LOW WATER HIGH FINS
Three throws with a cast net as the amber glow of the morning sun appeared in the east and the bait bucket was filled with fresh shad. Now, bait on board there was no time to waste. My every move was focused. The bite was early and I did not want to be late.
The next challenge of the morning was getting to the “hole”. Water levels have continued to drop exposing dangerous stumps and shallow sand flats. I hammered the throttle raised the jack plate on the outboard and steered down the lake. Low water High Fins I thought as I was now anchoring on a giant sand flat. High Fin Blues that is. The hard fighting, good eating High Fin Blue Catfish .
The High Fin Blue is the predominant species of catfish in East Texas’s Lake Livingston and is now easier than ever to catch. Low water level here is concentrating the fish and giving them fewer places to roam. Sounds simple, but this has been my theory since hurricane Rita damaged the Lake Livingston Dam September 24th, 2005 forcing the Trinity River Authority to lower the lake in order to make repairs to the dam caused by the storm. Fishing for Blue Cats has been good since the water levels dropped and as water levels remain low this spring and summer fishing for blue Cats here has been nothing less than phenomenal. You can now see giant exposed sand bars off the river channel in the main lake where as when the lake is at normal pool, all you see is miles of bulk headed shorelines
Lake Livingston consist of 90,000 surface acres of water at normal pool with over 450 miles of shoreline. The man made lake was created in in 1969 by damming the Trinity River in order to provide a water resource for the city of Houston. Since the Lakes inception in 1969 it has been one of the premier Blue Cat fishing destinations in the South.
The lake record Blue cat stands at 78 pounds caught on a trot line January 14th 1981. Popular methods of catching blue cats here include trotline, jug lining and rod and reel. My favorite method is rod and reel. There is nothing like battling a hard fighting Blue on light tackle rod and reel.
With a sustained water temperature over 72 degrees in early May thousands of spawning Blue Cats began congregating on the now exposed sand flats near the old Trinity River channel on Lake Livingston. The fish have stacked up on these sand bars feeding on shad in four to eight feet of water. The fish will probably remain here until the water temperature goes up forcing the fish deeper. Anglers here have been catching twenty five fish limits per person on a regular basis. The hard fighting High Fin Blues have been mostly in the fifteen to eighteen inch class with a occasional four to six pound and larger fish being taken. The secret recently to getting your limit is to set up at the crack of dawn.
If you snooze you loose. Overcast days are better prolonging the bite. Most summer mornings will find the lake calm and “slick as glass” at the crack of dawn. As the sun rises the typical south east breeze will kick up and by late morning it is getting to rough to keep a anchor hold.
On this particular morning , I was fishing by myself and had plans of contributing to our family 4th of July fish fry. I had pre-rigged three rods the night before all with a 3/8th oz egg sinker sliding above a swivel and a 3 ft. leader with a small khale hook tied on the end of the leader. The rig is for fishing on the bottom, there is no current here therefore no need for a heavy sinker. You want just enough weight to get it on the bottom and hold there. The three foot leader will allow the bait to ride enticingly off the bottom. Make a long cast and let the bait settle down. Reel your slack in just enough to keep your line tight so you can see your line and keep a good feel of your bait. Some times High Fin Blues will “peck” at a bait and sometimes they will “slam” it. I tend to be on the patient side, if I feel a “peck, peck” I will slowly raise the rod tip to feel for pressure. Once constant pressure is confirmed then hammer a hard hook set. If a rod goes down hard with a slam, then give the fish a good hook set avoiding slack in the line Another way to get more bites is to slowly pull the bait along the bottom much the same as if you were fishing a plastic worm for Large Mouth Bass. Slowly raise your rod tip, stop and reel in your slack. Repeat this until the bait gets back to the boat. More than often , you will catch more fish than the angler keeping a bait in a constant position. I originally used this technique fishing for Flounder on the Texas coast but later found it works good on High Fins.
Now, with the 17ft. center console positioned over the sand bar and anchored securely in the front and back the moment of truth was finely here. I grabbed a rod, reached in the bait bucket, threaded a three inch shad on the hook, made a long cast and set the rod down on the front deck of the boat. Relaxing, I cut bait iced the shad and settled into baiting the second rod. Just as I was about to cast the second rod a commotion on the front deck got my attention. I turned just in time to my astonishment to see my first rod flying off the front deck of the boat. In a instant I turned and dove for the rod. What a mistake I thought to my self, never leave a rod unattended! Belly flopping onto the front deck of the boat cracking several ribs and with my outstretched right hand barely grabbed the rod just as it was going over board. Now, with rod in hand I set the hook and did battle with the fish. A few minutes later the fish tired and I eased the net under him. Was I ever lucky, I got the rod and the fish. I dropped the beautiful 10 pound High Fin Blue Cat into the live well and returned to baiting rods. Cracked ribs and a jammed thumb I fished on. I t was taking about four minutes for the fish to find the bait and strike. I tried working three rods but I could not keep up. Two rods keep me busy as bites cycled out. When the fish are biting work at it and you will catch more fish.
I stayed busy catching fish and baiting hooks for next hour or so until the sun got high in the east and finely the bite slowed. Pulling anchors I headed in, it was just mid morning and I had a good run at adding to our 4th of July fish fry.
Low Water High Fins, High fin Blues, the most sought after catfish on Lake Livingston had cooperated for me on this trip. The low water level of Lake Livingston has made fishing better here, possibly concentrating fish and making them easier to pattern. This could be true for other lakes in the south that are suffering from low water conditions. Another good thing about the lower water levels is that the exposed lake bed is blossoming with vegetation that will flood when the lake fills back up and will provide cover and natural habitat for all fish.
Low Water this summer can be a good thing. Especially if you like catching High Fin Blue Catfish.
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