Lynn Burkhead — Hunting seasons on tap but don’t overlook fall fishing

Herald Democrat
Lance San Millan shows off how quickly a quiet evening fishing trip can turn red-hot in the autumn months as local game fish start to fatten up on shad and prepare for the coming of winter.

If you love the outdoors in Texomaland, I probably don’t have to tell you that this time of the year is the sweet spot on the calendar for those of us who like to hunt.

Early teal season wraps up this weekend, dove hunting season is in full swing, and early archery season opens up in a matter of days. Then it’s onto muzzleloader deer season in Oklahoma, gun deer season in Texas, regular duck hunting campaigns on both sides of the Red River, and even quail season for those fortunate few who possess a double-gun, a bird dog, and the keys to a farm that got just enough life-giving rainfall this year.

But despite the fact that hunting seasons either are, or soon will be, in full command of the calendar, there’s something else to keep in mind right now as a Texomaland outdoors enthusiast. And that’s the simple fact that the fall fishing is pretty good around here too.

That point was driven home to me earlier in the week when I received a text from my good friend Lance San Millan, longtime principal at Pathways High School in Denison, who also happens to call Yellow Jacket football games with me on Friday night.

So does Kyle Uber, principal for the DISD’s Houston Elementary School and the longtime Yellow Jackets radio sideline man for 93.1 FM KMKT.

When San Millan sent his text, he was checking up on yours truly, making sure I was okay from a recent health scare. I was, until I read his text and saw his accompanying photos, that is.

Because they told of a midweek fishing trip on Lake Texoma, just as the evening sun was sliding below the horizon in the mid-lake area. A quick after work fishing session for the two DISD principals produced talk of work, a pretty sunset, and no real activity on the big 89,000-acre pond northwest of D-Town.

Until the sun hit the horizon, that is. And then all of a sudden, San Millan heard the noise of a fish — likely a big striped bass — feeding on the surface nearby. When he and Uber turned and looked, they saw a couple of sizable boils on both sides of the boat.

San Millan threw one way with a rainbow-hued Pencil Popper and Uber threw the other with a red-and-white Pencil Popper. In a matter of seconds, there were sizable explosions with both anglers hooking up to good stripers looking for a quick evening meal of a big shad.

San Millan brought his striper to the boat in short order, a solid fish, if not a lean one, that weighed around five or six-pounds. Then he turned to watch Uber’s fight with a Texoma striper, one that put a serious bend in a fishing rod for several minutes before finally coming to the boat.

When it did, both anglers gasped at a sizable striper featuring plenty of length and girth, easily weighing upwards of 10-pounds or more. Obviously, that Texoma linesider had not missed too many meals this summer.

In both cases, the Texoma stripers were photographed and released to fight another day, giving both Denison anglers an evening topwater fishing memory, one that they won’t soon forget.

FYI, while you’ll see San Millan’s fish photo accompanying this story, visit GameandFishMag.com this next week to see another fall fishing story about Texoma, as well as a photo of Uber’s sizable fish.

While I wasn’t able to go earlier in the week, I am now and San Millan and Uber better not go back to Texoma without me. Otherwise, I might need some additional help on the Yellow Jacket radio crew next week.

While I’m just kidding on their status with our radio crew — these guys have helped me out and bailed me out on numerous occasions — I’m not kidding on wanting to go fishing over the next several weeks.

And you shouldn’t be kidding either, since the fall fishing action is about to start heating up rapidly thanks to shortening days, northerly breezes, and cooling water temperatures that will soon have striped bass, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and more on the autumn feeding blitz.

Thanks to the DNA put into their scaly bodies by the Creator above, local game fish recognize the approach of winter about this time of year, and begin to prepare by putting away the piscatorial groceries. On most Texas waters and southern Oklahoma lakes — Texoma included — that means shad.

As in threadfins, gizzards, and all of the above. Because as my Orvis fly fishing guide friend Steve Hollensed likes to say, at Texoma, it’s always a shad, shad, shad story.

But it’s also a shad story elsewhere too as game fish begin to respond to the cooling weather and water, trying to fatten up and build up body reserves for the depths of winter. Put simply, between now and Thanksgiving, the fishing should increasingly get better and better as fish push bait balls of shad to the surface, towards the shoreline, and into the backs of creeks and coves.

And as they do so, the fishing will likely be pretty good most days, really good on some others, and maybe even epic on a few rare dates on the calendar. So good, in fact, that if you dare to throw anything resembling a shad into the water, it’s liable to get bit.

Take, for instance, the fishing report this week from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (www.wildlifedepartment.com ) concerning the striped bass action at Lake Texoma, a report that confirms this idea.

“Fishing this week has been good,” said the ODWC report. “(Stripers) are being caught on live shad and topwater near Washita Point and Platter Flats.”

Want to take a wild guess at what those topwater lures have resembled over the last several days? Yup, you guessed it, shad.

While stripers are the obvious choice of many Texomaland anglers, they aren’t the only options either. Largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, spotted bass, white bass, and even crappie will all begin to try and fatten up soon for the coming of winter.

That means that other notable lakes across the region — Arbuckle, Bonham, Fork, McGee Creek, Murray and Ray Roberts to name a few — will all begin heating up shortly as the sweet spot of autumn fishing arrives in the area.

Put simply, it’s an incredible time of the year when the crowds have thinned out on most area lakes, the fish are actively pushing shad around and feeding heavily, the action is often tipped off by a boat’s fish finding electronics or by the presence of gulls and other birds wheeling noisily overhead, and the action sometimes being almost too good to be true.

Or the action can be a bit more sparse, a quiet evening of barely a ripple on the water’s surface, the calm moments broken up suddenly by the splash of a big, hungry fish.

And when that happens, if you have a topwater bait handy and it looks like a shad at all, odds are, you’ll soon forget all about hunting season.