Racing up the winding river with eager clients on board one recent crisp morning.  I rounded a bend in the river, sunrise in my eyes I noticed a large number of Sea Gulls. They were feverishly working  the water just down stream from a small feeder creek.  I looked closer as I was surprised, yes those were Sea Gulls dive bombing.  Birds working like that usually means there must be something going on as I thought to myself.   The water was to off color for White Bass.  I held back the temptation to stop and take a closer look never letting off  the throttle on the Ranger boat.  I had a plan this morning and although I recognized the signs, I stayed with my game plan.  Clients had hired me for a day of White Bass Fishing and we were headed to a major creek ten miles upriver.  The creek pattern for Whites had been good and I could not afford  to get side tracked unless it was for something really good. I was confident and there was no reason to react. 

 We caught Whites in the creek all day long and as the sun dropped in the west we headed in.  Backtracking our morning route I was amazed to see the Gulls working the same spot that they were in earlier this  morning. Herons also now lined the  river bank.   This time, as daylight faded I let off on the throttle to take a closer look.  “What is going on”?  Surprised clients questioned. “ Hang on just a minute,” I answered as I eased the bow of the boat into the mouth of the little creek.  “Shad!” I exclaimed,  there were thousands of them pouring out of the mouth of the creek.  The creek was only about 6 feet wide and  a foot deep.  There were so many shad you could literally scoop them up with your bare hands.  It was quite the site to see as we turned the boat around and headed in for the evening. 

Recognize the signs, I pondered to my self later that evening.  The water there was just to turbid or off color for White Bass.  Shad, Sea Gulls,  Fresh  water coming out of a creek, I puzzled..  BLUE CATS!  A light came on in my brain.  I bet Blue Cats are stacked in there gorging  on all those shad I theorized to myself. 

Two days later I was back at work guiding a White Bass trip.  Changing conditions on the river make staying on fish a challenge.  I started this day confident in putting clients on some Whites.  The creek bite was now off as water levels had dropped.  The river was now clearing so my game plan was to fish the river.  Unfortunately after four hours of fishing we were struggling.  Not even a single fish.  We had tried everything and had covered many miles of river.   “Lets head into Freedom Shores Marina and break for lunch,” I suggested.   I have got to come up with a different game plan for the afternoon or it was going to be a long day, I thought to myself.

We finished sandwiches and sodas and on of my  patient clients spoke up.  “Dave, we just want to catch some fish.  It doesn’t have to be White Bass.  Is there somewhere we can catch some catfish?” he asked.  Suddenly, A flush feeling came over me.  Memories of my observation in the river two days ago flooded back.  “Yes,” I answered, “there is a spot up the river where we might be able to catch some Blue cats,  however, it is a long way from here and I can not promise the bite will be good.”   Forty minutes later we rounded the bend in the river as we neared the spot where I had witnessed the birds and shad two days before.  I was relieved to see it!  Flocks of Sea Gulls were working the mouth of the little creek.   Herons and Cranes of all kinds now lined the bank looking for a easy meal.  A fish rolled as we nosed the boat up on the bank and tied off.  The shad were still there coming out of the creek and into the river just like I had witnessed two days ago.  I reached over and grabbed a couple of shad, “we got bait boys,” I said.  Now,  we settled into re- rigging.  I recommended the Carolina rig with a ¼ oz egg sinker riding above a barrel swivel with a 18inch leader and a small khale hook tied on to the end of the leader.  Hooks were baited  lines were cast and the wait began.  We didn’t have to wait long. “Fish on!”  Someone yelled and  a  fat 2lb. Blue Cat was fought to the boat.  Then another rod went down. The action was fast.  Blue Cats along with an occasional Gaspergou  bit every time a shad was cast.  I watched the action as the Sea Gulls continued there dance.  

“We could have been doing this all day,” my client spoke. “ Now this is fun!” he exclaimed.   The action continued  right up to sunset and when the bite finely slowed,  I strung fish and took snapshots of  happy customers holding a stringer full of hard fighting, tasty eating Blue Cats. 

We had struggled this morning chasing White Bass, then, changed our thoughts and got on the Blues to finish the day with a good trip.  “Dave, we just want to catch some fish,” my customer had mentioned at  lunch earlier in the day.

Recognize and react I thought as we headed in that evening.  Read the signs mother nature gives you and you will become a better fisherman. Follow the birds for example and they will take you to the fish.  Time spent on the water is the most valuable tool in successful fishing.  I was lucky on this trip with what I had recognized  two days before .  Although  I did not react immediately, however, I had put the signs in my memory bank and when I did react it paid off for me.

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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