Little Lake, Big Bass
J ust in case you haven’t heard, Nacogdoches bass angler David Rabalais reeled in a world-class largemouth at Lake Naconiche back in July.
Rabalais caught the 14.12 pounder from the 692-acre reservoir on July 29 after making the snap decision to head to the lake roughly two hours before dark. He and his wife, Diane, had been working a Texas-rigged tequila sunrise worm around some standing timber in about 15 feet water. The line went “bump” and the battle was on.
The big fish didn’t come as much of a surprise to a lot of folks, but it came as a total shock to 55-year-old Rabalais, a casual angler who fishes in his overalls and goes whenever he gets the chance.
“The next morning when I woke up I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming,” Rabalais said. “I caught a 10 pounder at Lake Nacogdoches about 30 years ago, but this one was way bigger than that.”
Rabalais’ fish is arguably the biggest bass hauled in from a public lake wholly within Texas borders since March 2015 and the fattest summertime fish reported statewide in several years. It also provides a pleasant reminder that all is well at Texas’s newest trophy bass lake.
Measuring 26 inches long, the whopper bass ranks as a new lake record for the promising little fishery and is the second lake record caught there in a little over three years. The former record, a 12.54 pounder, was caught in April 2013 by Lane Kruse of nearby Garrison.
Built on a pair of spring-fed creeks, Naconiche was impounded in 2009 and has been managed with kid gloves from the get-go. This was in hope that it might one day become a premier destination for trophy bass hunters and, ultimately, produce a state record fish.
The lake has been stocked with Florida bass from the very start. This included thousands of ShareLunker offspring and several hundred adult female brood fish retired from the state’s hatchery system.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department electrofishing surveys show those fish have done extremely well in Nacogdoches County reservoir. This is largely because of the lake’s fertile water, primo habitat and an abundant forage base that rates second to none.
“Naconiche has got all the ingredients to produce a bunch of big bass,” said TPWD fisheries biologist Todd Driscoll of Jasper. “It’s extremely fertile with great habitat, the Florida bass genetics couldn’t be any better and it has an outstanding forage base.
“The threadfin shad in the lake are huge,” he said. “They average more than four inches. I’ve worked on lakes all over the south over last 20 years and I’ve never seen a lake with threadfin shad like Naconiche has. That in itself speaks to the fertility and productivity of the lake.”
Another factor that bodes well for the lake and the bass is age. The lake itself has been impounded for only seven years, so the “new lake effect” is still very much in play. Plus, fish that were initially stocked before the lake opened are now reaching the age where a percentage of them should be nearing the 10-pound mark. Some of adult brooders surpassed that mark years ago.
“To have big fish, you’ve got to get some age on them,” Driscoll said. “We’re just now getting into that window where over the next 10 years or so we expect to see a bunch of big fish caught. We know there are quite a few big fish in the lake already and there will be more in the future.”
Still another big plus is a restrictive limit to protect big fish. Naconiche opened under a five-fish, 18-inch maximum length limit. However, beginning September 1 the lake was placed under an even more restrictive 16-inch maximum length limit. The reg allows anglers to retain five fish, 16 inches or under per day, but any fish greater than 16 inches must be released unless it is a candidate for the state’s Toyota ShareLunker program.
My guess is little Lake Naconiche will make some huge contributions to the program in the not-too-distant future.
Email Matt Williams at ContactUs@fishgame.com