Where Are The Bass?

What can be learned about largemouth bass behavior and movements in late fall, early winter on Texas lakes?

Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) biologists used Livescope electronics and receivers to track bass fitted with transmitters at the Texas Toyota Bass Fest recently held on Lake Fork. The study was to look at bass movement and the impact of boating and fishing activity on them.

The tracking study, which is also being conducted on Toledo Bend, began last spring. It involves bass 2 pounds and up released in Birch Creek on Fork and Housen Bayou on Toledo Bend.

Although a few of the bass have died or the transmitters have failed, there are still enough for research purposes. TPWD latest tracking effort on Fork coming just two days before the B.A.S.S. event.
The biologist found 75 percent of the fish located were on timber, up about 25 percent from October. One was on a boat dock, down from three in October, and two were found in schools, also down from the previous month when five were running with other bass.

“I think overall what we have seen with the fish we are tracking lined up pretty well with what the pros saw,” said Jake Norman, TPWD district biologist.
Walters caught most of his fish on jerk baits after long casts. The key was not to not disturb the fish. That correlates with TPWD’s results which showed two-thirds of the fish they tracked prior to the tournament reacted to fishing activity.

“The first big takeaway is how many fish are reacting/moving when our boat gets near them. I don’t think this observation is special to the fall, but it was apparent during the tournament. I heard the BASS commentators mention many times how critical it was for Patrick Walters to make long casts at the fish he saw on Livescope to avoid spooking them,” Norman explained.

One seemingly contradiction between the tournament and the study were fish on boat docks. Several fishermen had success around boat docks.

“However, after watching the anglers fish the same boat docks over and over, and making statements about how important a few docks were, our data doesn’t surprise me. If anything, it highlights that fish certainly use boat docks, but they are not relating to all boat docks. If that were the case, I think the anglers fishing docks wouldn’t have struggled later in the tournament as they slowly wore out their best docks,” Norman explained. He added the key is the right location, water depth, habitat and nearby structure.

TPWD showed little movement between its October tracking and November. Some had moved up to a half mile, but most remained close to the same location month to month.

“From the data we have so far, I would speculate more often the fish are still around and simply more challenging to be caught than the previous day,” Norman said. Walters saw that during the tournament and noted the bit got tougher later in the event even though he could still see the fish.

“It will be interesting to see how this trend continues over the next few months with water temps dropping,” Norman added.

Last summer the Lake Fork bass were homebodies moving no more than 100 yards between June and October. Most stayed shallow even in the hottest months.

Norman said he had 144 total locations of individual fish over the summer. Six of those tracking pings were in too thick of cover to test the impact of boat noise or lure presentation on them. Of the 138 remaining 67 reacted to boat noise, moving either a short distance or 50 yards or more away. Of the 71 that did not move, 12 did move to fishing or the presence of a lure.

On Toledo Bend biologist Todd Driscoll had summer data showing average fish movement of just 130 feet per day.

The transmitters are expected to last up to two years and the survey will continue as long as the transmitters perform.

Photo courtesy TTBF


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Hi: 73

Monday Night

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Toledo Bend Lake Water Level (last 30 days)

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Toledo Bend Lake

Fishing Report from TPWD (Nov. 30)

GOOD. Water stained; 59 degrees; 4.25 feet low. GOOD. The water level is 167.7 with no generators running. Water temperature at the Dam is 59 degrees. The back feeder creeks are stained and muddy with lots of Fall leaves floating on the surface, and the main lake remains clear. We were blessed with some rain this week 2-3 inches. Not much has changed on the pattern this week. Chatter baits are still producing in 3/8 to 3/4 ounce white, chartreuse, watermelon pepper, and red/black skirts. To cover a lot of water, use a square bill crank bait or a flat side crank bait and smaller rattle traps from 0-8 feet in shad and perch imitation colors and the Rayburn red traps are still working. For deeper Bass, cast a Carolina rig with a worm or lizard. Jigging spoons are still producing quality bass on 1/2 to 3/4 ounce (silver with a white or yellow accent tail feather or a deep diving crank bait in citrus shad and Tennessee shad colors). The jig and pig bite has been strong. Cast your jig to long tapering points that drop off into deep water, the best colors are black and blue, PB&J football jigs 3/8 - 3/4 ounce with a 3-inch matching color craw trailer, and a green pumpkin jig with a chunk style trailer. The Crappie bite is still good in 12-20 feet on the edge of the river channels using 1/16- and 3/32-ounce Wager Baits, #46 Bluegrass, #3 Monkey Milk, #09 Electric Chicken, #10 Black and Chartreuse and small minnows depending on the cloud cover and cooling night temperatures. Now that the lake is at a Winter drawdown, it's prime time to go out scouting for new areas for Springtime fishing. Look for areas like feeder creeks, ditches, man-made structures, creek bends and undercuts, etc. Reminder: Keep and extra set of clothes in a dry bag stowed away on your vessel just in case you get caught in the rain, heavy winds, etc. Hypothermia happens quickly. Good luck and keep casting forward! Report from Master Captain Steve “Scooby” Stubbe, Mudfish Adventures LLC, Orv

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