East Texas bass fishing comes to life during frosty winter months

Cory Rambo of Orange and Sam Rayburn’s Rusty Clark, shown here in a 2014 photo,
Mark Stevenson caught Ethel, the first entry into the ShareLunker program, in 19

Bass fishing is alive and well on Sam Rayburn, even in the middle of what is turning out to be a fairly cold winter. This past weekend, Louisiana anglers Ricky and Ronnie Madole won the Bass Champs tourney held on Sam Rayburn with a bag of five bass that weighed 35.95 pounds. Their big bass weighed an impressive 8.33 pounds. That combination of bass was worth a first place payout of $20,000.

Finishing in second place were Cory Rambo of Orange and Sam Rayburn’s Rusty Clark. They weighed in a sack of bass weighing 24.54 pounds, with a big bass weighing 6.99 pounds.

The water temperature on Rayburn is holding in the 56-degree range. At Toledo Bend, it’s 55 degrees, and on Lake Fork it’s in the lower 40s. Soft plastics are best on just about all East Texas lakes right now. Fork anglers are using drop shot finesse worms and suspending jerkbaits. On Rayburn, watermelon red and watermelon gold soft plastics are best in 18 to 22 feet of water. Cranks and Traps are good in the creeks. At Toledo Bend, green pumpkin soft plastics are best, along with spinnerbaits and traps.

Texas Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame

The angler who caught the first entry into Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s ground-breaking big bass angler recognition program will be inducted into the Texas Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame in June.

Fishing guide Mark Stevenson of Alba is best known for his catch of the first entry into TPWD’s ShareLunker program in 1986. The 17.67-pound largemouth bass from Lake Fork, known as Ethel, was the state record at the time and achieved international fame during her subsequent residence at the Bass Pro Shops store in Springfield, Mo.

“Her presence there fueled a growing nationwide interest in bass fishing, resulting in an economic impact of billions of dollars,” says Larry Hodge, with TPWD. “Two-thirds of Texas’s 1.7 million anglers are primarily bass fishers, and sales of fishing licenses and taxes on fishing-related items generate millions of dollars for conservation.

“Stevenson’s name will forever be associated with arguably the most famous fish ever caught, Ethel. Her presence at Bass Pro Shops brought millions of visitors to see her and sparked a rise in the company’s fortunes, which now has more than 60 stores. Gratitude for her contribution and recognition of TPWD’s efforts to develop the Texas bass fishery led Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris to make a major contribution to TPWD for construction of the Richard M. Hart and Johnny Morris Conservation Center at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens.”

Stevenson’s promotion of catch-and-release of big bass contributed to Lake Fork’s development into one of the top trophy bass fisheries in the world. TPWD studies show this fishery generates in excess of $25 million a year for the local economy.

Illegal deer hunters get plenty of tickets

An anonymous tip came in recently to a Grimes County game warden regarding a group of individuals who placed a photo of two illegally taken deer on a social media site. The warden followed up on the lead and eventually tracked down one of the individuals involved. After a short interview, the warden secured a statement from the individual who shot the two deer and also received the names of the other people in the vehicle. The warden was able to recover meat from the two deer and the firearms used in the offense. He was also able to get statements from four other individuals involved. Numerous charges are pending.

In Karnes County, a game warden entered a camp to check reports of possible illegal deer being shot. As he approached, he saw a buck hanging from a tree and two antlerless deer in the bed of a truck. A female had harvested the buck, and her husband had taken the two antlerless deer. All deer were not tagged, and neither the ranch nor hunter had permits for the two antlerless deer. The warden seized all three deer.

A Real County resident called the local game warden to report hunters who were riding around in a pasture and shining a spotlight into homes of the neighboring subdivision. When the warden arrived on scene and made contact with four individuals, he found three whitetail does in the bed of the truck. When asked if the deer had been shot after legal hunting hours, all individuals stated that the deer were shot around 5 p.m. The warden confirmed with the caller that no shots were heard after legal hunting hours. When asked why they were shining a spotlight into people’s homes, all four said that they were looking for a wounded deer. The warden then asked why the gutted deer hadn’t been tagged, to which both subjects replied that they didn’t have time or something to tag them with. Both were given tickets for possession of untagged whitetail deer. Cases pending.