East of Ennis Texas. We also have permission from land owners giving us exclusive access to many untouched parts of the river.
While Lacey prefers the Trinity River, several area lakes and reservoirs offer anglers good fishing for catfish and other species. Cedar Creek Lake, Lake Tawakoni and Richland Chambers Reservoir are her top three lakes.
Lake Conroe Fishing Tips with “Guppy”.
This article shares some great Lake Conroe fishing tips along with the adventures of Rachelle in the world of fishing and conservation.
Rachelle, graciously nicknamed “Guppy Doyle” is a “Jill of All Trades” with a true Texas heart. After serving 8 years in the fire department, completing pre-med, and obtaining a degree in Emergency Medical Care from Texas A&M University, she handed over her stethoscope and traded it for a fishing pole to help a good friend launch his business.
This was unknowingly the beginning of their love story. Just a couple of friends teaming up to launch a successful business, love bloomed between mixing bait and researching the legalities of trade secrets vs. patents.
Catfish products and services from Guppy
While she still enjoys challenging herself with clinical research in her free time, her days are full of running Catfish Bubblegum, Bradley’s Bite Enhancer, and Bradley’s Guide Service from the inside. She also organizes children’s fishing events for Texas Trophy Catfish Association.
Guppy fishes out of destination Lake Conroe, a 21,000-acre lake in Montgomery County, Texas. Extending about 21 miles in length, the lake includes 5,000 acres that span into Sam Houston National Forest. While the majority of the lake is in the unincorporated region of the county, only a small section sprawls into the city of Conroe. The lake runs through the East Texas Piney Woods forests. The lake has an overall good water quality, seeing an average depth of 20.5 feet and a maximum depth of 75 feet. Lake Conroe is a popular attraction for recreational boating and has become one of the most popular fishing lakes in Texas. It hosted last year’s Bass Master Classic fishing tournament known nationwide.
Fishing for Lake Conroe bass and catfish
Lake Conroe is particularly well-known for its trophy Largemouth Bass. Other popular fish species include Bluegill, Channel Catfish, White Bass and Hybrid Striped Bass. Channel catfish are the most abundant species in the lake. Guppy targets Channel Catfish, trophy Blue Catfish, and Crappie, though she often “accidentally” reels in Largemouth and Striped Bass.
Channel catfish are by far the most abundant sportfish in the lake, offering most any angler a good opportunity for great catches. The current daily bag limit on Lake Conroe for Channel Catfish, Blue Catfish, their hybrids and subspecies, is 25 in any combination with a minimum length of 12 inches. Flathead Catfish are more regulated with a daily bag limit of 5 with a minimum length of 18 inches. Always check current local fishing regulations before fishing.
Lake Conroe fishing tips; catfish
Guppy uses 2 different techniques for Catfishing, depending on the size of fish she’s targeting. For “eater-sized” Catfish she suspends Catfish Bubblegum on her treble hook just off the bottom of the lake and has no problem obtaining her daily bag limit. Invented by her husband, Brad Doyle, and made in their home kitchen, Catfish Bubblegum is the only no-stink Catfish bait on the market and is available in 4 unique flavors; Original Recipe, Liquor-ish, Gar-Lick & Onion, and Bacon. Baits must reach near bottom quickly to avoid the small bait-stealers that inhabit the shallower water.
When targeting trophy Catfish, Guppy uses cut carp or Menhaden shad soaked in Bradley’s Bite Enhancer. This is a liquid that can be used as a spray or marinade, which is scientifically formulated to increase bite ratios in all species of predatory fish. She puts the soaked natural cut bait on a 10/0 Octopus Circle hook and uses the wind to drift fish at various depths. Though the trophy bite is of a much slower pace, the fight with these magnificent creatures is quite the experience. Guppy tags and releases all trophy Catfish to assist in gathering data on their growth patterns.
Though still considered a start-up company, Catfish Bubblegum and Bradley’s Bite Enhancer are available to anglers online at www.catfishbubblegum.com and in 42 bait shops across the United States and Puerto Rico. Ladies fishing Lake Conroe have good success using it when targeting catfish.
Fishing for Lake Conroe crappie
Though Guppy’s life essentially revolves around Catfishing, she thoroughly enjoys the fast pace of Crappie fishing. Crappie are very popular and offer good opportunity for anglers seeking table fare. Black and White Crappie made a comeback in the lake with the efforts of the Lake Conroe Restocking Association’s spring stockings of advance juvenile crappie. Good catches of crappie can be had in early spring and in the fall. Black and White Crappie along with their hybrids and subspecies have a daily bag limit of 25 with a minimum length of 10 inches.
When fishing for Crappie over submerged “reefs” or brush piles, Guppy uses either live minnows on a crappie hook or crappie jigs, both sprayed with Bradley’s Bite Enhancer. Man-made structures have been used to create four fish “attractor reefs” in Lake Conroe. The attractors were placed by TPWD in cooperation with the San Jacinto River Authority, local Friends of Reservoirs groups, and other partners. Anglers may use GPS in conjunction with a fish finder to locate these reefs.
Fish Lake Conroe in cooler weather for great action
Colder months with cooler water temperatures typically produce successful fishing trips for almost every species. Scorching heat in the summertime proves problematic for many anglers. Guppy says the trick is to identify the depth of the thermocline – a steep temperature gradient in a body of water marked by a layer above and below which the water is at different temperatures. The fish prefer deeper water in the summer to escape the heat, without crossing the thermocline where oxygen levels are substantially lower.
Years ago, Grass Carp was introduced to Lake Conroe to help control the invasive overgrowth of the Hydrilla plant. To this day, a Triploid Grass Carp Permit is in effect. If a grass carp is caught, it must be immediately returned to the water unharmed.
Lake Conroe safety concerns
Lake Conroe has reportedly held the title of the deadliest lake in Texas since the year 2000. Most deaths are a result of boating accidents but occasionally drownings do take place. Lake Conroe’s biggest downfall is the amount of inexperienced and irresponsible recreational boaters, particularly large vessels capsizing smaller boats and kayaks with their massive wake, or boaters under the influence causing deadly accidents.
Guppy recalls a frightening morning when her husband, Brad, and his family had a horrifying encounter with a large vessel. The massive boat crossed directly in front of them, sending a catastrophic wake their way. The first wave caused the front of his 21-foot pontoon boat to go airborne, then nosedive as the second wave came aboard sending water waist high on the children that were on board. Fortunately, Brad was able to maintain control by quickly putting the boat in reverse, avoiding tragedy. All children on board were wearing life vests and all of his equipment that ended up in the water was able to be retrieved. That same week, 2 victims of capsizing were not as lucky and unfortunately lost their lives in the same waters due to large wakes.
Texas Trophy Catfish Association’s “Kids Fish Fest”
Guppy is the event coordinator for Texas Trophy Catfish Association’s “Kids Fish Fest” events. Since obtaining their 501(c)3 Non-Profit Charity Organization status 5 months ago, Guppy has worked tirelessly to organize events where a group of phenomenal volunteers have been able to teach over 600 children how to fish. In open communication with Texas Parks & Wildlife and several Texas based fishing groups, the demand for educational and interactive events has grown substantially.
At “Kids Fish Fest” children are able to come out to learn how to tie knots, receiving casting and fishing lessons, fish identification and conservation education, as well as see trophy Catfish up close and personal in a rejuvenation tank before observing a tagging demonstration and watching their safe release back into the water.
All TXTCA volunteers have attended courses to become Texas Parks & Wildlife Certified Angler Education Instructors and majority are even CPR certified and/or certified by the Texas Department of State Health Services and National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) to ensure these events remain safe for everyone involved.
In addition to filming two seasons with Gone Fishing Pro television series as a professional tournament angler, Guppy has had the opportunity to reach out to the public, face to face at the Sports & Outdoors Banquet of First Baptist Church of Conroe with Duck Dynasty’s own John Godwin, the Conroe Cajun Catfish Festival, the Houston Fishing Show, Kids Wildlife Conservation Day by Texas Brigades, The Southwest Houston International In-Water Boat Show, Possum Kingdom Catmasters Tournament on Possum Kingdom Lake in Graford, Texas, 1st Annual Kings & Queens Kids Catfishing Tournament by Hearts of the Father in Waller, Texas, and several events hosted by Walden Marina on Lake Conroe. In total, at these alone, she’s educated upwards of 100,000 people about her goals in conservation.
Tagging and safely releasing trophy Catfish is vital to collecting data on their growth patterns and in turn improving regulations. As it stands on Lake Conroe, fishing license holders are allowed to keep 25 Catfish per day, with no limit on how large the harvested fish can be. This proves problematic in conflicting with the dwindling numbers of trophy Catfish on Texas waters. The goal is to gather enough information on the Catfish’ growth patterns to encourage Texas Parks & Wildlife and San Jacinto River Authority to make changes to the daily bag limit regulations and preserve the trophy Catfish population to ensure a healthy spawn rate and ecosystem.
In attempts to improve conservation efforts, TxTCA has been able to negotiate with tournament leaders to change regulations regarding weigh-in protocol, and to date has not had anyone back down on the requirements. Fish must be weighed in alive. Tournament rules have changed to where fish brought in dead are either unable to be weighed or 10% of the weight is deducted. To date, they’ve had 0 trophy casualties. This is an improvement Guppy has been able to witness personally as TxTCA progresses.
Guppy has made a goal to reach 150,000 people face to face and teach over 1,000 children how to fish in 2019. To learn more about conservation efforts, visit Texas Trophy Catfish Association . If you’d like to try Catfish Bubblegum or Bradley’s Bite Enhancer, you can visit our website to purchase or find a retailer near you. To contact Guppy about her products or schedule a fishing trip with Bradley’s Guide Service on Lake Conroe, call (936) 232-4683.