As Thanksgiving Day and the Christmas holiday season approach, officials with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department are already in the gift giving spirit.
That’s because the Austin based agency is preparing to start it’s annual statewide wintertime rainbow trout stocking program at 185 water bodies across Texas where some 343,650 trout will be released in coming weeks. TPWD says that trout stockings are scheduled to begin on Nov. 26 and will continue on into next March.
Those waters include Denison’s Waterloo Lake Park Pond where a total of 6,255 trout will be released in four stockings scheduled to be held on Dec. 12, Jan. 5, Feb. 2 and Feb. 23.
For the first time in several years, there are also other waters in Grayson County slated to receive rainbow trout stockings this winter. Those include Pottsboro Lake, where 1,275 trout will be released on Dec. 11 and Sherman’s
Pebblebrook Community Park Pond where 1,570 rainbows will be stocked on March 1.
In all of the trout stocking waters, both locally and across the Lone Star State, there is a daily bag limit of five rainbow trout with no minimum length limit in place.
To fish for the stocked rainbows, TPWD says in a news release that trout anglers will need a valid Texas fishing license that includes a freshwater fishing endorsement. Anglers under 17 years of age are not required to have a license.
The agency also notes that many of the locations being stocked with trout this season — including Denison’s Waterloo Lake Park Pond — are Community Fishing Lakes (CFL). An angler fishing on a CFL or from a dock, pier, or jetty within a Texas State Park is reminded that they may use no more than two fishing poles.
Generally speaking, as an anadromous, cool- to cold-water fish species, TPWD reports that rainbow trout can only survive in the state of Texas during times of the year when water temperatures fall below 70 degrees.
Native to cold waters in North America west of the Rockies from Alaska into northwestern Mexico, TPWD reports that the only self-sustaining population of trout in the Lone Star State exists in McKittrick Canyon in the Guadalupe Mountains. Some stocked trout also occasionally survive and holdover during the year’s warmer summer months below Canyon Lake in the Guadalupe River near New Braunfels.
TPWD says that depending on an angler’s experience level and interest, trout can be caught a variety of ways including through the use of lightweight tackle or even on hand-tied flies using a fly rod.
For spinning rod anglers, TPWD says to think light to ultra-light action rods in 5- to 6.5-foot lengths. Closed faced spinning reels (like a push button Zebco) are good for beginners while ultralight spinning reels are fine for more seasoned anglers.
As for monofilament line, 4- to 8-pound test is good with 6- pound test being ideal. To that line, small sinkers or split shot can be added to get the bait down on #10 and #12 circle hooks for trout or longer shank bait hooks in sizes #4-#8.
Small, slender bobbers can help detect light bites, but some anglers fish without one, opting to feel the line “tick” or see it move slightly. When that happens, quickly raising the arm with the rod in hand is usually enough to successfully set the hook.
What kind of baits prove to be best? TPWD recommends corn kernels, small cheese balls, salmon eggs, cut night crawlers, small worms or mealworms, crickets, and trout bites (think Berkley Power Bait here).
For those who prefer artificial lures, when the 10- to 12-inch stockers are active, TPWD says that rainbow trout can be caught on inline spinners (think Mepp’s spinners here), small spoons, curly tail jigs or grubs, small bucktail jigs, small plastic shad style baits and even tiny crankbaits.
For fly rods, think 4- or 5-weight graphite rods for stocker trout, although a 2- or 3-weight fiberglass rod gives a great ultralight fight. Add a weight forward floating line and a 7 1/2 or 9-foot leader ending in a 5X or a 6X tippet and you’re in business.
Flies should be small, things like small Clouser minnows, baitfish streamers, Wooly Worms, Wooly Buggers, mayfly or caddis dry flies, midges, or #16, #18, or #20 nymphs like a Hare’s Ear pattern.
Other tips to consider when trout fishing at TPWD stocking sites this winter include arriving early on stocking days; maintaining a safe and courteous distance from fellow anglers (especially when casting fly lines); keeping an array of baits, lures, and flies handy; and having a small cooler and ice available when harvesting trout for the table.
It may not be as picturesque an experience as fly fishing in a freestone Montana trout stream that is flowing straight out of the movie “A River Runs Through It.” But the fight is still a lot of fun, particularly at a time of year when other fish aren’t biting too well. Plus, it’s a great experience to use for teaching fishing skills to kids, grandkids and new anglers.
And since this is a put-and-take experience that provides a memorable meal or two at the dinner table, it’s a “Can’t Miss” way to spend a wintertime day.
While being thankful for the fishing experience as well as for a popular TPWD angling program that keeps on giving.