Jordan Colvin with big fish

Jordan Colvin with a 21-inch hybrid-striped bass he caught using shad last week on the south side of Lake Waco. Hybrids are strong-fighting open-water fish that feed aggressively in schools, and they can be caught on both live and artificial baits.

After all the holiday sweets, fatty meats, Ro-Tel dip, and other Christmas fare, a lot of folks will shift into eating more vegetables and fruits, low-fat snacks, and trips to the gym.

But despite the New Year’s resolutions, many Central Texans will ease back into some of the down-home meals that fuel us throughout the rest of the year – chicken-fried steak, chili, fried catfish, and so on. Done the right way, with healthy side dishes, you don’t have to think of a plate of fried catfish as back-sliding on your promise to stay healthier.

Winter catfishing is on point this year, and if you’re willing to deal with cold temperatures and winds, the catfish will be waiting for your hook. Tony Montoya, who has made numerous appearances in the Tribune-Herald outdoor columns over the years (most recently after a trip when he broke and set a new water body record and then broke his new record on the same day) shared some of his secrets for catching big – and good numbers – of cats.

He looks for feeder creeks that create a point, or where two rivers converge, then finds the structure he’s after. “I usually fish the points, or try to look for places that might change depth from deep to shallow,” Montoya said. “I usually catch them between where it changes depth.” He added that fresh shad is his top-producing bait, and he keeps it moving.

Centex angler Keith Rodriguez says the cold, windy weather affected his mode of fishing, but not the results. He left his boat at home and headed to the banks, and has been catching good numbers of blue and channel cats both in the mornings and right before dark.

“You can find them around any bank that has a good drop off, or spots where you find bait,” he said. “They’re getting their bellies full for the colder weather.” Rodriguez said ghost minnows are producing for him better than shad or cut bait, adding that he’s catching a lot of good fish close to the bank in shallower water.

Lake Waco is among a number of Texas lakes that’s part of a Texas Parks and Wildlife program to grow trophy blue cats, which are the biggest-growing species in Texas waters. Several years back, TPWD imposed a slot limit on blues, whereby fish up to 30 inches or greater than 45 inches may be kept. Plus, only one 45-plus inch fish can be kept per day.

Rodriguez and his nephew, Jordan Colvin, have been catching hybrids mixed in with the catfish, with Rodriguez catching a 17-incher (one inch short of being a keeper) and Colvin cranking in a 21-inch fish. Rodriguez noted that hybrids are amazing fighters, saying, “They don’t give up the fight even after they’re out of the water.”

The record hybrid-striper for Lake Waco was caught in March of 2017 by Colby Hill, who caught a 27-inch, 13.75 pounder using a swimbait.

Hybrids have been stocked in Lake Waco since 2009 as part of a comprehensive plan to improve the quality of the city’s drinking water. They are unable to reproduce, so they must be stocked regularly to maintain their population. They’re aggressive feeders, grow rapidly, and fight like a mad bull.

Talkin’ trash

Sprinkled in with all the good fishing reports has been some disappointing news. Too many folks are leaving their trash behind after finishing up their fishing trips, and anglers are walking up on garbage heaps of empty cans and bottles, bait containers, food wrappers, and other trash.

It doesn’t take much time or effort to pack in a trash bag and pack out your garbage when you leave. Maybe archaeologists 1000 years from now might be interested in your party, but today’s outdoorsmen ain’t.

Don’t be a pig. Clean up your own mess.

A good event coming up

Travis Bailey’s 32nd Annual Really Big Fishing Event for Really Special People is set for Feb. 2 at the Heart O’ Texas Fairgrounds. There will be thousands of tasty, scrappy rainbow trout ordered for the party, which offers a day of food, drinks, music, dancing, fishing, games, and more to mentally and physically handicapped people, their families, and a multitude of volunteers.

Facilities, families, and caregivers can also find networking opportunities and get the latest information on support services and other resources.

The event attracts people from across the state who have mental or physical handicaps, and the carnival-style games, singing and dancing, fishing, and other activities create a blurry line between those who are disabled and those who aren’t.

It’s an amazing, inspirational party. Stay tuned for more details on how to volunteer, attend, or otherwise participate.

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