CHANDLER — Inexplicably the white bass suddenly started to bite on the Neches River Thursday afternoon.
It started with one fish, but soon the action began to heat up like the afternoon sun. It is still early in the spawning season, but in a matter of minutes two of us had 10 fish.
With rain in recent weeks there will be a white bass run up the Neches River above Lake Palestine this year. As expected, the males are the first up. All but one of our fish was a male, and all were above the 10-inch minimum length limit.
“Male white bass may stay two or three weeks in the river, and females a week to a week and a half returning to the reservoir after they have spawned,” said Dan Bennett, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Fisheries biologist.
The question facing fishermen is how to know when the bulk has moved up.
“Attempting to dictate when peak spawning will occur, and when the fishing will be best, is as difficult as predicting the Texas weather,” Bennett said.
While there are years the fish are found in the river in January, there are others they are still there in April.
Ironically it is an annual run that really shouldn’t be happening. White bass aren’t native to Lake Palestine and the upper portion of the Neches River that feeds it. Believed to have been brought in by anglers, the fish were first discovered in the lake in 1984, six years after the first hybrid striped bass were stocked.
While this month’s almost two inches of rainfall have helped the river flow above the lake, it has mostly been cold rain that has kept the water temperature down. But the flow is well above what is needed for spawning activity.
Unlike largemouth bass, white bass are not nest builders. A female white bass can drop as many as a million eggs that can hatch within 46 hours of spawning. They will drop their eggs in mid-water or near the surface in flowing water before they eventually settle to the bottom where they become attached to rocks or gravel.
The run up creeks on the lower end of Palestine usually comes later than it does on the river.
Statewide, runs are staggered too. Bennett said biologists collecting white bass for state hatcheries already found females in numbers on the Sabine River above Toledo Bend.
With cooler temperatures and only a limited chance of rain in the coming days, the peak of the run could still be several weeks away. Even with cooler temperatures, the fish shouldn’t go far.
“Research suggests that brief drops in temperature like we have had don’t necessarily cause white bass to return to the reservoir. It may affect the times that the fish are most actively feeding, and therefore change the bite pattern for anglers,” Bennett said.