By Will Johnson

Messenger Reporter

HOUSTON COUNTY – If you’ve ever been fishing, you’ve probably told a tale about “the one that got away” or how you caught so many fish it seemed like you could throw a hook out in the water and the fish would just jump on it. Now having said that, there is usually a small nugget of truth buried deep inside that tale of fishing prowess.

Earlier this week, talk began to circulate around town about how folks were catching fish as fast as they could cast a line into the Trinity River, near the Lock and Dam on Hwy. 7.

Of course, being a “fish tale,” this information was taken with a huge grain of salt. It was decided, however, to go and check it out.

So, on Wednesday a trip was made to the Lock and Dam to see just how true this tale was. As it turned out, the “fish tales” were not only true, the stories actually underestimated the amount of fish being caught!

After arriving at the Lock and Dam, the first thing that was noticed was the amount of people lining the banks of the river on the north side of the Hwy. 7 bridge.

While the temperatures were not as cold as they would become later in the week, it was still chilly and near the river itself, the temps were probably in the low 40s. Not exactly ideal fishing weather.

Still, roughly 30 people were on either side of the bank around 3 p.m. and all of them were pulling in fish as fast as they could take ’em off their line and cast it back into the river. Some were using live bait while others were using artificial lures. It didn’t seem to matter.

“I’ve been out here with my grandson since about noon and we’ve caught probably 40 or 50 between the two of us,” James White said.

White said he was retired from the oilfield and had heard about the fishing between Centerville and Crockett on Monday while he was in Bryan.

As he was discussing the afternoon’s catch, his grandson reeled in small white (sand) bass. White remarked most of the fish which had been caught were too small to keep but showed off a stringer with several one or two pounders attached.

“I’d say probably 85 to 90 percent of the fish have been some pretty small sand bass, but we’ve caught a couple of stripers and one or two cats (catfish) that crept up from the bottom to see what was going on,” he commented.

Twenty yards down the bank was a lady who identified herself as Jane. She said she didn’t mind talking but added with a laugh, “Just don’t use my real name. I’m supposed to be at work!”

Jane said she and her husband had heard about the fishing last year but didn’t have a chance to make it down to the Trinity to see if the stories were true. She said when she was driving home from work on Tuesday, she decided to turn around and stop after she noticed quite a few vehicles near the old bait shop as well as some parked on the side of the road.

“You won’t believe how many fish I’ve caught. Just look!” she exclaimed, gesturing towards a bucket teeming with fish.

A middle aged gentleman named Harry Lirette said the fish didn’t seem to have a preference as to live or artificial bait. I used minnows yesterday, but today I’m just using a spinner. It seems the fish are hungry. I caught about the same yesterday as I have today,” he said.

The reason behind the tremendous fishing at this time of the year is based on the instincts of the fish to swim upstream to spawn, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department website.

“Beginning in late January, the bass will begin to show up all along the river moving for miles upstream while seeking swifter currents to aid in the spawning,” the website stated.

The Lock and Dam area serves as a funnel which concentrates the water current and increases the flow beneath the area for several miles, according to the TPWD.

“The faster current acts like a magnet to the free spawning white bass,” the website stated. “First to show up are the males. Then, as the weeks go by, wave after wave of new arrivals make their appearance. Millions of fish will stage or hold in the slack-water and deep pools waiting for the best conditions to spawn. The bigger females, fat with eggs show up last.”

Unfortunately, for those of you who are contemplating a fish fry, the Texas Department of State Health Services recommends women of child bearing age and children younger than 12 eat no more than one, four ounce serving per month of the white bass caught in the Trinity River. Women past their child bearing years and adult males are cautioned to eat no more than three, eight ounce servings per month.

Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at wjohnson@messenger-news.com.