FISHING THE SPAWN
Its nearing time once again for the race to catch spawning Lake Livingston White Bass! Rising water temperature, moving water and longer days around the first of February will trigger the annual spawn of the White Bass. Generally, Lake Livingston White Bass are the first fish on the move to spawning grounds where they migrate by the thousands in search of spawning beds when the environmental conditions are right. This is the time each year that I and fellow anglers look forward to loading the boat with spawning Whites.
Fishing for spawning White Bass can be a hit or miss situation. Rarely is there an "ace in the hole." During dry Spring conditions, the fish will spawn in the river channel. A wet Spring will draw fish far up the creeks. White Bass will migrate up and down the creeks with fluctuating water levels and constant changing water quality. Volatile Spring weather can wash out a pattern just as it emerges. I have been "on the fish" prior to a guided Spring spawn trip, when shockingly the day of the trip, the fish move. Moving up or down the creeks a short distance, depending on the water level, could get you back on the fish.
Look for White Bass to spawn on major feeder creeks on upper Lake Livingston. White Rock Creek, Harmon Creek, Caney Creek, Nelson Creek, Kickapoo Creek, Carolina Creek and Bedias Creek are the creeks that are most likely to be loaded with spawning Whites. Following a local rain, White Bass will move into the upper reaches of these major creeks by the thousands. The fishing can be fantastic, but timing is critical. Whites will move as far upstream as they can as long as they feel moving water. Often times, their movement is blocked by obstructions such as a rock shoal. As the current subsides, the fish will move downstream as the water level in the creek drops. Under these conditions, anglers should run up major creeks as far North as they can shortly following a rain, find where the water is beginning to clear and start fishing downstream until you find the fish. One of the biggest mistakes fisherman make is waiting too long following a local rain to go fishing. 48 hours is too long! Its the moving water that concentrates the fish in small pockets of creeks where feverish action will take place. The last thing a fisherman wants to hear is, "you should have been here yesterday!"
Keep in mind that White Bass feed mostly on shad in the lake much of the year. When Whites move into creeks, they feed on minnows. Therefore, I use more minnow imitation lures. Small lures like 1/4 oz Clatter Shads or Rat-L-Traps and 1/8 oz jigs are top choices. When the water is stained or off colored, I will use chartreuse tinted baits. Clatter Shads, Rat-L-Traps and in line spinners provide vibrations that can help attract fish in off colored water. In clear water and bright skies, chrome/blue or chrome/black Clatter Shads or Rat-L-Traps are excellent baits. My personal favorite for Whites in clear water without a doubt is a jig. The Shadow Minnow made by Regal Lures Company and the one inch Power grub by Berkley are deadly on spawning Whites. I take the one inch Shadow Minnow and pinch the belly portion off, making the body appear more like that of a minnow instead of a shad. I am a firm believer in red! I always add red paint to my jigs, Clatter Shads and Rat-L-Traps.
White Bass tend to get more aggressive as water temperature rises, therefore in early spring, the afternoons are often better fishing. Vary the speed of your lure until you find a pattern that the fish want. Remember to slow down! Many people fish too fast in early spring. Fish a jig for Whites much like you would a plastic worm for Black Bass. Keep contact with the bottom and jiggle your rod tip. Strikes will often come during the jiggle. A faster retrieve will work when the water is moving and fish are more aggressive. To fish a cut bank, throw your jig into the bank, pick up your rod tip, then let the jig fall. Now, bounce it twice with you rod tip and get ready to get bit
Trolling for White Bass is an effective method for locating fish. Once a fish is caught, come back and cast into the area. Remember when you are trolling that you need to let enough line out so your jig maintains contact with the bottom. If the fish won't bite after casting, then go back to trolling. Trolling stirs water and moves bait fish causing a feeding frenzy by the Whites. Trolling will often work when nothing else will.
I recall many successful White Bass fishing trips on Lake Livingston, but one I particularly enjoyed was with friend and client, Michael Williams. We launched out of Harmon Creek Marina and Resort at day light. We made our way upstream, navigating narrow creek beds and several sandbars. The water begin to clear and I killed the motor and told Michael, "Lets try here." I handed Michael a two inch grub and a 1/8 oz lead head jig. I then pitched my own grub upstream and before it could settle it was slammed by a high energy fish. The party was on! I nosed the bow of my boat into a sandbar and Michael and I settled into some world class White Bass fishing at it's best. By 9:00 A.M. we had checked back in at Harmon Creek Marina and Resort with our two man, 50 fish, 12" minimum length, limit of White Bass.
I encourage everyone who loves the sport of catching fish to take advantage of this wonderful time of year on Lake Livingston. It is outstanding fun for the entire family. Many of the creeks I mentioned are easily accessed by Marinas in the area that offer excellent facilities for lodging and camping. Have fun fishing for White Bass on Lake Livingston! www.palmettoguideservice.com
Dave Cox of Palmetto Guide Service is a regular contributor to the Lake Livingston edition of the Texas Sportsguide. This article has previously appeared in that publication.
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