Predictions are part of our everyday lives. We watch weather forecasters try to figure out when the weather will start acting like it should this time of year; we bet hard-earned money on sports teams and players based on predictions from “experts” who try and figure out advantages based on matchups, injuries, weather conditions, and other factors; and outdoorsmen make plans based on the fishing and hunting outlooks from folks who have long-term experience or educational backgrounds in fish and game behavior.
Weather is an important factor in all of the above – rain, snow, extreme heat, etc. can significantly impact the outcome of a football game, and weather conditions have the same effect on hunting and fishing prospects. The amount of precipitation determines how fish and wildlife adapt to their habitats, in turn determining how hunters and anglers plan their strategies for bringing home food for the freezer.
The calendar says it’s fall, but the reality of stepping outside into 95-degree heat says otherwise.
But as sure as the sun will rise and set again today, Central Texas will eventually get relief from the blistering summer temperatures that seem to last way too long every year. When that time comes, behavior patterns among fish, wildlife, and outdoorsmen alike will change.
Lake Whitney striper guide Clay Yadon (Reel Deal Striper Guide Service) says current conditions are unique on the big Central Texas lake. “We have a strange deal going on with all the water that has been released,” he said. “Usually, the lake temperature stratifies according to depth, but with early summer flooding, the massive release of water through the dam, and the incoming warm water from the river above the lake, we’re seeing the water at about the same temperature from top to bottom.”
The strange conditions have made catching fish a challenge, but Yadon says even though he’s having to work harder, he’s finding ways to send his customers home with limits. “We’re drifting live bait over shallow flats, and we’ll go a while without a bite and then have five on at the same time,” he said. “Then, they’re gone. It’s hard to make them stick around, so you have to hunt for them.”
Yadon says that as fall sets in, the gulls will start to arrive and fish will start moving shallower. By November, fish will school up into big bunches and start their pre-spawn chow fest to build calories needed to put on their eggs and energy to travel upstream to lay them.
In the meantime, look for some amazing topwater action – and if you’ve never caught a striper during a topwater feeding frenzy, then you need to call and set up an appointment.
Central Texas fishing guide Michael Houston (Houston Guide Service) mainly focuses on catfishing, and has had his sights set on Whitney lately. “It has been pretty decent lately,” Houston said, “with a good bite early in the day. When the daytime temperature heats up, I’ve been drifting live shad from 17-25 feet.”
He added that the topwater striper bite is picking up, with some anglers even catching limits before things get too warm for comfort.
Back to catfishing, Houston says when water temps cool down into the 60s, the big ones will start congregating and feeding more actively in the shallows.
Catfish legend Danny King says that when the water cools into the 60s and lower, the bigger fish will move into shallow waters from 2 to 6 feet in depth. “That’s when the oxygen levels in the shallows get high enough for bait fish and predators to really be comfortable, and it’s the prime time for punch bait,” he said.
Keith Rodriguez, who fishes Lake Waco several times weekly, says he’s praying the sun hides out behind the clouds for a while, says the water temperatures are already dropping, causing a boost in the fish bite, but added that some days are still better and worse than others.
He advises using cut shad or whole threadfin shad for catfish, but adds that baits like chicken soaked in strawberry Jell-O powder mix and other home-made baits can be just as effective when the bite gets tough.
Rodriguez says that when the summer gets blown away by the fall’s first cold fronts, the blue cats will show themselves again.
Archery season begins
Archery hunters get the first crack at white-tail deer beginning on Saturday morning, and wildlife biologist and long-time Tribune-Herald outdoors contributor Josh Sears says this year’s conditions favor the hunted over the hunter.
Sears says that 2015 and 2016 were fantastic years for fawn crops. “These deer should be healthy, mature 3 and 4 year olds this season,” he said. “Adequate rainfall has increased the habitat and food availability, so this should be another good season for hard mast (acorns).
Indigenous oak trees will be hot spots for deer when the acorns drop, which will occur before the breeding period and into the pre-rut, according to Sears. He says it would be wise to have an early-season hunting plan for these areas.
“The corridors and staging areas in close proximity to these natural food resources will lead to early season success,” he said. “I’m forecasting above average harvest numbers for this season, and many of the bucks should eclipse the 13” inside spread restriction.
He added that opportunities for trophy-sized bucks should be favorable as well.
Archery season runs from Sept. 28 – Nov. 1.
If you’re reading this, I’m certain you’ve read about Lily Mae Avant, who died last week after coming into contact with a deadly freshwater amoeba. Also if you’re reading this, you’re probably familiar with longtime Tribune-Herald outdoor column contributor and pro striper guide Clay Yadon.
Lily was part of Yadon’s family, and I know I speak for everybody reading this when I express my sympathy and support for Yadon and his family. If you want to support the family through sentiments or other support, you can find that opportunity through the social media hashtag #lilystrong.
For those of you who have had the good fortune to have fished with Yadon, I know I speak for you when I say, “Love y’all, Clay.”