DANIEL CLIFTON • PICAYUNE EDITOR
LAKE LBJ — The summer heat has descended upon the Highland Lakes and will likely remain a daily constant until at least September. The sometimes 100-degree days can often mean an end to angling, but it doesn’t need to be that way.
With a few adjustments, anglers can continue fishing right through the Texas summer and manage to land some fish.
“I’m a deep (water) guy myself,” said Austin Ellis, a Faith Academy graduate who is headed to Bethune College in Tennessee on a fishing scholarship. Ellis, who competed as a high school angler and still makes some area tournaments, contends that summer doesn’t mean the end of fishing, even successful fishing. He pointed out you just need to know where the fish are and what to do to entice them into biting.
As a bass angler, Ellis haunts Lake LBJ most of the time but ventures to other bodies of water both locally and across the state. His first advice is start hunting bass in the deeper water, particularly in the thermocline, an area of water separating the warmer water near the surface and colder water near the bottom.
“During the summer, you’ll find the bass will suspend in that thermocline area, usually the upper part of it,” he said. Identifying the thermocline can be accomplished through the use of a fish finder or taking temperatures at various depths. And it’s not just a matter of identifying the thermocline, you need to locate it near some likely structure or cover.
While it’s hot out, structure and cover still play a vital role in fish behavior. Marcos De Jesus, a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department freshwater fishery biologist, whose area includes the Highland Lakes, explained that structure and cover provide fish with protection, shade and, particularly in regard to gamefish such as largemouth bass, a food source.
One of the things anglers on Lake LBJ should look for, De Jesus said, is the clumps of Eurasia milfoil.
“This milfoil gives smaller fish a place to hide,” he said.
But these smaller baitfish are a food source for larger gamefish such as largemouth bass. DeJesus recommended fishing the deepwater sides of the milfoil patches.
During the cooler parts of the days, just before and after sunrise or around sunset, bass might move into shallower parts of the lake while still hunting cover and structure such as docks and brush piles. Some bass, however, even stick to the shallower parts of the lake in the heat of the day, Ellis explained, though they are more scattered compared to the deepwater ones, which tend to congregate and feed as groups.
Despite the low levels on Lake Buchanan, De Jesus said anglers shouldn’t write off the big body of water. Instead, it’s a matter of going to where the fish are. For open-water species such as striped bass and hybrid stripers, he recommended heading for the deeper portions of the lake closer to the Buchanan Dam.
“They’ll probably be suspended between 20 to 25 feet,” he said.
Good-size spoons that can get down to that depth should be effective, though live shad are one of the preferred staples of the striped bass’ and hybrid’s diets.
As for largemouth and sunfish, De Jesus said anglers should concentrate on the shallower parts of the lake, particularly during early morning and late evening. Even tossing a topwater lure around a structure could stir up some bass. Though the lake levels are down, this can sometimes work in an angler’s benefit since it forces fish into a smaller area.
“The biggest issue with Lake Buchanan is access,” De Jesus said. Most of the public boat ramps are well out of the water. “If you can get on the lake, you could do some good fishing.”
One of the most under-appreciated lakes when it comes to fishing could be Inks Lake. While not as big or popular as LBJ and Buchanan, De Jesus said anglers might want to give it another look. TPWD has done extensive fish habitat management and improvement on Inks Lake the past several years. This includes creating five brush piles in various parts of the lake that offer cover and food sources. Anglers can go to the department’s website at www.tpwd.state.tx.us and look for Inks Lake under the “fishing reports” section to get the GPS coordinates of the brush piles.
But you might not have to leave the shore for some of the best Inks Lake angling.
The department made significant improvements to Inks Lake State Park’s two fishing piers.
“At the north pier, we’ve constructed a habitat network,” De Jesus said. “So you should be able to get some good fishing right off the pier.”
At the south pier, TPWD installed a series of underwater green lights that serve to attract baitfish, which then draw gamefish during the night. There’s also an artificial fish attractor at the pier. Anglers can enjoy a night of fishing right from the pier.
“That’s pretty unique,” De Jesus said. “It’s probably the only state park that has this. Inks Lake State Park is a great option during the summer.”
De Jesus added, during the latest fish survey, researchers noted a number of good-size largemouth bass in Inks Lake.
While Lake Marble Falls doesn’t boast a largemouth fishery as strong the other three lakes, De Jesus said it does have a good population of catfish and sunfish, making it a great place for shore anglers.
Whichever lake or species of fish anglers choose, the summer months don’t mean an end to fishing. Ellis, who enjoys the deep waters for the summer, recommended a deep-diving crank bait, a Carolina-rigged worm setup or a good-size jig to plum the depths while hunting suspended bass. But his best advice isn’t about tackle or even technique.
“Just get out and go fishing,” Ellis said.