The white bass spawning run on the Sabine River above Toledo Bend is as good as it’s been in years. The river is running with plenty of water and giving up lots of big whites that are hitting 1/4-ounce Road Runner spinners like there ain’t no tomorrow.
“I’ve haven’t seen it this good in years,” said guide Bill Fondren. “I had three guys out last week and they had a blast. The limit is 25 a day, and we had those iced down in about an hour and a half. Then we went on to catch well over a hundred more. With the water level up as high as it is, the fishing should be excellent for the next three or four weeks.”
The area that Fondren is fishing is about 15 to 20 miles north of Toledo Bend. What you want to do is head up to the River Ridge fishing camp. It’s located about 12 miles south of Carthage on Highway 699. You can get more information at www [dot] riverridgetx [at] aol [dot] com. You can book a trip with Fondren by calling him at (409) 381-1397.
“You’ll know when the white bass run is on by the pink blooms on redbud trees and the cars and trucks lining the roadsides at river crossings,” said Larry Hodge with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. “When the redbuds bloom, the white bass run, and anglers flock to rivers above reservoirs to harvest their share of the bounty.”
The nice thing about the white bass run is the generous 25-fish per day limit. The only thing you have to keep in mind is cleaning them at the end of the day. Filleting upwards of 50 to 100 white bass can be a major league chore.
Another nice thing about the white bass spawning run is the economic impact on the community.
“At Lake Buchanan, anglers spent about $2.5 million on white bass fishing trips between March and May 2011, and nearly $1 million of that came from anglers from outside the area,” said Hodge. “What draws people to riverbanks on chilly spring days is more than the chance to catch fish. The white bass run is an annual tradition for many Texans. It’s a sign of renewal and hope, an opportunity for an outing with family or friends, a source of treasured memories about the big one that didn’t get away. It’s a perfect example of the adage that when we go fishing, it’s not just fish we seek.”
Here in East Texas we’ve had a lot more rain than other regions of the state. Rivers like the Sabine, Angelina, Neches and Trinity are in excellent shape. However, in the Hill Country and South Texas, drought conditions could threaten the Texas white bass fishery in a number of ways. If a reservoir drops so low that connection to the river is lost, the fish won’t be able to swim upstream where they are more vulnerable to angling.
“Water access for both boaters and bank anglers may be reduced or lost during an extended drought,” said Hodge. “More importantly, the fish may not be able to spawn, reducing the numbers of fish available. If drought conditions continue for years, the white bass fishery may decline to the point anglers lose interest. This can result in a significant loss to local economies.”
Many Texas reservoirs like Sam Rayburn and Toledo Bend currently provide excellent white bass runs.
“Changing climate and increased water demands increase the chance that we will lose the connection between rivers and reservoirs necessary to sustain white bass populations unless we take this important fishery into account when making decisions about water management and reservoir operations,” said Dave Terre, chief of management and research for TPWD’s Inland Fisheries Division.
Terre also said the connections between rivers and reservoirs are important not just for white bass but also for a number of other species, including catfish and non-game species.
“We stand to lose these important fisheries if connectivity is not maintained,” he said. “As our reservoirs get older and suffer from siltation and degradation of fish habitat, drought conditions will exacerbate the problem. Unfortunately there is no easy or quick fix.”
Hodge points out that Texas is part of a national movement to address the multiple problems facing reservoirs. The Reservoir Fisheries Habitat Partnership and the Friends of Reservoirs Foundation were established to coordinate efforts, generate public support and facilitate funding.
“TPWD has launched studies to demonstrate the importance of maintaining river-to-reservoir transition zones from biological, recreational and economic standpoints,” Terre said. “We are working with the public, other agencies and grassroots partners who support fish habitat improvements in our reservoir systems.”
Over the past few decades, the best white bass runs have been above Sam Rayburn, Toledo Bend and Livingston. The best of those three is the run above T-Bend. That’s where you can catch good numbers of big females. I’m talking about fish in the 2 to 3 pound class. That’s outstanding fishing, and it’s happening right now.