NCERTAIN — It was a raw winter morning. Ideal for a Caddo Lake that was a monotone color in its winter mode, with Spanish moss hanging like grey ghosts from the dormant cypress trees.
Early in the morning we pull out of Johnson’s and head up the lake through Government Ditch, a tree-lined run that was originally dredged by the Corps of Engineers so cotton could be shipped by water from Jefferson. The entire length of the ditch is a Kodak moment, one of those spots that exemplifies the beauty of the lake.
Parker eases the boat down the lane.
“We aren’t going to get in any hurry going through here. This lake changes every day,” Parker said, keeping a lookout for newly submerged trees fallen either by old age or busy beavers.
The first stop is a hole where the ditch crosses Cypress Bayou, the old river route through the lake. It is a deep hole by Caddo standards, maybe 12 feet, but deep enough to hold crappie stacked up in late winter.
It was also a community fishing spot. Boats were already anchored up when we got there and more came as we fished around a brush top hidden by the murky, flowing water. The pearl-colored jigs fished from 10-foot rods produced a few crappie, mostly whites and only a few that were worth keeping.
Because of an agreement between Texas and Louisiana, the limits are somewhat odd on Caddo. The bag limit is the normal 25, but there is no minimum size on the lake. Parker has a self-imposed limit of 9 ½ inches. Anything shorter, he says, is just too small to filet.
“Cast right in there toward the grass,” Parker suggested.
The cork became jittery as a fish began pestering the bait. As the cork disappeared under water Parker said to wait and let the fish get the minnow and hook in its mouth, then take in the slack and set the hook. The pressure was there, but it was the pull of a small fish. Not too small to drop in the livewell though.
With a cast of fishing characters that have been there forever, there aren’t a lot secret holes on the lake. Parker has a few. Most are lay down cypresses or old oaks. The cypresses, simply a log stretching from the shoreline, generally attract the white crappie. Black crappie, he said, prefer the brushy cover of the oaks and other trees.
With a 12 mile per hour wind from the east rolling the open water, we stay in the tree-lined cuts for protection. It is also some of the few spots void of giant salvinia that is again choking a large portion of the lake.
As we move from hole to hole we stick with the minnows. On a morning where the fish have lockjaw they seem to be the most attractive to the crappie. It is a struggle, but talking with the other fishermen we pass we are doing better than most.
At each stop I have one eye on the cork and the other on the scenery. The smell of a fire from a outdoor pit just adds to the experience. There is something different, better, about the smell of burning oak in the woods on a crisp morning.
Everything combined keeps making me think this is the perfect parent-child trip, or maybe one for those old enough to enjoy slowing down for a while. Caddo makes you do that.
“They will start heading to the bank when the water gets to about 60 degrees. They should be here through March,” Parker said.
For more information on fishing the lake, contact Parker at 903-896-4279.
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