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Woods, Waters and Wildlife

By John Jefferson Outdoor writer and photographer

Photo by Vicky Jefferson.
Mild days in the fall are ideal for fishing in Texas’ lakes and streams. Enjoy it while you can, before cold weather makes it uncomfortable.

By John Jefferson
Outdoor writer and photographer

Fine Fall Fishing

I fall for fall. There’s a feeling about it that demands being out in Nature. It’s our best season, and this fall has been terrific. So has the fishing. While northern anglers are scouring their garages for ice augers or snow shovels in anticipation of that White Christmas we only see on TV, folks who know anything about fishing are limiting out. Some of the best fishing of the year occurs in the fall.
Reports from practically every part of Texas are telling of generous catches of bass, crappie, catfish, and one friend even hauled in a 41-pound smallmouth buffalo while crappie fishing. For East Texas friends, let me say he was fishing for “white perch.” Having grown up at the edge of the Big Thicket, I thought for years that this crappie I had only read about was a separate species from our beloved white perch. They’re one and the same. Call them what you will.
Regardless, people are catching them throughout Texas in lakes, rivers, creeks and even ponds. After all the flooding East Texas has had, it wouldn’t surprise me if one or more would come from neighborhood goldfish ponds. The best baits are minnows, shad and very small jigs – about one-sixteenth an ounce or smaller.
Black crappie are darker than white crappie due to black speckles on their sides. White crappie get darker during the spring spawn. Right now, they usually have broken, dark, vertical bars on their sides. At one time, it was said that black crappie were found only in clear lakes in East Texas, but I’ve also caught them in Central Texas. White crappie are considered more of a statewide fish. This time of year, both white and black are usually in water 12 feet deep or more, and often around brush piles. Most consider both types of crappie the best eating freshwater fish in Texas!
All bass species are also biting like mosquitoes right now, too – largemouths, smallmouths, Guadalupes in the Hill Country, white (sand) bass and stripers. That’s what fall fishing is like. Most
bass are caught on lures – both topwater baits and worms or other plastics – anything that resembles a crawfish. Minnows and shad also produce strikes. Two friends reported catching 89 largemouths and Guadalupes one morning in late November on Lake Travis. All were released.
It’s a beautiful time to be out. Oh, it’ll get cold this week, but it will pass, and then the weather will be conducive to being outside, again. This is a good time to just drive through the countryside and admire the colors. Texas doesn’t have the striking fall colors New England has, but driving through East and North Texas, you’ll see some hardwoods changing colors. We drove through the Hill Country last weekend and it looked like the Spanish oaks were about a week away from turning.