Nothing says winter is nearing an end and spring is about to be upon us than the white bass spawning run in Texas.
Usually by January, fishermen ready to break a months-long case of cabin fever begin testing the waters on rivers and lakes around the state to see if the fish have begun their annual migration upstream to spawn. Depending on how far they are north or south, the fishermen may find they are in the middle of the run or still a few weeks early.
Guide Dick Strother of Tyler recently made a run up the Neches River above Lake Palestine in mid-January and was pleasantly surprised with the results.
“A buddy told me it was too early. We caught 25, 18 were really nice. Of course they were all males. We went back the next day and caught a mess. We probably caught 75 and we kept 15,” he said.
The good thing about the white bass run is that where possible bank fishing is just as successful. Strother, whose Dream Days of Fishing offers a fishing service on lakes across the state, uses flat-bottomed boats, Zebco 33 reels and eighth-ounce jigs when fishing for white bass on the river.
The simplicity of the technique makes it a perfect fishery to introduce kids to fishing.
“It is sport fishing, enjoying the pull in the current. Nothing can hold a candle to the pull of a white bass in a current,” Strother said.
White bass fishing is a statewide activity, and while they can be caught year-round it is the spring run that brings out the crowds. Just like fishing for salmon or other species that run, it can be non-stop fishing when it is at its best.
“Fishing the white bass spawn is a popular event across the state. For many anglers it marks the beginning of the fishing season,” said Brian Van Zee, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Fisheries regional biologist from Waco. “Obviously its more popular at some locations than others and that often is related to access, in other words can a good number of shoreline or boat anglers get good access to the fish.”
White bass are found from the Sabine to the Rio Grande. Access seems easier on the rivers in East Texas, even if the fishing is not as easy because of the timber along and in the water.
“In East Texas the most popular rivers are the Neches, of course, the Sabine River above Toledo Bend, which is very popular, the Angelina River above Sam Rayburn, although not near as popular or productive as that of the Sabine,” Spencer Dumont, the regional director in Tyler said.
Dumont, whose districts includes all in East Texas and south along the Gulf Coast to South Texas, also notes an excellent fishery at Lake Somerville when the water flow into the lake is good. Uniquely the fishing can be good from the bank in several spots within Lake Somerville Wildlife Management Area. Others include the San Jacinto River in the Sam Houston National Forest before it feeds into Lake Conroe, the San Jacinto between lakes Houston and Conroe and on the Nueces River above Choke Canyon Reservoir.
“One of the most popular white bass spawning fisheries in my region is in the Colorado River above Lake Buchanan where the white bass run up from the lake to spawn. This spawning run goes past Colorado Bend State Park which allows good public access for both bank and boat anglers. Other popular White Bass fisheries in my region include the Guadalupe River above Canyon lake near Rebecca Creek, the North Bosque River above Lake Waco, the Navasota River at or around Fort Parker State Park, the Clear Fork of the Trinity River coming into Lake Benbrook, The Brazos River near Weatherford and Tin Top, the Elm Fork of the Trinity River between Lake Lewisville and Lake Ray Roberts and finally the Devils River above Lake Amistad,” Van Zee said.
The biologist added that a couple of underutilized fisheries include lakes Stamford and Daniel in western Texas.
“Both lakes currently have really good white bass populations that locals are keying in on,” Van Zee said.
Dumont said the quiet hot spot in his region is Lake Tyler, which has a relatively new white bass fishery. Unlike reservoirs fed by rivers, Lake Tyler gets its water from a number of creeks, which create smaller runs. There is also spawning on wind-swept main lake points.
“In-reservoir spawning likely occurs at Lake Tyler, but its minimal at best,” Dumont noted.
Timing of the spawn is as diverse as the rivers they are found in, with the timing running from January through April. Females typical began their run as the water temperature nears 60 degrees.
“The run is already underway at Toledo Bend, Rayburn, and Choke Canyon. The run is just beginning in the Neches, with mostly males right now. Females will move up soon and the run will last through mid-March, with the peak in mid-February. In most cases the peak run lasts four to six weeks,” Dumont explained.
Streamside conditions limit fly fishing opportunities in eastern Texas. That is not the case in other parts of the state.
“The Colorado River near Colorado Bend State Park would be a good option for fly fishermen as it allows for good wade fishing,” Van Zee said.
Since white bass do not utilize spawn beds like largemouth bass, water flow is crucial to spawning success.
A female can drop as many as a million eggs that can hatch within two days of spawning. The females drop their eggs in mid-water or near the surface in flowing water before they eventually settle to the bottom where they become attached to rocks or gravel. The river flow is important because without it the eggs can become covered with sediment and not get fertilized.
The statewide bag limit for white bass, either in the rivers or reservoirs is 25 per day with a 10-inch minimum length limit.
For more information on white bass fishing on Lake Palestine or the Neches River, contact Strother at 903-539-0954.
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