Tough Times: With Winter Slow To Leave, East Texas Fishermaen Wait On The Spawn

Published on Saturday, 29 March 2014 22:35 - Written by Steve Knight Outdoor Writer

LAKE TAWAKONI — It has been a rough year for East Texas fishing guides like Tony Parker.

A guide who targets white bass and hybrid stripers, Parker has been booted off his home lake, Cooper, since last year because of a low water level. At just under 13 feet down, Parker is unable to launch his boat at any of the ramps until it either comes a flood or a planned dredging is completed at South Sulphur State Park.

So he moved back to Lake Tawakoni where he started his guiding career, but even there the lake is down 10 feet and launching can be difficult.

Then came the March winds, which is something fishing guides in East Texas are accustomed to. What isn’t customary is that the winds were predominately out of the north.

Nor are they accustomed to March ice storms.

The bottom line is that Parker has spent more days off the water then on, and when he has gotten on he has been faced with finding suspended fish in 50-degree water instead of pre-spawn and spawning fish shallow.

“We are a month behind both in water temperature and the spawn,” said Parker, as he pulled his boat out of Holiday Marina last Tuesday and headed toward the riprap along the Tawakoni dam.

A short stretch of warm days and nights had seen the water temperature bump up near 60 by Monday and the fishing responded. It wasn’t a great afternoon by Tawakoni standards, but Parker and his customers did put 20 or so fish in the boat.

By Tuesday, however, the bottom had fallen out with the arrival of another front and strong north winds that pushed the water temp back into the 50s. By the time Parker pulled the boat out of the cove mid-afternoon it was only 56 degrees, too cold for any spawning bass.

“With the wind blowing like this the sun isn’t going to be able to warm up this shallow water. If it had shifted to the east like they said it would have been protected by the dam and it would have warmed up. The way it is, the fish have just moved back deeper and suspended. You can’t find them like that,” he said.

Still Tyler’s Randy Clark and I decided to take a shot at it. With the air temperature just breaking 60, the short boat ride was brisk.

Parker told us to throw the chartreuse Sassy Shads to the edge of the rocks, reel it back quickly to keep from getting hung up, then slowly retrieve it the rest of the way back to the boat.

Clark was the first to catch a fish, a male white bass. Typically one would lead to multiple catches, but not on this day. It was more like looking for a needle in a haystack, a wet haystack about 28,000 acres in size.

Working back and forth along the dam we boated a few more white bass, all males, a black crappie and two largemouth bass. Until late, when Parker and I both caught one, the hybrids were no shows.

Although they typically don’t produce offspring, hybrids do make spawning runs each spring simultaneously with white bass. The prime time is going to be when the water temperature sustains at 60 degrees and warmer.

For largemouth bass, 60 is the minimum. That means in lakes across East Texas several species are staged and ready to go.

“I hear that the fish are ready on a lot of lakes,” said Craig Bonds, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Fisheries regional biologist.

He explained that the fish are going to spawn when they are ready to spawn. In East Texas there is about a 90-day window of opportunity.

“We have had cold weather in March before. I remember years when on (Lake) Fork the peak of the (largemouth) spawn was the first of April,” Bonds said.

He noted that a female may develop eggs and be ready to spawn in March, they will retain them until conditions are right.

“It is actually a hormone that they secrete internally that causes them to secrete their eggs. It isn’t until the brain senses the right environmental cues that they release the hormone,” Bonds said.

Right now the fish and fishermen are all waiting on the water temperature to come up.

With nighttime temperatures dropping into the 40s and winds still coming from the north sustaining 60 degrees to create a massive move to shore may not happen. This could be a trickle spawn year.

Parker is expecting better days ahead, including a return to Cooper.

For more information, contact him at 903-348-1619 or


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