TexasKayakFisherman.com est. 2000

Kayak fishing the Lone Star State...


User avatar
By Tom Baty
#2255561
Image
Each year in North Texas, around the beginning of February, there seems to be a lull in outdoor opportunity: duck season is over, the sand bass aren't fully running, the crappie aren't spawning, and it's cold. At times like this an outdoorsman's options can seem limited, but if you know where to look opportunity can abound.

North Texas lakes this time of year typically have a winter population of water turkeys. These birds fly down each winter and roost in the flooded timber of our lakes. They congregate in large groups at night and fly out at sunrise each morning. Lots of birds means lots of mess, and that mess attracts lots of fish.

I'd first heard of fishing these roosts several years ago, but never actually tried it until a few years back. The idea is that catfish are attracted by the concentration of undigested fish remaining in the water turkey mess. Get on the water right at daybreak and stink bait under a bobber will produce fish.

My first time using this technique was in 2016 when Lake Grapevine was at near-historic high levels. An extremely wet fall and winter had filled the lake and flooded much of the surrounding area. Grapevine is an interesting lake in that there aren't huge stands of flooded timber. There is, however, an island, and that island is covered in trees. The lake was so high that the island was completely underwater with only the very tops of the trees protruding.

Image

That winter I would launch my kayak just before daybreak, quietly paddle to the island, and cast under the trees. Bites usually came quickly, nearly as soon as the bobber hit the water. There were only two roost trees, but they were always holding fish.

Image
Image

Grapevine returned to pool later that year leaving the island, and my fishing spot, dry. Driving to work this winter I'd noticed flocks of water turkeys flying over the road each morning and evening. In the morning the flocks are leaving the lake, flying north, and each evening they return.

It had been in my mind to find where these birds were roosting when my father called; he'd read an article in the Dallas Morning News about fishing the roosts, knew I'd done so before, and wanted to go out. He asked if Grapevine still had the turkeys on it, but I told him we should check out the lake by my work. Neither of us had ever been there but a quick Google image search revealed extensive stands of timber in the upper end of the lake. That was the general area the turkeys had been flying from so we gave it a shot.

We couldn't get out until a Sunday afternoon and the birds were long gone. We fished all afternoon and into the evening with only one bite. As evening approached the birds began to return. We were careful to stay downwind from them and allow them to roost without being spooked. Soon enough my father landed the first fish. We fished a little longer and caught one more channel cat, but that was it for the day.

Image

A week later, this past Sunday, I decided to try the same spot but in the morning. I got out early, before light, and paddled to the spot. Getting in early made all the difference. Before it was even light I sat on the water, kayak bobbing in the light breeze, and the sound of catfish swirling at the surface was all around me.

In addition to my rod I'd brought along a trotline. Running a trotline in a kayak is tricky business, especially if there is wind, but it's one of my favorite ways to fish. At first light I cast to several trees with no bites. It was unbelievable, fish were swirling all around me and I couldn't get a single one to bite. I found an area where I saw several fish swirl, paddled over, and set out the trotline.

After putting out the line I paddled around, casting to each large tree as I came to it. There are so many trees in the area that I focused on those with the most branches. I continued to see and hear fish swirling, but just couldn't get them to bite. Finally, after a couple hours, I hooked into the first fish. The fish hit hard, running quickly sideways and tangled himself in some submerged branches. After a little coaxing the fish came free and was in hand.

It was at this point I noticed the wind had picked up. It was becoming difficult to fish due to the wind, my kayak was swaying about, my bobber was being quickly blown away from the trees, and accurately casting the setup became difficult. I decided it was best to go pull in my trotline before the waves go any bigger and made it more difficult.

On approaching the trotline there wasn't any visible shaking, usually not a good sign. Grabbing the line told a different story, though, and I could feel several fish on. In all I had four cats on the trotline, not bad for only a two hour soak. I pulled the line in and headed back to the launch with five fat catfish in tow.

Image

I'm not sure why I didn't catch more cats when there were so many around, but next time I go out I plan to use a different setup. To combat the wind and allow for further casting I was using a slip bobber rig, with a larger weight and swivel. When the rig landed it didn't make the desired "plopping" noise, but instead splashed rather loudly. It might have been enough of a splash to spook the cats away from the tree and my bait. Hopefully I'll get to go out soon and test my theory.

If you have a lake near you that has a water turkey roost on it, and you enjoy catching catfish, now is a great time of year to get on the water and reel a few in.
User avatar
By karstopo
#2255562
That’s interesting about the water turkey roosts and catfish. Sounds like you aren’t fishing all that deep. I’ve done better fishing for cats under a cork than without one.

Trotlines are fun. I made my own way back when. I’d always try to catch live bluegill for bait. I loved running one and the feel of something big. The biggest I caught back then was a 30 something pound flathead. It’s the fish in my avatar.

I hated stink bait and refused to use it. I didn’t mind livers so I would use that if I could not get enough live sunfish. Nowadays, we use cheap peeled shrimp from the grocery under the cork. You might even try a beadhead woolly bugger out there. I catch a lot of catfish that way, just slow stripping one in. I caught an 8 pound channel cat on one less than a week ago. I don’t think color matters. They might ignore an artificial with all that natural chum from the birds in the water. A big enough bugger with a bead could be cast with a spinning rod if the fly rod isn’t something you want to do.

Anyhow, loved the report. I love fried catfish in cornmeal but haven’t been able to kill one in 35 plus years. So far, I’m catch and release on the cats. I kill and eat other fish, but the whole skinning thing just sets me back.
User avatar
By Ron Mc
#2255563
Cool report

having the fish pre-chummed, the creative fly fisherman needs to come up with a guano fly.
I've targeted carp on the cottonwood seed fall, my girls have fly-fished fake corn kernels for trout.
As silly as it sounds, it would work.
Decades ago, Ed Engle wrote an editorial column in American Angler about successfully fishing fake bread flies for channel cats when his dad chummed them up.
User avatar
By imaoldmanyoungsalt
#2255571
That's really cool. I remember seeing huge flocks of cormorants roosting on several east Texas lakes back in the day when I was fishing bass tournaments and remember seeing those swirls you talk about. I always thought they were just carp or buffalo and never even thought about fishing for them. Of course I pretty much only chased bass back then so probably wouldn't have fished for a "sorry ole catfish" anyway, lol. My how things change. Now I am opportunistic and chase whatever is biting best at the time and love expanding my fishing choices to as many different species as possible. Will definitely keep this one in mind.
Thank Tom!
By h2oshooter
#2255682
Tom Baty wrote:Image
Each year in North Texas, around the beginning of February, there seems to be a lull in outdoor opportunity: duck season is over, the sand bass aren't fully running, the crappie aren't spawning, and it's cold. At times like this an outdoorsman's options can seem limited, but if you know where to look opportunity can abound.

North Texas lakes this time of year typically have a winter population of water turkeys. These birds fly down each winter and roost in the flooded timber of our lakes. They congregate in large groups at night and fly out at sunrise each morning. Lots of birds means lots of mess, and that mess attracts lots of fish.

I'd first heard of fishing these roosts several years ago, but never actually tried it until a few years back. The idea is that catfish are attracted by the concentration of undigested fish remaining in the water turkey mess. Get on the water right at daybreak and stink bait under a bobber will produce fish.

My first time using this technique was in 2016 when Lake Grapevine was at near-historic high levels. An extremely wet fall and winter had filled the lake and flooded much of the surrounding area. Grapevine is an interesting lake in that there aren't huge stands of flooded timber. There is, however, an island, and that island is covered in trees. The lake was so high that the island was completely underwater with only the very tops of the trees protruding.

Image

That winter I would launch my kayak just before daybreak, quietly paddle to the island, and cast under the trees. Bites usually came quickly, nearly as soon as the bobber hit the water. There were only two roost trees, but they were always holding fish.

Image
Image

Grapevine returned to pool later that year leaving the island, and my fishing spot, dry. Driving to work this winter I'd noticed flocks of water turkeys flying over the road each morning and evening. In the morning the flocks are leaving the lake, flying north, and each evening they return.

It had been in my mind to find where these birds were roosting when my father called; he'd read an article in the Dallas Morning News about fishing the roosts, knew I'd done so before, and wanted to go out. He asked if Grapevine still had the turkeys on it, but I told him we should check out the lake by my work. Neither of us had ever been there but a quick Google image search revealed extensive stands of timber in the upper end of the lake. That was the general area the turkeys had been flying from so we gave it a shot.

We couldn't get out until a Sunday afternoon and the birds were long gone. We fished all afternoon and into the evening with only one bite. As evening approached the birds began to return. We were careful to stay downwind from them and allow them to roost without being spooked. Soon enough my father landed the first fish. We fished a little longer and caught one more channel cat, but that was it for the day.

Image

A week later, this past Sunday, I decided to try the same spot but in the morning. I got out early, before light, and paddled to the spot. Getting in early made all the difference. Before it was even light I sat on the water, kayak bobbing in the light breeze, and the sound of catfish swirling at the surface was all around me.

In addition to my rod I'd brought along a trotline. Running a trotline in a kayak is tricky business, especially if there is wind, but it's one of my favorite ways to fish. At first light I cast to several trees with no bites. It was unbelievable, fish were swirling all around me and I couldn't get a single one to bite. I found an area where I saw several fish swirl, paddled over, and set out the trotline.

After putting out the line I paddled around, casting to each large tree as I came to it. There are so many trees in the area that I focused on those with the most branches. I continued to see and hear fish swirling, but just couldn't get them to bite. Finally, after a couple hours, I hooked into the first fish. The fish hit hard, running quickly sideways and tangled himself in some submerged branches. After a little coaxing the fish came free and was in hand.

It was at this point I noticed the wind had picked up. It was becoming difficult to fish due to the wind, my kayak was swaying about, my bobber was being quickly blown away from the trees, and accurately casting the setup became difficult. I decided it was best to go pull in my trotline before the waves go any bigger and made it more difficult.

On approaching the trotline there wasn't any visible shaking, usually not a good sign. Grabbing the line told a different story, though, and I could feel several fish on. In all I had four cats on the trotline, not bad for only a two hour soak. I pulled the line in and headed back to the launch with five fat catfish in tow.

Image

I'm not sure why I didn't catch more cats when there were so many around, but next time I go out I plan to use a different setup. To combat the wind and allow for further casting I was using a slip bobber rig, with a larger weight and swivel. When the rig landed it didn't make the desired "plopping" noise, but instead splashed rather loudly. It might have been enough of a splash to spook the cats away from the tree and my bait. Hopefully I'll get to go out soon and test my theory.

If you have a lake near you that has a water turkey roost on it, and you enjoy catching catfish, now is a great time of year to get on the water and reel a few in.

Thanks for the report. I’ve done the same with similar results. I’ve also caught a couple of these swirling cats while chasing bass - seeing the swirls, I thought hey were bass. I’ve never really put that much thought into the how’s and why’s of this technique though. Thanks for passing this along.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
User avatar
By Tom Baty
#2255784
karstopo wrote:That’s interesting about the water turkey roosts and catfish. Sounds like you aren’t fishing all that deep. I’ve done better fishing for cats under a cork than without one.

Trotlines are fun. I made my own way back when. I’d always try to catch live bluegill for bait. I loved running one and the feel of something big. The biggest I caught back then was a 30 something pound flathead. It’s the fish in my avatar.



You're right, the bobber's only set about 2 feet deep. The water these trees are in is roughly 15 feet deep.

Making your own trotlines is the only way to go. I use a quick clip now to clip on and off all the trots and it makes life much easier. I tie the line between the two trees, then bait each hook as I clip it on. Many fewer hooks flopping around that way. When you're ready to bring it in just repeat the process in reverse.
Canyon lake 2-16-18 and 17th

Chubs, You sure that guy didn't mean "schtick[…]

Hawaiian (Kage) Spear Gaff

Being hugely influenced by Ty Sutherland from 30mi[…]

Hobie, ride 135 and trailer

Deal fell through, kayaks still available

I was wading in POC and catching some decent fish[…]