I shouldered my kayak and sidled my way out of the shed. It was one of those days when the leaves rain with every breeze, the shade cools, and the sun warms. The only thing waiting when I get back home will be a rake.
If you are thumping the little game wheel with the pointer on it, and it turns west, you may want to spin again. Part of the reason for the TFC’s westerly tack lately is the fact that the west is closer to home base than heading east, north or south.
If you decide to conquer the LBJ Grasslands, you will want a map. And if you’re like me, you will want a map. I’m a map fiend, old school paper, in this case huge waterproof ten-dollar, hard to refold map. You can find those at the station on the right hand side of the road at the National Park office for the LBJ Grasslands.
One of the reasons you want a map is because it doesn’t take long to get off the beaten path in the Grasslands, and some signals aren’t received out there. And if you go down the wrong road, or to a dry lake, that’s a huge chunk of time lost.
Black Creek Lake is one of a small number of lakes with a reputation for producing fish, including a twelve pound bass last year. It also is known to have water in it. Sounds elementary, but out west it’s a question you should ask of every potential western water body. I had read about it on the discussion boards, but checked with the ranger station just to be sure.
I had a picture of what to expect out in the LBJ Grasslands pond from past expeditions; shady characters parked down dead end roads around the lake, a well vegetated pond, and not much else. Well, Black Creek Lake does have water in it, very little vegetation, and none of the riffraff I had seen before. It used to be a place (and perhaps still is on other Grassland lakes) that you wouldn’t want to go alone. Now, Black Creek Lake has a kid’s playground, good parking, park benches and is pretty clean.
However, the water is low. For a lake this small, if mother nature takes three feet off the top, the surface area is vastly reduced, and structures, islands and sandbars, are revealed.
From the paved boat ramp (impossible to imagine boats on a low and small pond like this) you can see the entire impoundment. Back to the left is the dam topped by the road that leads there, and off to the right are some arms at the other end of the lake. There’s a road and bridge up that way as well, and trucks and cars park there to fish from their tailgates.
Those arms look like feeder creeks and it looks like there’s one just to the right of the ramp and to the left – at the opposite end of the dam. I investigated all of these and did find that these are creek feeders, and all are bone dry. Bone dry. That makes them inert coves that can keep you out of the wind, and they do have deep water, but with the recent temperature drop, I didn’t have any luck in these coves. IF YOU had the creek water turned on (those creeks feeding the pond significantly), these spots could turn productive.
Black Creek Lake has plenty of room to walk around and fish without a kayak, and in ideal conditions you would probably catch a few fish. Conditions are not ideal. With the water this low, the edges of the shoreline are revealed to be vegetation free, as most of the lake looks to be, and the circumference of the main waterbody has the look and feel of a cattle tank.
Sometimes you gotta’ admit you don’t know what you don’t know, and this is one of those times. I will summarize the trip in a new format at the end, but I THINK the fishable area has been reduced to a deeper bowl by the road dam. Your landmark (no need for GPS) is the concrete overflow sprouting from the approximate middle of the dam. If you visualize the construction of the dam, it’s a deep spot in the pond, and with the wind blowing against it – it was loaded with baitfish … and bass working the crowd. I did manage to catch a couple of school size bass – about twelve inches, in that area – once I switched to a sinking line and white / white heavy Clouser. The fish had that pasty look of fish that had been through a hard, hot summer. Given more time, and the right time of day, I think this area could be very productive.
It’s entirely possible that with the right fly, at the right time, you could get the creeks to produce. They are entirely more interesting than the main pond, but you would also need a kayak to fish those. The 0-5 mph. wind made for an enjoyable paddle, easy casting and the kind of silence that lets you hear a bass when it hits on top.
Even though the pond is terribly low, I am going to have to give this place the RECOMMENDED rating – based on the overall health of the impoundment, and obvious presence of fish. If I had the time to eliminate the variables, figure out what I didn’t know, then I’m confident I would’ve had a better bite. This is a place where you can take the family for an escape from wherever you are, and they can fish from shore, or make their own discoveries while you fish. Remember, this isn’t the only lake in the Grasslands, so expect more reports in the future.
Now for the New Condensed Version:
DESTINATION – LBJ Grasslands Black Creek Lake / LBJ National Grasslands
FEES – $2 per vehicle per day
DISTANCE – 70 mile round trip from Denton, Texas
CONDITIONS – 3+ feet low / stressed
FISH – largemouth bass (seen & caught) no carp seen, no other species caught
GEAR USED – Native Ultimate 12 Kayak / TFO BVK 7 / Intermediate fly line / Fluorocarbon leader / heavy Clouser white on white / Nikon Pro V1
HOW – Fight the urge to spend time in the creek coves. Go deep where the bait is (by the dam). If it’s really warm, or a different season, or different water level – those creeks could be awesome. If the creeks start flowing – bet on them. The entire lake could turn on, even in cold months, with a significant influx of warm rainwater.
RECOMMENDATION – I would give it a 3 on a 5 scale. I caught fish even though temperatures, levels and time were against me. Kayak. You can do better!
NOTES – Stop and get a map at the Park Office on 287
Caddo/LBJ National Grasslands
1400 US HWY 81/287
P.O. Box 507
Decatur, Texas 76234