Outdoorsmen have always tried to gain an advantage over their prey, and whether through lure color selector gadgets, electronic fish finders, game cameras, night vision equipment, or other technology, we have been on the cutting edge of technological advances.
After all, who wants to guess whether there are fish in the area when you could turn on a machine to show you? Who, indeed, wants to wait 30 minutes for a Hot Pocket to heat up in a conventional oven?
But some things are best left to the old ways, and I’d rather wear myself out throwing a cast net to catch bait than buy a couple dozen minnows from a bait shop.
The first net I bought was a seine, which requires two people (unless you’ve got pro-level athleticism) and also involves both of you getting wet. You’ve got to wade through shallow water with a wall of netting weighted at the bottom, dragging it through and back out in a semi-circular motion.
Seines are effective, but require knowledge of the water body (including drop-offs, submerged structures, and other hazards that can make you the sudden star of an internet video) and protective gear like waders to keep you from freezing after gathering bait.
Cast nets are much less limiting and can be used in shallow or deep water — from the boat or bank — without getting your feet wet. They’re not easy to use, though, which is one reason why bait shops are still in business, but if you put in the time practicing, you can fill your bait tanks, minnow buckets, and freezers with the little fish that those big fish you’re chasing are feeding on every day.
When I was a kid, the only person I knew who could ice skate was my dad, who grew up in Indiana. By the time I was a teenager, Waco had its own ice rink, and ice skating wasn’t just something we watched every 4 years during the Olympics.
The same held true for longer than that when it came to trout fishing. Trout thrive in cold water, and Central Texas summers don’t make for good trout habitats. However, winter temperatures in the Lone Star State are compatible with trout needs, and since Texas Parks & Wildlife biologists started stocking trout in community lakes, ponds, and streams a number of years back, Texans have been able to catch rainbow trout without having to travel hundreds of miles northward.
TPWD’s winter trout stocking program is underway, and between now and March, hundreds of thousands of scrappy, tasty rainbow trout will be dropped into the state’s public waters, a good number of them within an easy drive.
Trout bite a number of baits, including canned corn, worms, small spinner baits, and artificial flies. But the bait that looks the most like the food they are accustomed to eating at the hatcheries is Berkeley PowerBait Hatchery Formula Trout Nuggets.
Nora’s Pond at the Waco Wetlands is stocked and ready to go after a Saturday visit by TPWD biologists.
Kids under the age of 17 can fish for trout without a license, and there’s a limit of 2 poles and 5 fish per person. There is no minimum length restrictions on fish, and stocking schedules can be found on the TPWD website.
If you haven’t visited the Fish On! Facebook page, you should. Hosts Andre Bravo, Keith Rodriguez, and others have set up a community of anglers across the state that offers the kind of expertise that used to involve being lucky enough to have a dad or grandfather who knew what he was talking about.
The men and women who contribute ideas, strategies, stories, photos, and advice on the Fish On! page are a testament to the power of social media. Got a question? Somebody in the group will certainly have a valid answer – or at least a smart-aleck remark. It is, after all, inhabited by anglers.
The Fish On! group is currently close to gaining its 13,000th member. Check it out, join up, and help push them across the line.