Life in These Highland Lakes: Why local anglers are hooked

STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO

Lake Marble Falls fishing

Greg Mills shows off a nice bass he caught in Lake Marble Falls. Courtesy photo

Marble Falls residents Greg Mills and Lee Beurshausen stay ready for their favorite out-of-office message: Gone fishin’.

Mills keeps a rod and reel and other necessities in one corner of his office at PEC Manufacturing, set to go.

The owner of Marble Falls Spa and Pool, Beuershausen makes sure his boat stays packed with the proper equipment for each season so he can get up and go whenever he wants.

These two Highland Lakes residents each relish the “reel” reason for living on the Colorado River chain: They’d rather be fishin’.

DAM GOOD FISHING

Beurshausen started fishing at an early age. He was 10 when he began spending whole days fishing below Highland Lakes dams. He credits old-timers Henry Jackson and James Woods for teaching him the skills that led to him becoming a champion angler, although they didn’t pay him much mind at first.

“When I first started going down there, they wouldn’t talk to me,” Beurshausen recalled.

Unfazed, the young angler kept asking questions. The more fish Jackson caught, the more curious and courageous Beurshausen became, especially when he saw the number of crappie Jackson continuously took home.

“He’d catch big old crappie every time,” Beurshausen said. “(One day), he gave me what he was using. That was the best day ever. I caught 25; I cleaned them. I was proud.”

A regular at fishing tournaments, Beurshausen keeps a seemingly endless supply of equipment in his man cave at home. He organizes all the lures, hand baits, crank baits, hooks, and other necessities before every tournament but keeps his most-used pieces on the boat. Walls not covered with shelves are lined with fishing trophies, one of which is the Bass Champs 2018 Central Region Anglers of the Year plaque he won with fishing buddy Randy Grounds.

Fishing in the Highland Lakes

A younger Lee Beurshausen displays his white bass catch. Courtesy photo

While he fishes all over, including in saltwater, Beurshausen still likes the local lakes, where he casts his line for catfish, crappie (pronounced crop-ee), stripers, and white and largemouth bass.

“The bass fish are better than they’ve ever been in five years,” he said of current fishing conditions.

Being on the water early in the morning when it’s barely daylight reminds him why he lives in the Highland Lakes.

“It’s calm and serene out there,” he said. “I love being in nature.”

While his fish tales include many a “big one” that got away, Beurshausen only misses one thing: Since the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, dam fishing is now illegal.

“I feel bad for people who don’t get to experience fishing below the dams like I did as a kid,” he said. “That was a really neat spot for a person who doesn’t have a boat. Moving water made it a great spot for fish. Fish tend to go upstream to feed on the current.”

FISHING FOR SPORT

Mills took up fishing as a kid when he got tired of chasing his basketball into the prickly pears, where it would eventually go flat. He was too small for football, he said, so he tried a different sport.

He credits his father, Franky, for taking him and brother Jim fly fishing for rainbow trout in the mountains of New Mexico when they were children. Each night, the two boys would make their dad promise to wake them early to go fishing, but, more times than not, the boys awoke on their own to discover Franky was gone.

Greg smiled as he thought of why his dad might have done that.

“This was his vacation, too,” he said. “And the attention span of a 6-year-old isn’t what it ought to be.”

Despite a few missed mornings, Mills became good enough to compete in the Bartlesville BassMasters circuit when he and his family lived in Oklahoma.

In 1991, the family moved to the Highland Lakes, eventually buying a house on Lake LBJ in Granite Shoals. Greg’s uncle Amos Mills lived in Horseshoe Bay, where he had two Wave Runners that Greg and his brother discovered were just right for enjoying their favorite pastime, especially around the Ferguson power plant.

“We’d just sit there and fish,” he said.

Now living in Marble Falls, Greg no longer enters competitions. As a hobby, he enjoys fishing for bass, catches crappie only to release them back, and avoids catfish altogether. He releases the crappie, he said, because he doesn’t have a good recipe for them.

Out on Lake Marble Falls with friends, Greg’s biggest decision is whether to fish upstream or downstream of the U.S. 281 bridge. He does have a few favorite spots, “but I’m not going to tell you where they are,” he said with a grin.

Few activities compare to sitting in a boat on a Monday afternoon in the spring watching the sunset while fishing and relaxing, he continued, although he also cherishes bragging rights among friends.

“There’s nothing better than beating your buddies,” Greg said, obviously still a true competitor.

jfierro@thepicayune.com

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