If you’ve spent any amount of time on a Central Texas lake during the summer, you’ve likely witnessed a phenomenon that made you do a double-take the first time you saw it.
During the summer months, white bass prowl the lake in huge schools and feed on shad and other bait fish, which also school up together. When white bass get ready to really strap on the feed bag, they herd schools of bait up toward the water’s surface to make it easier to attack.
The resulting action makes the water’s surface appear to be boiling, as hundreds — and sometimes thousands — of fish crash and splash the water to feed on the trapped shad. The first time I noticed a white bass feeding frenzy was when I was 12. My family and a few other families got together by the old Bosque Bend Clubhouse to cook out, swim, and spend the day by the water.
We kids always packed along our fishing gear — and still do — just in case the opportunity came along, and while I was scarfing down a burger, I looked out and saw acres of white bass in surface-feeding mode.
I forget what happened to the burger, but within a minute, we were cranking in fish as fast as we could get the bait out, and the action continued for around half an hour. Occasionally, the school would push away from the shore, so we had to wade further into the water, but soon, we’d see and hear fish feeding between us and the bank. I caught several fish on backward casts just to say I had.
After about 30 minutes, a boat came blasting through and sent the school scattering, so we made our way back to the grill and fixed up another plate.
Patience and stealth are hard qualities to come by when you eyeball surface-feeding activity, because you know that anything you throw into the school — even a bare hook — will elicit a strike. However, you won’t catch a thing if you spook the fish by running into the area too fast and too loudly. Kill the big engine and drift or use your trolling motor to ease in, then make long casts into the school.
The limit on white bass is 25 per angler per day, and fish must measure at least 10 inches in length. Keep in mind that hybrid-striped bass can also be caught in the same schools with whites, so know how to tell the difference. The limit on hybrids is 5 per angler, and there’s an 18-inch minimum on them. Google can show you the difference and save you from trouble with the game warden.
Cats and bass are biting
Catfishing legend Danny King says while recent triple-digit temperatures were too hot for him, he’s heard plenty of good reports from anglers — especially on night-time trips.
“Big flatheads and blues are coming off their nests,” he said, “and some good-sized fish are being caught.” After spawning, which saps fish of energy, they leave their spawning beds and go out to put some calories back into their bodies. And while post-spawn fish have typically lost some weight through the process, they make up for smaller size by being more aggressive feeders.
King says that another category of catfish are also actively feeding these days. “Some people are complaining about all the little nibblers that steal their bait,” he said, “but that’s a good sign that last year’s spawn is out full-blast. Those sharp-toothed eight to ten inch fish will drive you crazy, but that’s Mother Nature doing her job.”
King added that he’s finding plenty of sand bass surface-feeding on lakes across the region.
Area angler James Crow is also seeing lots of sandies on the surface, and has also been catching good numbers of largemouth bass using baits from ATX Lures.
Licensed to kill
2020-2021 hunting and fishing licenses go on sale in less than two weeks (Aug. 15), and buying early has replaced the long lines that used to mark opening day of dove season on Sept. 1.
A variety of licensing options are available depending on your plans, but the most comprehensive and economical is the Super Combo license, which includes both a fishing and hunting license; freshwater and saltwater endorsements with a red drum tag; and upland game bird, migratory game bird, and archery endorsements. The only thing not included is the Federal Duck Stamp for waterfowl hunters.
Congratulations to the readers who entered and had their names drawn for the sample pack of Pull Start Fire. I’ll contact winners by e-mail on Monday to make arrangements. Unfortunately, most of Central Texas is now under a burn ban, but maybe we’ll get enough rain soon to wipe the slate clean.
I’ve used Pull Start Fire twice, each time on a burn pile, and all it takes is a pull of the string to get things ablaze. It’s a great addition to an emergency kit, camping pack, hunting camp, or any time you need a reliable way to start a fire — no matter the weather or how wet your wood.
TSTC meat market
I’m fortunate that my folks taught me how to cook when I was young. I generally prefer my home cooking over any restaurant — with a handful of exceptions. I can’t make pizza like Poppa Rollo’s, and my fajitas are on the verge of excellent, but never reach the level of Casa de Castillo’s.
Growing up, we got most of our steaks, ground beef, pork chops, and other meat from TSTI (now TSTC). My dad’s office was on the campus there, and he’d swing by the meat market once a week to pick up cuts that the students there had done for their grades, so the quality was better than you could get at a grocery store.
Last weekend, I heard during a Zoom meeting that the TSTC Culinary Arts department is still at it, and their meals even include venison, rabbit, duck, and other game meats. There’s also plenty available to satisfy a sweet tooth. You can pay by phone and arrange for pickup off campus.
For more information, call 254-867-4868.
Best wishes and prayers for healing go out to Shirley Rodriguez, mother of Tribune-Herald outdoor column contributor Keith Rodriguez. Shirley was hospitalized last weekend, and after a bumpy stretch, Keith reported that her road has smoothed out. Maybe she just needs a dose of fried crappie fillets.
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