Chasing Some Tail(s)

| May 3, 2009


I headed out to Ray Roberts this past Thursday not knowing what to expect. The rain had been coming down for awhile, and the Lake was on the rise – a quick filling of an half empty cup. If you haven’t heard, its been raining in North Texas, and raining and raining.

That’s kind of how it works in these parts – famine then feast, and sometimes the feast of rain will bust your belly, and drown your ambitions for predictable spring patterns. We’ve had an extended drought that did not get much local (DFW) news coverage until it coincided with people’s need to water their springtime chemically enhanced yards. About the time it made local news consciousness, it was over, and we find ourselves back to a situation not too unlike 2007, where flooding and overfilling of water bodies lead to unpredictable fishing and eventually extraordinarily good fishing, even if temporary, at places like the Red River below Denison Dam.

Everybody thought they were the baddest of the bad fliers, as fish like the Stripers below Denison Dam found themselves in a new habitat with limited resources, and virtually unlimited competition. As the fish disappeared on stringers, or through other means, the grumbling on sites like TFR … why aren’t they biting, what happened etc … Guys who thought they had created magical flies fell silent as nothing worked. It was over, and I thought, based on the science of the day, I would have to live another 500 years to experience something like Texoma again. Well, here we go again.

It had been raining heavily, not constantly, for days before I found myself on the flats at Ray Roberts. The lake level was up just three inches when JH sent me the last e mail the night before, but we all knew the rain was on a west-to-east track just above Ray Roberts and along a line roughly parallel to the Red River. Gainesville had been blasted again, and the drainage leads directly into Ray Roberts. It’s funny, you know it’s a drought and you know it’s bad, but you also get used to being able to walk around the lake and flats in areas that were once under feet of water. You get used to the predictability of fish, lack of fish, the newly uncovered stock tanks and habitat you suspected was there but would never have seen unless you were along for the great drought of 2008-09.

What this kind of rain does is take all that comfort – convenient walking, and slow creeping predictability, and throw it out the window – overnight in this case. I made it to the flats and the water had moved in fifty, sixty a hundred feet. Sure the lake was only up 3 feet overnight (that three inches in the e mail was the tip of the iceberg), but spread that out over a shallow surface like the flats …

Not only were the flats back to what they were in early 2008, there were carp everywhere. I hadn’t brought a rod since it was a recon. for the next day, and I wasn’t too worried since there were literally thousands of fish in the flats splashing around, chasing through the grass and vegetation and being so docile you could walk right up to them and reach down and grab them by their tails!

When I got back I basically told JH it was “out of control”, and fish were “everywhere”. He asked if they were spawning, and I did not really know what spawning Carp looked like. I do now.

The video is from the next day, when they really were in full spawn season, and my battery died just before JH played and landed a ten pound Common Carp. JH quickly recognized the activity (now frenetic) as a full on SPAWN. Spawning Carp, for those of you like me who have never seen one, can only be described as … OK I can’t really do it justice by describing it succinctly, but it’s a lot like a bunch of teenage boys chasing a very few well endowed females. They follow, and swirl over and under her, basically being annoying and a complete bunch of morons. They can even drive the females up into very shallow waters where they move in like a pack of hyenas, tails flapping and slapping in noisy outbursts that can be heard for 200 yards or more. Behaviorally, if you want to catch a teenager’s attention, you don’t really have a chance, and once the females are being chased around, they are intent on moving quickly along depositing eggs for swirling suitors to inseminate. The fish to concentrate on, and most of the dozen Carp I caught Friday, are hanging slightly offshore in deeper water waiting for their turn in the mating rituals. They eat.

Carp aren’t the only ones who eat though. As the water comes into fresh vegetation and habitat, Black Bass, Spotted Gar, Grass Carp and others cruise in like teenagers cruising the local Sonic – in and out. That means it’s time to fire up the kayak and start for parts now inaccessible since the new water’s arrival. Not only does this “turn on” the shallows, and coves, the new water brings increased schooling of Sand Bass, and the frenetic pace of trucks pulling boats to launches and flying off to points known. So far we are looking at the best of times, a little more rain and we’ll be looking at the worst of times.


Category: Culture on the Skids, Fishing Reports, North Texas

About the Author () is where to find my other day job. I write and photograph fish stories professionally, and for free here! Journalist by training. This site is for telling true fishing news stories, unless otherwise noted.

Comments (1)

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  1. Cindy says:

    I’m all for the feast but if it rains all summer like it did in 2007 I will probably go off the deep end.
    Living outdoors in a flash flood prone area with 2 low water crossings, 150 children, and nowhere to go + rain = insanity

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