Texas is home to some the best lakes in North America for monster catfish, and within those waters there are some legendary hotspots so ripe with big fish lore that it almost feels like risky business any time you dare to soak a bait there.
Places like Slick Em Slough and Table Top rank among the most fabled haunts for fat cats on 89,000-acre Lake Texoma along the Texas/Oklahoma border. Meanwhile, names like The Slabs and Tall Mans Reach are at the epicenter of countless catfish tales involving broken hand lines and mangled trotline sets at Lake Tawakoni. Farther east, places like Blue Lake, Tenaha Creek and Tuckers Lake hold special meaning with monster mavens familiar with the whiskered denizens that prowl the Sabine River and the adjacent expanse of fish-rich water that is Toledo Bend Reservoir.
So what do all of these sweet spots share in common other than a reputation for producing catfish with a weight problem?
Not much, really. In fact, if you were to drain each lake, you would likely find an entirely different set of blueprints down there.
To learn more about what makes these popular areas and others so attractive for big cats, I sought some input from a few guys who know them well. What follows is a synopsis of some of states most storied catfishin holes:
PHOTO: LARRY HODGE, TPWD
Source: Charlie Shively, Owner of Bills Landing, 936-368-3542
Tenaha Creek: The major creek feeds the lake north Shivelys place on the Texas side. It winds a snake-like path through miles of cypress and stump flats, colliding with numerous sloughs, oxbows, points and drainages before dumping into the Sabine River. Shively says the premier stretch of water for hand lining and trotlining alike begins at submerged island called Duncan Island and runs southeast past a primo area known as Horseshoe Lake also known as the Old River Slough. The water depth in the deepest part of the slough is about 20 feet and seven feet on the banks.
Numerous blues and flatheads weighing upwards of 70 pounds have been caught here, while fish in the 50-pound range are routine on trotlines built for bear.
Blue Lake: Blue Lake isnt actually a lake. Its an elongated slough that offers 50 feet of water in places in close proximity to shelves and ridges that jump to 7-15 deep when the lake is at full pool. Located smack in middle of the lake on the Louisiana side, due east of the East Hamilton ramp, the slough is surrounded by heavy timber and stump fields the have produced some giant blues and flatheads on rod and reel as well as trotlines. Shively said Blue Lake kicked the lake record flathead weighing 97.50 pounds for Otis Pleasant in 1991.
Tuckers Lake/Bird Island: These areas reside side-by-side just north of Duncan Island. They are surrounded by a series of ridges, underwater sloughs, drainages and shallow stump flats that can be difficult to navigate in low water situations. Shively says Tuckers Lake in a five-acre underwater slough that drops to about 17 feet at its deepest point. It can be killer after a big rain due to the amount of heavy current that passes through when the lake is on a rise.
Source: George Rule, trophy catfish guide, 214-202-6641
The Slabs: Rule says this is the partial remains of one of the old lakes original marinas built decades ago. Located due north of the 2-mile bridge in about 12 feet of water, the 1/2-acre area consists of about 50-60 concrete slabs that lay on the lakes bottom near shore in about 12 feet of water. The slab chunks range in size from 6X6 to 12X12.
Rule says big blue cat patrol the maze of jagged structure in search of shad and other forage that are lured to the junk to find shelter and food. Rod and reelers and noodlers have latched on to some mammoth blues probing around the mangled ruins, some in excess of 70 pounds. Rule reeled in his personal best blue, an 80 pounder, from a 14-foot flat located about 1/2 mile from "The Slabs" last spring.
Tall Man Reach: This is the site of another dilapidated marina, just north of the dam on the lakes eastern shore. Rule says the area spans about 10-12 acres and is comprised of a bois d arc flat with a steady water depth of 12-13 feet at pool level. The area is popular with hand fishermen who serve up 8-9 inch gizzard shad in open stretches within the hardwood jungle. Rules biggest here is a 55 pounder, but his charter boats have pulled numerous blues beyond the 70-pound mark from these waters.
The Caddo Inlet: Head north under the long bridge and hang a sharp left and youre there. The Caddo Inlet is heavily influenced by water that flows south out of Greenville down the Caddo River. A popular hub with trotliners and rod/reel crowds, Rule says the area produced an uncertified lake record flathead weighing 114 pounds last spring. The fish was reportedly caught on a trotline using live gold fish. Rule says the best stretch of river is flanked by 6-10 feet of water with fields bois d arch stumps and other trash beneath the surface.
Source: Steve Nelson, trophy catfish guide, 903-271-0420
Table Top River Ledges: Nelson described Table Top as large flat that meets with a 10-mile long stretch the Red River smack in the middle of the lake. The water depth falls abruptly from 30 feet to 90 feet where the two structures collide. Guides use their electronics to survey the brush-cluttered flat and they break out the hand-size gizzard shad when they see something they like. Nelson has landed several blues in the 70-85 pound range here.
Slick Em Slough: Legendary for big cats as Texoma itself, this sweet spot near the mouth of the Red River has yielded a passel of whoppers in the past. Nelson has never cracked 60-pounds, but says it has kicked out several blues in the 90-pound class. Nelson says Slick Em offers an abundance of 10 foot water with gobs of underwater brush that has washed down the Red over the years. The area is popular with hand fishermen, even more so with trotliners and jug liners.
Washita Point: Similar to Table Top, this is a classic structure hotspot where shallow water meets with deep near the confluence of the Red River and Washita Rivers. Nelson described Washita Point as an "anchor getter" because of the jungle of underwater brush and log jams that have claimed dozens of boat anchors over the years as anglers attempted hold steady near the break where the 30 foot point dumps abruptly into 75 feet of water. One of Nelsons most remarkable fishing days on Texoma occurred on Washita Point as he boated a pair of 70 pound blues and 10 over 40 pounds during the same outing.