A mid-January fishing adventure by Bill Heugel of Fairmount, Texas.
The air temp was in the 40s, water temp in the high 40s and the fish were in water just inches deep here in East Texas. Those are the conditions Don McMurry and I recently experienced as we fished for Chain Pickerel on Hawkins Lake which is near Tyler. Other Texas lakes that have this variety of fish are Caddo, Dangerfield and Toledo Bend (TB). The only pickerel I have seen in TB were small and stayed near grassy areas.
The Chain Pickerel is a distant cousin of the Great Northern Pike. The best time to fish for them is from about mid-December through March. That’s when they leave the cover and come to the shorelines to spawn.
Rob Woodruff is one of the premier guides for pickerel. He has written articles about fishing for them and enjoys using the bass fishing techniques during the time when bass are deep. Jackfish and Pike are common names for this fish.
You don’t “lip” these fish because like their northern cousins …. they have a mouth full of teeth. The Texas record is 4.74 lbs, but they sure make up for their size by putting up a great fight.
Don and I met Rob at the boat ramp about 7am and didn’t go far to find the first fish. Just a short distance from the ramp Don caught a two pound-plus fish using what looked like a black clouser. Fortunately Don remembered to not lip the fish.
Rob had given me some suggestions on what flies might work so I tied up some of my rabbit flies and also selected several others that I thought might work.
We continued fishing the shoreline and neither Don nor I had any more hits. I finally changed flies and put on an orange and red rabbit fly. Rob had indicated that Mickey Finn colors also worked well so after a bit I put one on and a few casts later a fish came up and took it while I was talking and looking away. Typical Heugel stuff!!
After that I caught several fish but then disaster struck. The fly that was working so well got cut off by a fish. I fished several other flies with no luck and finally put on one of Rob’s Mickey Finn colored clousers. Success again came my way.
Throughout the day we had plenty of hook ups. Some of the fish made flashy jumps while others simply “bull-doged” their way in various directions. We also managed to catch a few bass in the process. It was interesting that some bass remain in the shallow areas under these weather conditions. Only one bass we caught looked like it had come from the deeper water, the others were dark and looked like they had been in the shallows for some time.
We did most of our fishing on this trip with 6 weight rods. This was due primarily because of the wind. We could have also fished with wire leaders and that would have eliminated some of the cut offs. However, according to Rob that would also have eliminated the possibility of catching the bass.
Here is an example of the shoreline we were fishing. Sometimes it was over dead lily pads and other times just grass. The pickerel attaché the eggs to the grass and then leave.
Lake Dangerfield would also be an interesting adventure. They have an overnight group facility which supports 20 folks in 5 rooms. It would make a great trip for our club since it’s not too far. The cost is $225 per night. With our fantastic bank account it could be shared by the attendees. As I recall there are no motors allowed on the lake, however, it is quite small so it’s easy to get around.
It was a fun trip, and as the postcards say ..”Wish you were here”! ….. Bill