T he catfish ranks only behind the largemouth bass in terms of anglers’ preference, as you would expect, and we’ve got exceptional catfish habitat in Texas. Flatheads, channel cats and blue cats can be found in almost every nook and cranny of the Lone Star State and are more than willing to take a variety of bait offerings all year long.
Catfish also are central to Texas’s freshwater conservation efforts.
In addition to having a thriving catfish population, fisheries biologists with the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department have worked long and hard on a plan designed to expand angling opportunities for Texas’s growing urban population and introduce the next generation of anglers to fishing.
That plan “A Vision for Catfish in Texas,” (bit.ly/CatfishManagementPlan) which debuted last year, describes why catfish are likely to become more important to Lone Star State anglers in the future. The plan also presents goals and strategies designed to make catfish angling better.
“Texas has some outstanding catfishing opportunities,” said Dave Terre, chief of research and management for the Inland Fisheries division. “We believe our public waters have great potential for providing quality catfishing in the future, and we have the experience and expertise to maintain and expand the fishery. However, success will depend on having the support of anglers, industry, civic organizations and local governments.”
You’ve only got to read a quick TPWD report on one catfish honey hole to understand just how abundant and varied the methods are for catching catfish. It’s the ideal species to help introduce a whole new generation to the outdoors.
“Channel catfish are taken near the mouths of creeks after a rain, especially in spring and fall,” Terre said. “In late spring and early summer, they are found around rocky shores and areas of rip-rap. Best baits are shrimp, blood bait, cut bait, dough bait and shad gizzards.
“In summer, try drift-fishing shrimp across flats. Sunfish and large minnows also pay off here. Blue catfish are caught on many of the same baits. Try juglining with live gizzard shad for bait. A rod and reel baited with live shad on windless winter days works well, too. Flathead catfish are infrequently caught by rod and reel anglers, but most often by trotlining with live sunfish for bait.”
Any guesses which lake biologists were discussing? If you said Lake Texoma, on the Texas-Oklahoma border, you’d be correct.
It’s safe to say that almost anywhere with water is a possible locale for catfish, but some hot spots do stand out above the rest. In North Texas. The names Texoma and Tawakoni come to mind.
In East Texas it’s Fork, Livingston and Richland-Chambers. Central Texas anglers know that Buchanan, Waco and Whitney are their best bets, while South Texans can bank on Braunig, Calaveras and Choke Canyon for producing limits.
However, numerous other places are rated at least good by biologists and fisheries experts. TPWD also is in the business of improving fish habitat, something that is vital for a variety of species, including catfish. It’s no secret that if you better the overall landscape of a body of water, you improve the overall fishing,
This is precisely why TPWD has partnered with a number of groups including the Brazos River Authority and Army Corps of Engineers, among others, to enhance habitat with artificial structures. These fish attractors include habitat made from recycled plastics and natural structures ranging from recycled bamboo to Christmas trees.
The best part is that the coordinates on these lakes across the state are listed online. For information, visit tpwd.texas.gov/fishboat/fish/recreational/lakes/fish_attractors.phtml.
It’s well-known that much of Texas often suffers from lingering drought, which can be extremely detrimental to fishing access and fish populations as a whole. However, by providing increased habitat, it’s TPWD’s hope that any negatives are somewhat alleviated.
“The Christmas tree piles will eventually break down, but will provide habitat in the shallower areas of the reservoir,” said Michael Homer Jr., Inland Fisheries Division district supervisor in Abilene. “Artificial reef areas will persist much longer and may be crucial refuges for fish when water levels drop. We have taken the necessary steps and have worked with the controlling authorities to identify areas in each lake that are not only safe, but will also maximize the benefit to the fisheries.”
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Wetland Restoration Project Complete
Waterfowl and whooping cranes will find improved habitat this winter on the Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge in Anahuac, Texas. Ducks Unlimited and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service completed a wetland restoration and enhancement project on the 300-acre Middleton Unit. Axalta Coating Systems was the lead corporate sponsor for the project.
“The Gulf Coast is one of the most important areas for waterfowl on the continent, and its habitats are in jeopardy from coastal land loss, saltwater intrusion, and land use changes,” said DU CEO Dale Hall. “Axalta’s support for DU’s Gulf Coast Initiative provides better habitat for waterfowl and other wetland-dependent wildlife, increases coastal resiliency by enhancing coastal wetlands and improves outdoor recreation opportunities for people.”
Working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ducks Unlimited added water control infrastructure to facilitate better habitat management and promote waterfowl use on this public-access refuge outside of Houston. There are areas on the refuge open to public waterfowl hunting, including part of the Middleton Unit.
“Thousands of Axalta employees around the world are deeply passionate about conservation and our Houston employees can see the impact we’re having through this partnership,” said Mike Cash, president of Axalta’s Industrial Coatings business. “All of us at Axalta are as proud of our ability to support the important work Ducks Unlimited does to sustain and protect the environment as we are of our ability to help sustain and protect the products our customers coat every day.”
Axalta Coating Systems, a leading global supplier of liquid and powder coatings, and Ducks Unlimited, the world leader in wetlands and waterfowl conservation, announced a five-year partnership in 2015. This project is one of the many cooperative ventures supported by Axalta across North America.
“With Axalta’s generous support,” Hall said, “we can continue our work to improve habitat for waterfowl and other migratory birds and make significant progress toward our Rescue Our Wetlands campaign goals.”.
Ducks Unlimited’s Rescue Our Wetlands campaign is a continental, seven-year, $2 billion effort aimed at changing the face of conservation in North America. Rescue Our Wetlands is the largest wetlands and waterfowl conservation campaign in history. It focuses on the habitat most important to waterfowl, including the coastal prairies and marshes of Texas and Louisiana.
Populations of northern pintail and mottled ducks are declining or below long-term averages. Gulf Coast habitats such as those found on Anahuac NWR are critical for both species and the endangered whooping crane. Some of the Middleton project features will promote nesting and brood rearing by mottled ducks.
The statewide bag limit for flathead catfish is five per day with a minimum length of 18 inches and no maximum length. For the channel cats and blue cats, the daily bag is 25 in any combination with a 12-inch minimum and no maximum length. There are some lakes with a “trophy” slot size limit. Blue catfish 30 inches and less or 45 inches and greater may be retained. Among those are Waco and Lewisville. On those lakes only one blue cat 45 inches or greater may be retained daily.