April 26, 2014

Ample water, smooth surfaces await fishermen in East Texas

The best fishing might be hidden among the bald cypress and towering pines of Caddo Lake.

The wind is up and the water is down.

It’s a sad song, but it’s the prevalent tune among North Texas fishermen so far this spring. In spite of recent rains, Lake Bridgeport is still 21 feet low, Grapevine is minus 10, and Possum Kingdom comes in at around 14 feet down.

At many area lakes, the boat ramps don’t reach the water. The fishing is still good for those who can get out, but those opportunities are limited.

It seems like the winds stay around 15 to 20 mph most of the time and that’s enough to create white caps, muddy the water and hide dangerous stumps.

The answer to all those problems, at least for now, might be hidden among the bald cypress and towering pines of East Texas.

“Actually, Caddo Lake is a little bit above normal right now,” area guide Paul Keith said. “As for the wind, I’ve been on the lake when it’s gusting 35 to 40 mph and you couldn’t see a ripple on the water.”

Caddo Lake is a world unto itself. Near Karnack, the home of Lady Bird Johnson, and north of Marshall, the state’s only large naturally formed lake snakes its way through the hundreds of bayous and sloughs, ponds, wetlands and backwaters all the way into Louisiana.

It’s about a three- to four-hour trip from the Fort Worth-Dallas area; east into an historic area of the state that once thrived on riverboat travel.

“It’s a good place to come,” said Keith, who grew up on the lake. “I just came off the water and we caught lots of bass. This is a good time — spring and early summer.”

If there is a downside to Caddo, it might be that it isn’t an easy place to navigate. Keith likens the landscape to what TV viewers see on the popular weekly series Swamp People, where Troy Landry and R.J. and Jay Paul Molinere, among others, make their living killing alligators.

“It’s not uncommon for fishermen to get lost and have to spend the night on the lake,” Keith said. “It’s a pretty regular sight to see the sheriff’s department helicopter flying over the lake the next morning.”

But it’s that same seclusion and hidden waterways that make the lake so inviting. Keith said it’s the kind of place where you can be fishing in the same general pond with 20 other boats and you never see one of them.

Of course, the ability for Caddo to absorb lots of fishermen and the pressures they bring is not a secret and if there is another problem with fishing there, it could be that getting a guide can be kind of iffy right now.

“Yeah, it takes a little while to get a weekend booked,” Keith said. “I’ve got weekends booked into July and August, in some cases I get bookings three and four years in advance.”

You can get a weekend, but you’ll need a little lead time.

Weekdays, however, are much easier to come by.

“Weekdays aren’t bad, and they are really the best because you don’t have to deal with all the weekend traffic.”

Keith even offers what he calls a Quick Trip, a three-hour guided fishing trip for one or two people.

It’s a great opportunity for those who don’t have a lot of time to spend on the water. “I get most of them in the hotter months,” he said, “when people want to get in a few hours in the early morning, before it heats up, or later in the evening after work.”

For now, he said, the fishing on Caddo is all about black bass and brim. The crappie spawn is over and the white bass are dispersed. But the blacks are still around in good numbers.

Caddo, he said, is in “very, very good shape.” It is, in his opinion, one of the best lakes in the state of Texas. Not just because of the fishing, but also because of the beauty of the lake itself.

“The cypress trees, the moss, the lily pads that are blooming on the water; it all makes this a very pretty place. It’s only going to get better over the next month or two,” he said.

The historic town of Jefferson is nearby with its B&B’s and small restaurants and clubs; its tours of antebellum homes and haunted houses.

Shreveport is just down the interstate with casinos.

“That’s why we call this place, ‘The Hub of the World,’ ” Keith said with a laugh.

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