It’s called the Run for the Roses, the annual Kentucky Derby in early May, an event that signals one of the year’s biggest social gatherings, not to mention the approach of summer.
Here locally in the backyard of the Lake Texoma region, it isn’t a run for the roses that gets local fishing enthusiasts excited, but a run of striped bass back into the big two-state lake that helps mark the progression of the seasons.
Specifically, when the bulk of the reservoir’s breeding stripers finish their annual spawning runs up the Red River and the Washita River arms that feed into the 89,000-acre Texas/Oklahoma border lake, summertime can’t be very far behind.
Like right now as local high school and college graduation days approach, a mid-May timeframe when the fishing on Texoma is good and then some where striped bass are concerned.
Take an e-mail I received this week from longtime Striper Express (www.striperexpress.com; 903-328-6485) head man Bill Carey, one that detailed recent radio communications (on Thursday morning, May 18, no less) from the various boat captains in his crew:
One radio report indicated “30 blowups -11 fish!” Another said that “…three clients had just hooked fish on topwaters.” Still another said “We’re catching a bunch here - all on topwater!” And a final one that went “Still catching them — just got a 10-pounder on top!”
Mind you, much of this sizzling striped bass action was prior to 7:30 a.m. yesterday morning, about the same time that some of you will be reading this today as you polish down another cup of coffee.
How big were these Lake Texoma striped bass? Running the gamut from the standard sized Texoma “box fish,” a keeper striper that local guides rely heavily upon each year, on up to a number of “overs” (fish that exceed the 20-inch mark).
Suffice it to say that the good times of striped bass fishing appear to be returning to Texoma this spring after several years of off-and-on hardship.
That hardship began thanks to drought induced low lake levels a few years ago, something that significantly reduced — or all but eliminated — a couple of prolific springtime spawns that normally happen when there is enough water flowing into Texoma by way of the reservoir’s two lengthy river systems.
Add in the huge rains and massive spillway topping flood of 2015 — and another bout of high water in the late spring and early summer months last year — and a number of bigger stripers escaped from the lake into the Red River below Denison Dam.
All of that basically meant big reductions in both the numbers of box fish and in the population of trophy stripers that were roaming the lake prior to the 2015 flood.
But that was then and this is now as reports of good — and steadily improving — striper fishing are becoming far more commonplace these days than they were during the previous two years.
Add in plenty of baitfish and great spawning success in 2015 and 2016 — not to mention more and more trophy sized linesiders swimming in the big local lake — and it would appear that a solid summer season of fishing is coming up on Big Tex.
Carey agrees and sent me the following info via a Facebook message earlier in the week when I asked his thoughts on early summer striper fishing at Texoma.
“Lynn, June fishing is (usually) awesome on Lake Texoma,” indicated Carey. “The stripers have finished their annual spawn and they have migrated back into the main lake. The fish are beginning to group up into large schools (then). You can locate these schools of fish almost anywhere on the lake.”
While guides aren’t too eager to give up secret honey holes, Carey is pretty generous with his information when I’ve asked in the past. For the month of June, he suggested the region from North Island on up to Washita Point.
What about topwater lures for these fish?
Traditionally, Carey says that the famed summertime blitzes of Texoma stripers, feeding frenzies where several acres of water can boil with linesiders chasing threadfin shad around, typically happens in the later days of June.
But obviously, from the report mentioned above, there is already some sporadic topwater action beginning to occur.
“For topwater baits, we like to cast Cotton Cordell Pencil Poppers, Zara Spooks and magnum-sized Chug Bugs for some great surface action,” said Carey.
Of course, Texoma stripers aren’t always feeding on the surface, although they are often in a eating frenzy down below. To find these fish, Carey says for anglers to use their electronics to locate striped bass schools on the ledges and in the deeper river channels.
“You can use slabs after mid-month when the schools are really grouped up,” he said.
Other top bait choices early on in the summertime include soft plastics coupled with lead jig heads.
“Our favorite baits of choice (for that) are five inch Zoom Flukes in the baby bass color and four inch Sassy Shad in either white glow or chartreuse colors,” said Carey. “And place your soft plastic on a ¾-ounce to 1-ounce white jig head.”
All in all, it should be a great summer of striper fishing action this year on Lake Texoma, from topwater busting fish on the surface to hard fighting linesiders swimming in the depths below.
So why not get out and experience some of it, trying to get your version of the run for the roses, this time from a big Texoma striper chomping down on your lure or bait.
Before it quickly strips yard and yards of fishing line off of a loudly protesting reel.