It might be hard to believe here in the aftermath of the Christmas Day rush a couple of days ago, but the second decade of the 21st Century is rapidly nearing its conclusion.
In fact, the decade is down to only a few more days, wrapping up its run next week when New Year’s Day 2020 arrives on the calendar.
As I’ve done a couple of times before during my nearly 30 years manning this post, allow me to take a look back this week at the biggest outdoor moments in the Texoma region over the past 10 years:
1. Texoma’s 2015 Flood — The late, great meteorologist Harold Taft used to say that the next drought in Texas begins as soon as the last flood has ended. The truthfulness of that saying came in spades during the middle part of the decade when a multi-year drought ended with a record-setting flood at Texoma.
No stranger to spillway topping floods — the first was in early June 1957, another in 1990, and yet one more in 2007 — it was a deluge of water fueled by a Super El Nino event that unleashed torrents of rainfall upon the Texoma watershed during the spring months of 2015.
In a region where approximately 40 inches of rainfall is the norm, Biblical rains fell on Texomaland in 2015 including annual record setting tallies of 87.25 inches in Gainesville, 77.40-inches in Denison/Sherman, and 76.32-inches in Bonham.
The result was Texoma topping its spillway not once, but twice that year. The lake first went over the spillway in May, reaching a new high-water benchmark at 645.72-feet on May 31. After the spillway overflow and discharge through the flood gates at Denison Dam drew the lake down to 637.70-feet on June 16, more heavy rains descended upon the area and Texoma surged over the spillway again on June 18. The second spillway topping event would peak out at 645.32-feet on June 21.
Incidentally, when the lake fell below the spillway level again on July 1, Texoma had overflowed its spillway for a record total of 32 days that year.
2. Texoma Droughts — The 21st century’s second decade brought a powerful statewide drought that began in 2011 with searing triple-digit heat, huge wildfires, precious little rainfall, and the killing of trees by the millions.
In off-and-on fashion, the dry spell continued into 2014 when Texoma fell to its lowest levels since 1957 (when the lake bottomed out at a record low of 599.94-feet above sea level on March 20th that year). While the lake never got close to that 1957 benchmark, it did fall below 610-feet, ultimately lowering to nearly 609-feet above sea level in 2014.
The several years long siege of low water and heat led to blue-green algae outbreaks that restricted swimming; severely reduced fish spawns and brought tougher angling conditions; and produced more hazardous summertime boating as sandbars, rocks, and such were exposed. There was also the exposure of long submerged landmarks and old communities, the closure of numerous boat ramps, and the reducing of the water supply available to North Texas communities.
3. Mark Svane Buck — Grayson County had a couple of massive non-typical whitetails tagged during this decade, led by Mark Svane’s “Gray Ghost” buck tagged by crossbow in early November 2017.
The hunter first saw the deer on a trail camera photo in October 2016, a photo that began a cat-and-mouse game that included few photos, even fewer sightings, and finally a well-earned chance to unleash a broadhead-tipped bolt in the giant buck’s direction.
When the shot was good, Svane had the kind of monster whitetail that most hunters can only dream of. Eventually measured for the Texas Big Game Awards program at 236 1/8-inches gross and 225 1/8-inches net, the Svane buck is an incredible whitetail specimen. In fact, that net number puts the Svane buck only below Jeff Duncan’s longstanding county record “Big Boy” by a mere 6/8-of an inch! (Editor’s Note: Duncan’s big Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge buck, a former Pope & Young Club Texas state archery record, measures at 225 7/8-inches net.).
In addition to being the second largest non-typical entry ever recorded in the Grayson County Record Book, the Svane buck is the state’s apparent top crossbow buck, the highest ranking TBGA Region 5 entry for the 2017-18 season, and the third largest free ranging non-typical buck reported to TBGA for the same year.
4. Robert Taylor Buck — The end of deer season isn’t typically when most hunters dream of the year’s biggest whitetail antlers. But that’s exactly what happened at the end of 2012 when Robert Taylor arrowed one of the biggest whitetails ever taken in the state of Texas.
The key to Taylor’s hunt — which came on the evening of Dec. 29 as cold weather and the remains of the region’s 2012 White Christmas dotted the landscape — was high energy food on the small acreage he was hunting in Grayson County. That was enough to lure in several does, a good 10-point buck and the huge bruiser that Taylor ended up shooting that evening.
Taylor’s buck was originally scored at 254 4/8-inches net non-typical, which would have made it a potential Pope & Young Club state record and one of the “Top 50” bow bucks ever taken in North America. But after panel scoring at the 2015 Pope & Young Club Convention, the Taylor buck was given a final net score of 219 1/8-inches after some original scoring decisions were reversed. The deer ranks #3 all-time in the Grayson County Record Book and remains one of the largest non-typicals ever taken by bow in Texas.
5. Paul Easley’s Massive Texoma Alligator Gar — If big bucks were some of the big outdoors news produced during this decade, so too was a massive alligator gar caught and released at Lake Texoma.
Taken by angler Paul Easley, the huge prehistoric fish was caught in late April 2015 in Marshall County on the two-state reservoir’s north side. Measuring at eight-feet in length and 44-inches in girth, the snagged fish is the largest piscatorial critter ever caught in the state of Oklahoma after it tipped the scales to 254-pounds!
6. Shannon Elvington’s Ray Roberts Record — In the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s, catching a 15-pound plus largemouth bass was something that happened on occasion during Texas’ big bass era. In fact, it still takes a bass weighing north of 15.45 pounds to crack the Lone Star State’s “Top 50” list for largemouth bass.
While Pilot Point angler Shannon Elvington didn’t make the “Top 50” list with his March 7, 2015 largemouth bass pulled from Lake Ray Roberts, he did set the current lake record for the species when it hit a jerkbait. With a length of 26.25-inches, a girth of 21.5-inches, and a weight of 15.18-pounds, the Elvington bass — caught with guide Dannie Golden — is the sixth Legacy sized ShareLunker to be entered from Ray Roberts.
7. Barbara Pope’s Texoma Record — Fishing at Texoma with some friends in December 2014, Dallas angler Barbara Pope landed the largest striper ever officially weighed on the Oklahoma side of the two-state reservoir.
Caught while drifting an artificial lure in the lake’s deep wintertime waters, Pope landed the 27.29-pound striper after a lengthy battle. Measuring at 38.75 inches in length, she caught the Oklahoma side record linesider while fishing with Chris Carey of Striper Express Guide Service.
Caught on Dec. 4, 2014, the Pope striper was certified by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation as a lake record by some six-pounds! The overall Lake Texoma striped bass record — caught in Texas waters on April 25, 1984 by Terry Harber — tipped the scales at 35.12 pounds. And the heaviest striper ever pulled from the Red River below Denison Dam is a 42.7-pound specimen caught on April 2, 2002 by Edwin Padua.
8. Two Big Texoma Largemouths — Lake Texoma might be better known for its big stripers, smallmouth bass, and blue catfish rather than its moderately sized largemouth bass. After all, the lake has never produced a 13.00-pound specimen, a benchmark that marks a truly elite sized largemouth bass and, if caught in Texas waters, qualifies for TPWD’s long-running ShareLunker program.
But Texoma did have two near misses this decade. Royce Harlan had a 12-pound, 6-ounce lake record caught on March 3, 2012 as Harlan fished with a tournament partner in a JC Outdoors bass event. The Harlan bass is not only the Oklahoma side lake record now, but also the biggest largemouth ever officially weighed at Texoma!
Don McFarlin had his own near-miss on Feb. 17, 2013 as he caught and weighed a Texoma largemouth that checked in at 11.90 pounds. Using a jig, McFarlin caught the behemoth bass measuring 25.50-inches in length en route to claiming the Texas-side record largemouth bass mark at Texoma.
9. Jordon, Hackney Capture Big Local Tournaments — The Texoma region is no stranger to big bass tournaments, once hosting the 1979 Bassmaster Classic won by Hank Parker.
Twice over the past decade, big-time bass fishing tournaments visited the region once again as a couple of familiar names won big trophies.
First up was East Texas angling pro Kelly Jordon when he captured the 2012 Major League Fishing Challenge Cup contested in October.
In June 2016, the Bassmaster Elite Series visited Texoma for the circuit’s then annual Bassmaster BASSfest Event. Greg Hackney weighed just more than 66 pounds of bass to capture the event’s $100,000 top prize and an automatic berth into the 2017 Bassmaster Classic.
10. Zebra Mussel Spread — Technically, the current invasion of zebra mussels in area waters actually began in the previous decade after the species was first discovered at Lake Texoma in 2009.
But during this current decade, the pesky and destructive little critter has not only made itself quite at home on Texoma with billions of the little sharp-shelled invaders attaching themselves to anything that doesn’t move, they have also journeyed to many other water bodies in the region and across the state of Texas.
So much so that as of this writing, TPWD confirms that zebra mussels are now found in 29 Texas lakes spread out across five Lone Star State river basins. In the Texomaland area, those lakes include Texoma, Ray Roberts, Lavon, Randell, Dean Gilbert and the Red River itself. Clearly, zebra mussels are unfortunately here to stay despite new laws and regulations aimed at slowing or stopping their spread.
Well, that’s a wrap on a look back at the Top 10 outdoors stories in the Texomaland region over the past decade. What will the next 10-years bring to Texoma outdoors enthusiasts? That’s hard to say as the region will experience more and more urban growth that will put pressure on the natural resources that the region is blessed with.
But odds are, there will be more big bucks, more record fish, and plenty more to write about and celebrate in the Great Texomaland Outdoors.
Lord willing, check into this space once again in 10 years and we’ll take a look back at what has transpired in the forthcoming decade. In the meantime, Happy New Year to you and those dear to you. And if you get a chance, get outdoors to make your own hunting and fishing memories!