November 30, 2013

Anglers are going with the flow at Richland-Chambers

Recent rains are helping to stir up the action on area lakes.

Water, water everywhere and so many fish to catch. That is what many anglers have experienced lately from inflows caused by rains that have ravaged several parts of the state and from subsequent outgoing waters at the lakes’ dams and spillways.

The inflows and outflows provide excellent fishing action because they push nutrients into the reservoirs or into the rivers downstream which in turn attract baitfish and thus game fish.

An unusual twist in these inflow-outflow patterns, however, began to occur at one Texas lake recently, and anglers there are hoping the rush of water coming over Richland-Chambers Reservoir’s dam into the lake will continue at least for the next several weeks, not only to help the lake’s low-water level but also to spur the fishing action.

“Not many people ever have seen anything like this,” said James Reed, a Richland-Chambers fishing guide who recently teamed with longtime guide Bob Holmes on the 40,000-plus- acre reservoir. “It is producing a strong current and that’s what the fish like.”

Holmes slowed his boat to a crawl at the face of the huge lake’s dam as Reed lowered the boat’s trolling motor.

“Instead of water being sent through the spillway, it is coming back right over the top of the dam and into the lake,” Holmes said.

The 100-foot-wide waterfall, and the current it is creating, is piling shad, white bass, hybrid striped bass and catfish right up to the dam, he said.

Holmes said the water comes from a low-lying marshland area below the dam in a conservation effort to provide clean water to the marshland, which attracts numerous species of waterfowl and other wildlife.

The tactics anglers use to catch fish from currents like the one at the Richland-Chambers dam are much the same as they are during normal spillway or runoffs. The key is to approach the areas early, use steady retrieves or shad and other baitfish to bump along the bottom to attract the feeding fish.

Carolina rigs baited with shad or minnows are among the top rigs used to catch fish.

Holmes stressed that the biggest key to catching numbers of white bass and hybrid striped bass at the Richland-Chambers “waterfall” is to arrive at the dam at the crack of dawn.

Once Holmes’ boat was only a few yards from the dam, Steve Barber of Granbury and Craig Barber of Jacksonville took a pair of bait-casting reels from their rod holders and cast chartreuse Sassy Shad jigs as close to the dam as they could. Almost immediately, each angler hooked into a large white bass.

Although the white bass roamed throughout the white layer of froth caused by the currents, a school of hybrid striped bass weighing 4 to 8 pounds concentrated their feeding spree in one corner of the waterfall.

“That one corner of the falling water has produced more hybrid striped bass than any other area here,” Holmes said. “I am not sure why, but if you will cast right up against the dam in that corner, you will catch some big hybrids weighing 5 to 8 pounds and not white bass.”

The Sassy Shads rigged on 1/4- to 1/2-ounce lead head jigs were easy to cast long distances, and we kept the rod tips high with a steady retrieve. The action continued to be fast for several minutes before finally slowing after 20 or more white bass and hybrids had been boated.

Although many anglers fish currents with the intent of catching a favorite species of fish, the currents at the Richland-Chambers dam are not as selective. To prove that point, Holmes repositioned his boat by anchoring it parallel to the dam about 30 yards away. He then pulled a cast net from a small bucket. Within just a few casts he had caught numerous 3-inch-long threadfin shad from the white froth.

Each angler then switched to rods with Carolina rigs. Their circle hooks were baited with the threadfin shad and cast away from the dam rather than toward it. The Carolina rigs kept the bait several inches above barrel weights that bumped along the bottom with the current. Within minutes, each of us were hooking into blue catfish weighing from 1 3/4 to 3 pounds.

Several minutes later, Holmes moved his boat a little farther from the currents and anchored it in relatively shallow water. This time, we switched to smaller minnows and immediately began catching crappie weighing up to a pound each.

By the time we had spent about three hours of fishing, we were heading back to nearby Oak Cove Marina with almost 40 blue catfish, several crappie and the numerous white bass and hybrid striped bass to clean and bag for our freezers.

Just as with other man-made or natural currents, fish such as blue catfish, crappie, white bass and hybrid striped bass can’t pass up the opportunity to gorge themselves on the abundance of shad and other baitfish the moving waters attract.

Indeed, the action at Richland-Chambers’ dam is unusual, and the action there should remain good as long as the inflow remains under way, Reed said.

Similar action can be expected on most reservoirs with good currents, whether from inflows or outflows.

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