There’s not much better eating than cooking up freshly-caught fish over a riverbank campfire or smashing down backstrap prepared by a camp cook, and people whose palates are accustomed to fast food and processed grocery store meats have my sympathy

Central Texas is rich in places to fish, with prime spots and tasty species waiting within a 15 minute drive of nearly any place in Waco. The Brazos offers plenty of fishing along the banks running through downtown, and catfish, bass, stripers, sunfish, and more are plentiful there. In fact, Lake Brazos is monitored and stocked by Texas Parks & Wildlife fisheries biologists to ensure a healthy, balanced ecosystem.

Lake Waco is another easily-accessible fishery that’s well-known as a good crappie and catfish lake, and in the past decade, thanks to the upping of the lake level (which created significant areas of new habitat) and aggressive stocking programs, largemouth bass and hybrid-stripers are garnering the attention of locals and out-of-town anglers alike.

Hybrids were stocked into Lake Waco for a few years in the 1970’s, and in 2009, TPWD re-introduced them as part of a comprehensive plan to improve the quality of the city’s drinking water. Hybrids are unable to reproduce so they require regular stocking to maintain a healthy population structure. They’re open-water fish and feed voraciously, which translates to high growth rates. The Lake Waco hybrid record jumped from just under 10 pounds in September of last year to 13.75 pounds in March of this year. The 27-inch fish was caught by Colby Hill on a swim bait.

The rivers and creeks that feed into Lake Waco are also productive places to fish, and are popular among bank fishermen, kayakers, fly-fishermen, and others who prefer small water over open water. And if you’re one of those fortunate folks who has fishing access to a farm pond, you’ll find few better places to fill your frying pan with fillets than one of these little bodies of water.

Reports from last week included good catches of eating-sized channel cats on the North, Middle and South Bosques. Punch bait on treble hooks fished under slip corks at 3-5 feet deep was producing nice hauls. The spillway has also been a productive place in recent days, with anglers catching a big mix of fish that included one guy who reeled in a hybrid, white bass, and striper on the same trip.

As daylight hours and air temperatures trend downward, fish tend to become more active, so prospects for catching more and bigger fish are brightening.

Fun with fly fishing

Growing up in Texas, the only person I had ever seen fly fishing was Curt Gowdy on the Wide World of Sports. In recent years, however, this technique has diffused its way into the Lone Star State, and a growing number of people are trying it out and liking it.

The Waco Fly Fishing Club meets the second Tuesday of each month, typically at the Lake Waco Wetlands, for fly-tying, tale-telling, and hosting speakers and presentations on a variety of fly-related topics.

But with all the interest and participation in flyrodding, there’s only one fly fishing record on the books for Lake Waco. Franklin Potts holds it for pulling in a 1.3-pound white bass caught back in May.

So that next crappie, sunfish, largemouth bass, hybrid, catfish, 1.31-pound white bass, or any other fish caught on a fly rod is a record-setter.

Deer dreams

Every deer hunter dreams about crossing paths with the big one – the legendary buck that nobody else has been able to outsmart.

If your deer hunting dreams come true on opening weekend (Nov. 4-5), bring your deer to the Waco Cabela’s to enter it in their Big Buck Contest.

Wondering what you’ll win if your deer has the biggest rack of all? Well, Cabela’s marketing specialist John Gilbert says you’ll win a free shoulder mount from Fortson’s Taxidermy. Check out the official rules at the Waco store, located in the Central Texas MarketPlace, for more information.

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