LAKE TAWAKONI – The boat pitched and rolled in the gusting wind. That is the way it has been all spring for catfish fishing guide Randy Parker.
Well, windy and cold and a low lake level.
Parker nuzzled the boat as close as he could to the north side of the causeway to keep it out of the whitecaps churned up by the south wind, but the boat still inched forward. Even three anchors couldn’t hold it tight.
Like every other fisherman in Northeast Texas, Parker has felt the wrath of Mother Nature this year.
“Everything is a month off,” said Parker, who is just now finding channel catfish coming into the shallow water to spawn.
Any other year he would be returning to deeper water after what he calls “cooler-sized” blues, fish from 2- to 10-pounds. But this year has been off from the beginning and has stayed that way through last week.
“I chase the water,” Parker explained. “The first thing I check every morning is the water temperature. It is hard for the water to warm up where the wind is blowing so I have to look for areas out of the wind.”
Last week the Edgewood native found shallow water in the lower 70s. It had been there the week before too, but dropped back into the 60s over the weekend. The temperature dip had slowed the bite, but as the water started warming the fish were moving back in and the action started to slowly pick up.
Normally the water temp would be in the upper 70s, headed towards the 80s by early June. That is optimal spawning temperatures for blue and channel catfish.
Because he has been willing, or maybe forced to try new waters, Parker has stayed on a hot bite and for the most part had no trouble filling clients’ 25-fish limit.
Even the low water level, the lake was down more than 10 feet just two weeks ago, has been more of an inconvenience than a show stopper.
“I have just had to move out farther from shore. You are going to find the right water depth, it is just going to be farther out in the lake,” Parker explained.
On this trip Brownwood’s Gene Curry, a common friend of both Parker and myself, and I were using Parker’s Supreme Catfish Punch Bait. It is a product he has been working on for the past year.
There are dozens of punch baits on the market, but Parker and his son Chad were determined to develop their own.
“We needed something you could fish longer in the year and was user friendly,” Parker said.
And by user friendly he meant one thing, it didn’t stink. Typically a punch bait smells so offensive it has to be kept downwind or the top has to be left on it except when getting more bait. Rubber gloves are recommended. Parker put his bucket of bait on the bow and it sat there unnoticed all morning.
Not surprisingly Parker is closed-mouthed about the six ingredients in his brand other than cattails are one of them. The bait, which also works as an attractant, has shown to be successful enough it is in three marinas around Tawakoni, Goody’s The Fishing Store and Holiday Marina, and at The Bait Shop in Chandler near Lake Palestine.
Parker is a proponent of fishing under a cork for a simple reason.
“I fish under a cork because I can control the depth,” he said. Using a stop on the line, he can always be certain it is at the depth he wants, which is a good thing for inexperienced fishermen or families with kids.
Plus, he adds, watching the cork suddenly sink at the pull of a catfish on the bait can get addictive.
We started at about seven feet, but eventually found a more consistent bite at about four feet. Consistent this morning was about 20 keepers per hour.
Using the punch bait, there isn’t a lot of finesse in catching catfish. Let the fish take the cork underwater for a split second, pull up the rod tip and reel.
Parker said when fishing for catfish with a rod and reel, there are two optimum times to be on the water, early morning until about noon and late evening. He prefers afternoon fishing.
According to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, blue catfish are the predominate catfish species on Tawakoni. The channel catfish population is estimated at only about 20 percent of that of the blues. The most recent samplings on the lake indicate the channel catfish are holding their own.
Parker runs his guide service from Friday-Sunday on Tawakoni. He and his son are also starting to take trips on Lake Palestine as well. For more information call Parker at 903-340-4133.
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