The Missing Link – Chain Pickerel

| March 3, 2009

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CORRECTION – Daingerfield not Granger! Please make note of error in voice over. Daingerfield, Texas.

I got a wild hare the other day, loaded up the Tarpon, and headed to [ppw id=”133617806″ description=”Dangerfield Chain Pickerel” price=”.10″]

East Texas to put another chip on my empty bingo card – on the Chain Pickerel square.

I had heard about a little lake that supposedly had these strange fish that look like a duckbilled Gar, and knew nothing about that part of the State, whether I had the right flies, or if they were actually up and active. At worst I would be firing another blank, but at the same time filling some blanks on this part of the State.

About 150 miles east of Denton is a town called Daingerfield, and they have a sweet little State Park lake there with facilities that are in fantastic condition, picturesque vistas, and water that, on a cloudy day, was clear down to five feet. It was immediately apparent a straight fast kayak like my Tarpon 140 would be the ticket to cover this kdkdkkd acre lake in a practical and stealthy manner. And since I only had a four hour window to fish, I decided to forgo the Amas in the name of paddling speed (Amas do obstruct the rowing stroke and shorten it enough to cut significant speed).

The park has a tiny boat ramp near the canoe / paddle boat rentals and dock. It is really perfect for a kayak, or very small boat, but I believe I recall the maximum boat speed was 5. I loaded my six and some choice flies, put on my PFD and pushed off into mostly calm clear water surrounded by pine trees that mostly line the the lake. Clumps of grass line the edges, clear water runs about five feet offshore and then emerging lilly pads.

There was some wind so I headed for the most sheltered point and made a cast toward the grass. Second cast, and boom, a take and a twelve inch Chain Pickerel went aerial. My first thought was … small. Isn’t that always the case, a first catch of a fish never caught, and all we want is bigger better.

I was short on flies tied with weed guards or eyes tied to flip them into weedless runners, so the lilly pads are a constant threat to snagging flies, and in a kayak the grip of a lilly pad is so strong you can find you will be reeling yourself into the pads to dislodge your fly. Tie with weed guards or bead chain eyes to prevent constant frustration (comment if you want to know the patterns that were working for me).

On this end of the lake, there is apparently a walking trail, and out of the corner of my left eye I caught an old guy in overalls with a frufru dog on a walk and heading my way. “Doin’ any good?” I told him I had caught one Chain, and that was his go for conversational launch – with 75 feet between us; “There’s a lot of them Chain Pickerel in here. They’re aggressive. Any Crappie? No? They should be coming up soon. You’re in a good spot, but it’s better further out on the edge of the lilly pads.” I listened on, “there’s a spot up there by the Beaver lodge that looks good – they have those deep channels running out of there. Where you from? Dallas! Whereabouts? Denton. I used to live in Garland. You couldn’t dynamite me outta’ here now. Guys from Dallas out here all the time to catch their first Pickerel. Naa, it’s never crowded here – a few local people on holiday weekends but that’s about it. It might get busy. They just laid off twelvehunnerd people at the factory. Naa, they still get paid so it won’t get too wild. Now don’t tell nobody about this place. We don’t want it to get crowded. There’s not much shad in here, so they like bluegill and perch.” He told me what colors work, said he has a brand new fly rod he never used – “looks like too much work” – wished me luck, and continued on with his dog tromping through shoreline grass.

I glided over to the cove and proceeded to fish the outside edge of the lillys and moved into the grass line where I managed to catch about ten more smaller Pickerel. They are interesting fish, laying up in the grass facing outward, and launching out of the grass as much as six feet to grab a fly. The grass will rustle, the water bulges and they hit. They will not win any beauty contests, and honestly – they stink, but the drama that precedes the strike is well worth the drive. It is an exercise in the wait before the take.

Most of those I caught were on the smallish side with the largest landed being fifteen inches. Keep in mind a fifteen inch Chain Pickerel probably weighs less than a pound, and is as big around as a link sausage. I had one larger fish take my bluegill imitation (just my luck I had one freshly made and with me), do a big swirling S bend of the back and clip my line cleanly. Goodbye to that fly … which I suddenly liked very much. Note to self; weedless and in at least twos.

Next time I will definitely use the Amas to get a visual on fish – the water is so clear, I can imagine it would be possible to sight cast for these guys on a sunny day. If you go, your hooks need to be sharp because although the ones I used penetrated small fish easily, I did have another at the boat that was pushing twenty inches, but was never stuck, and released when he figured out what was going on. My theory, this being the first encounter with Pickerel, is their snouts probably get harder as they age – making hook setting more difficult. You may as well tie on a bite leader while you’re at it – their teeth are real.

The dilemma of telling people about locations like this hit me straight on with the “don’t tell nobody”, but honestly Texas Fly Caster does not seem to be burning up the broadband just yet. If readers have a problem with some details (not all details are here), or want more details – FEEL FREE TO Say Something. Meanwhile, I am still learning to use my GPS, but the numbers below should be good – very good. This location is not going to work for you unless you are in a watercraft of some sort, but once you are on the water you will be glad you brought your boat. Although I didn’t make it over to look at the campgrounds, they were well hidden, but with views of the lake through the trees. The park office said “open”, but was “closed” on the way in, and said “closed” and was “closed” on the way out. Lesson: Be prepared for no one in the office, and you will not be disappointed. Find information on Daingerfield State Park here.

GPS Coordinates
Daingerfield Entrance N33 00.526 W94 42.055
Lake Dock N33 00.398 W94 41.852
Daingerfield Lake N33 00.285 W94 41.826

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Category: Culture on the Skids, East Texas, Fish Podcasting, North Texas, Technique

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I write. I photograph. I fish, and I live.

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