Fishing in Texas, the basics to landing your first fish!

Fishing is one of the most popular pass-times in Texas, with many different species available to target in both fresh and salt water. Before grabbing your fishing rod and some bait or tackle, there are some regulations that need to be satisfied first.

The state of texas requires two types of fishing licences, the first is a conservation licence, this is required before you even think about setting out on a days fishing, and can be obtained online via the Fish, Wildlife and Parks department.

The conservation licence is simply to ensure you are freely identified to the state, and to ensure you adhere to the rules and regulations of parks and wildlife, this is separate from a specifically fishing related licence.

Once a conservation licence is obtained, you can then purchase a fishing licence, again from the same department, some licenced resellers also stock these in the event you are unable to purchase online.

Once this is done, you can begin planning your first outing.

The most popular fish to target in salt water around Texas are flounder and sheepshead, for freshwater and estuary fishing however, there is also a good amount of trout around in most streams. Texas has some very well preserved fisheries and it is often not difficult to find streams, estuaries and gulf coast access for targeting either of these 3 mainstream species.

There are also some more exotic creatures found only in Texas, such as alligator gar, nowhere else in the united states contains this type of garfish apart from Texas, this species however is a masterful catch, so targeting them initially isn’t recommended.

Click the following link for more information on gar fishing.

Boating for fish is very common in Texas, if you are lucky enough to have local friends with a boat, then it is highly recommended you head out on a boat the first few times, this makes finding the fish easier with different types of electronics, and also is a more relaxed way to go fishing, you can also learn a lot from seeing how others handle and land fish when boating.

There are also a large number of fishing charter companies throughout Texas, who are very well priced and would be more than happy to show you around the various waterways for many different species. Charters in Texas are big business, and highly recommended for people who are new to fishing.

In the case of gar fishing, a charter is more than recommended, it is essential.

If fishing on your own, some local knowledge is always good, there are many fishing tackle outlets around Texas, so popping into a local shop for some bait and a chat will often lead to some good recommendations.

If land based fishing around the coast using dead-bait, a good indicator an area will be worth fishing is where lots of seagulls are in the deeper water just within casting distance, casting out a dead-bait on a hook into these areas where the seagulls are present will ensure that when predatory fish come to try and feed off the smaller fish the seagulls are also targeting, they have a good chance of grabbing your bait.

It is advised however to sink your bait around seagulls to avoid catching a bird instead of a fish, seagulls are not the best eating!

If the previously mentioned information has not proved successful, throwing some bait into deeper pockets of water off the coast is a good way to catch fish, especially just before sunrise and into the early morning, or just before sunset and into the night. Piers also provide good fishing locations around the gulf coast.

If the area you are fishing in is remote however, target fish will often be more active throughout the entire day, so bringing some rubber waders and wading in to about chest height, then casting a bait into a deep pocket of water and retreating to the beach is a good method, just wait a little while and there should be a flounder or sheepshead around ready to take the bait after a short period of time.

This information is basic but useful to the beginner, and the steps mentioned here are vital to the first stages of taking on fishing as a recreation or potential future sport, we wish you luck in whichever method you decide to try when introducing yourself to fishing in Texas!

 

Bass Fishing Basics

Bass fishing popularity is booming as of late, with hundreds of new lures, sporting clubs and tournaments appearing every day, it can be daunting as to finding a place to start out.

Today we will take a look at the most commonly used lures for bass fishing, they are tried and tested lures which will no doubt bring you closer to catching your first bass.

There are two types of bass, largemouth and small-mouth, largemouth are voracious eaters, they will take on almost anything that will fit in their huge mouth, most people prefer to fish for largemouth and find locations for them first, as it is the easiest way to get your first fish. There is some difference in fight between the largemouth and small-mouth, with the largemouth being known as easier to catch, so gaining some experience fishing in areas with largemouth is ideal for beginners.

Largemouth can be caught on live minnows, taken via a small landing net swiped through the waters were you are fishing, then hooked through the lower jaw and cast back into the water. Other popular baits are worms and freshwater crayfish.

For lures, they are known to take surface poppers, streamer flies and plug style lures. For deeper waters, soft plastics or spinner-baits are recommended, these should be used in weed-less set-ups, for spinner-baits this is easy as almost all come with a single hook on the end, you want to avoid treble hooks because getting the lures into the weeds is where you will find the bass hiding.

For soft plastics, a shaky head type lure set-up is best to keep it weed-less, but there is also other kinds such as the screw front weed-less jig head, for with both are as effective as each-other. The screw front is just a large hook with a screw end, while the shaky-head often has a metal rod extending above the hook, you feed a soft plastic grub either through this small metal rod, or screw it into the front of your lure to fix it in place.

The best time to fish for largemouth is on warmer days, as they are not as active in winter or very cold waters.

Smallmouth bass are a lively bunch, great to hook onto and they fight like a largemouth only much more erratic. It is a lot of fun and you definitely know when you have hooked into your first small mouth, a great fight is definitely going to be had straight from the hook up to the landing net.

This type of bass love hiding in rocky streams and lakes, with it’s favourite foods being freshwater crayfish. To catch crays, you only need to throw a bait trap into the water with a little bit of raw chicken inside, come back after an hour and take a look, if there is crayfish in there, you are ready to go bass fishing.

Hooking a cray is not a difficult process, their hardened outer shell makes them easy to live bait, you want to turn the crayfish over and hook it between the legs curving the hook so that it exits via the top of the cray around the third row on the exterior. For people who want to get this over and done with faster, hooking directly through the tail at the number 3 section without turning the cray over is also a quick but less reliable method of hooking them up.

Many people prefer to cast crays out on heavy sinkers, as this limits the movement of the cray in the water to the length of the leader. Rest assured however, they won’t be burrowing into the sand while the hook is through them, they will be trying as best to fight so that the hook is dislodged, so casting them into a nice open area will attract small-mouth into taking an easy meal.

For larger waters such as lakes, casting the crayfish out on a float can also work, this is good because as the cray fights and moves around, so does the float, provided there are no exposed snags coming out of the water, this method is very reliable in lakes where the bottom may be full of a lot of snags from driftwood, but the surface is nice an open.

Artificial lures also work for small-mouth, but as their preferred prey is crayfish, using crayfish style lures are a good choice. These can be anything from a lifelike representation, to something more basic like a grub with a tail, the best colours however are those similar to the crays found in the water.

Smallmouth are not a very social fish either, so keeping quiet and hiding yourself from their view in the water is needed to some degree, and will result in not spooking them away from your bait or lure, keep fairly still with no sudden movements when fishing using artificial lures and you should be good to go.

No special rods are really required, apart from the fact that you want a light weight rod if using artificial lures, if bait fishing, basically any rod will do.

In rivers or lakes where the weedbeds are further out, you may prefer to fish using waders, these are plastic cover alls, which will waterproof you up to your chest, meaning that you can get further into the water and cast easier into weed beds, you will however need your stealth about you when wading, sudden movements will easily spook fish.

 

So you think you want to do some Alligator Gar fishing?

So you think you want to do some Alligator Gar fishing? You will need to pack some gear up to the task. With weights from 100 to 200 lbs. and razor sharp teeth, it’s time to check the tackle box.

For those that have been sport fishing for sharks a lot of the same gear will fit this task. You will need steel leaders three to four feet long, at least 40 lbs. test or better. Depending on how big a fish you want, a 6/0 treble hook should do the job.

You will want to keep your bait just below the surface of the water. Alligator Gar are predatory and they ambush prey. Legal live bait fish are good, shad, mullet and shiners tend to work best. Make sure you bring decent size bait 10”, remember these are big boys were fishing for.

When you see bait fish breaking this is a good time to cast. River bends are with deep holes running up to shallows are great places to fish for this monster. Set your drag back and let this fish run a bit, he will have plenty of fight in him so you will want to let him tire out a bit. Do your best to keep him from running up under logs, or river debris. If you can keep him in open water you will have a much greater chance of landing him. These guys will run under embankments, trees, logs anywhere to try and elude you.

Let your gear do the work. This fish expect to fight for a good while. Wear him down before you bring him on shore or into a small boat. This is also no fish to play with, powerful jaws and razor sharp teeth make this fish very dangerous. If fishing with kids or pets make sure they give this fish a wide berth. A hard flip of this guy’s tale and you could easily find yourself with a broken ankle or leg.

This is an extremely hard fish to catch and release. Be sure you have proper safety gear on before you attempt to remove a hook. Do not release this animal with a large treble hook in its mouth. Unlike saltwater that will destroy a hook, fresh water will not. Using a long needle nose plyer with safety gloves, but make extremely sure the fish is exhausted. Again this is no animal to play with and demands a huge amount of respect.

Alligator Gar 6 Feet 129 lbs from Brazos River in Texas CC : Image By Clinton & Charles Robertson

Alligator Gar 6 Feet 129 lbs from Brazos River in Texas
CC : Image By Clinton & Charles Robertson

For sport fisherman this fish should be included in your “fish bucket list”. A world class fighter you can catch right off the river bank. As a fishing writer this fish is next on my list. Many friends have fished and have some amazing stories from the Trinity River in Texas. You can find guides to get you out and into some monsters. Texas has a bag limit so be sure and check with the Texas Department of Fish and Game before you go fishing.

Alligator Gar lives up to its name and reputation as a great fighter. Good luck!

Hook into an Alligator Gar and you will understand quickly the meaning of real fish!

If you want to catch a real fish, hook into an Alligator Gar and you will understand quickly the meaning of real fish!

As one of the largest fresh water fish species in North America with an average length of 6’ and weights well over 100 lbs. fishing for these beasts is a lot of fun. These giant gars run the waters of the southern United States, rivers, lakes and low lying waters are habitat for this amazing creature.

The largest alligator gar recorded thus far is 8’ at 375 lbs. caught in one of the Oxbow lakes of the Mississippi river. The record holder accidently caught this behemoth in a fishing net.

Alligator gars are docile in behavior. However, they are ambush hunters and extremely voracious and opportunistic hunters. They eat other fish but are known to eat water fowl and other mammals floating in the water. They lay in wait floating at what appears to be a dead still, and boom all of the sudden lightning speed and their pray is devoured in a mountain of water and jaws.

The species has attracted sport fisherman from around the world. Alligator Gar can be fished in Oklahoma, Texas, Mississippi, and Arkansas. With Texas boasting the best fishing for this giant fish, because of over fishing and habitat loss, alligator gar do have a 1 per day bag limit. Commercial fishing has added to the decline in the species.

Alligator Gar will bring up to $3.00 per pound in a supermarket. A white meat fish, fileted this is a nice fish to eat. Most folks think it’s a trash fish, quite the contrary. Fried or grilled the meat makes for some tasty eating!

If you ever wanted to catch a big fish with a lot of fight, you won’t go wrong fishing for Alligator Gar. Heavy tackle and the very popular bow fishing among this species make for some great stories. Have fun this fish will be a story for your grandkids.

Catching Catfish: Some basic methods

A few proven methods exist for targeting catfish, however in different water conditions, certain styles of baiting will be more effective than others.

Some proven and simple methods for catfish targeting are as follows:

1: Setting up your bait – Rig your hook as you normally would, and use some very thin string (specifically known as bait floss) to wrap around the bait and line, this will keep the hook in place and allow your bait some room to run. As a still and sunken bait is best, you may also wish to add a middle rigged sinker to hold the bait in place. The leader from the weight to the bait should be no longer than 60cm.

If you prefer not to use a leader, you can avoid running a leader all together, and simply attach your sinker to the line, then rig the bait following this. The weight will be able to shift, but if you tighten your line and place the rod on a holder, keeping it tight but with just enough slack to run if a fish inhales the bait will often keep the weight closer towards the bait. The benefit of a running sinker (slipweight) is you can keep the line fairly tight, but if a catfish inhales and runs, it will have just enough slack to both let the fish run and also alert you to the fact of a strike.

The less weight the fish feels the better, some prefer a loose line with a fixed position sinker, others prefer a running sinker, in the end it’s upto you, but I do tend to prefer a running sinker as a personal choice

Multiple baits on the one line is also a great way to target catfish, all you need is a sinker attached to your line, and after the sinker attach a three way swivel, the centre is normally where the main line attaches, and the two free ends are used to tie up two baits on a 50cm leader line. These do have a tendency to tangle at times however, but it is a very basic way to get more out of one or two fishing rods.

2: Types of bait – The most common baits used for catfish are raw shrimp from the supermarket, or chicken livers. Shrimp should be entirely shelled and fed through a size 6 hook, once fed through the shrimp you can bring the line through and double back to tuck the barbed end just underneath the tail flesh to keep it in place. If you have bait floss this is also very handy on shrimp to keep the hook in place. Feeding the line through the central part of the shrimp means that even if the hook comes loose, it should not be able to completely remove from the hook.

Chicken gut as a bait is an even more simple process, all you need is a baitholder mesh bag or some womens stockings (pantyhose). feed a few livers in and tie up a very small ball so that the bait is secured, you can then feed your main line through the pantyhose a few times to keep it secure, then attach a size 1/0 hook or size 2 treble hook underneath. Some other baits you can use in this method apart from chicken gut is breadcrumbs or cheap ready to eat fish fillets from the supermarket / grocery store.

3: Chumming / Berley – Throwing a mixture of breadcrumbs, flour and water into the waters where you are fishing is usually a good method of attracting catfish to the region you are fishing. If you are using chicken livers instead, you can even throw some of these in to get the fish started, adding your bait source to the waters near where your sunken bait resides is a great way to get the fish feeding, normally once they have had a free meal off your chumming / berley, they will seek out all other bait in the waters, until they find your hook.

4: Tackle – No special tackle is needed for regular sized catfish, these can be caught on a basic spinning reel and spinning rod of around 6 foot length. For waters where very large catfish are found, such as the giant blue catfish around Texas, then you would need much heavier weight and professional equipment. For the regular varieties of 50cm and under fonud throughout the USA, then a regular spinning rod and reel, even a cheap one, will do the job.

Ensure you don’t forget essential fishing items such as fishing pliers for removing the hook from a fishes mouth, they also come in handy for rigging your line. Catch and release fishing is recommended!