June 17, 2016
In my last blog entry, I retold the great fishing day back on May 1, 2016. The weather was super comfortable and the water was very clear and clean. Well, this next trip was quite different, but there was some great fishing. After work on Friday, Dad and I loaded up the kayaks and headed straight to the Brazos River Tailrace. For a few weeks prior, the area and headwaters upstream received bountiful rain. So much so that the dam was completely opened to let out the overflow water from the lake above. We heard reports that the river was completely flooded and when we got to the river, we could see the remnant effects of dead vegetation clear up the bank see the picture below. The water was also very muddy and murky…a lot of sedimentation from all the rain and runoff.
We decided to put in the kayaks down by the Hwy 16 bridge this time. The river was high and the water was flowing at a relentless pace, and we also noticed that the water smelled like dead fish (more on that later). In order to get to the large pool, we had to cross the current to cross the river so that we could kayak along the shallow side eddies to make it upstream.
Side story…A few months later, I tried this same river crossing by myself and the kayak turned sideways and flipped! I was able to retrieve my fishing rods and fishing bag with tackle and my car keys, but my phone fell out of my pocket and was lost! When I recollected my thoughts and myself at the bank, I just thanked God for being safe and that I had the agile ability to recover…now back to this story.
We both paddled across and made it but once we got to the shallows, the water was still moving fast and I had to get out of the kayak and pull both of our kayaks upstream, using the leverage from my legs, to arrive at the side pool that was still. We paddled upstream to the pool after this but it was much more manageable in the wider portion where the current wasn’t as concentrated. The stench of dead fish continued and we saw dead fish floating around and the water was slimy. Really gross stuff and we started to come up with a few theories of why this was…
1. When the floodgates opened at the dam, a lot of fish spilled over and died on impact.
2. The influx of water entering into the river changed the temperature or oxygen content drastically and quickly and shocked the fish to death.
3. Don’t like to think about this but maybe there was a Golden Algae outbreak.
Now, even though there were a lot of dead fish floating around, there were many live fish jumping and the bite was on. We caught several sand bass on plastic shad lures. Here’s Dad with a nice sand bass in the picture below.
Then, Dad hooked into a shortnose gar. It fought hard and when he brought it in, we didn’t really know how to handle it. I grabbed it by the side and he grabbed the hook with his pliers and we tried to shake it off. Gars have super sharp teeth and a lot of them and we were careful not to get our hands anywhere close! This guy on the bank was intrigued about our catch and yelled to us that he wanted to cook it up and eat it. Neither of us wanted to mess with this guy (he seemed “fishy” and we didn’t know if he could be trusted) and just evaded the possibility in our response. Eventually, the gar shook and the line broke. Good thing it did because the hook was lodged in its bony mouth and it would have been hard to get it out, and also we didn’t want to give the gar to that guy.
In addition to the sand bass and the gar, Dad caught a spotted bass. It’s exciting that we are catching spotted bass regularly in this river. Last trip, I caught a river record. Towards the end of the fishing day, I even caught a couple smallmouth bass of decent size. These guys fight pretty hard! See photos below.
The sun was beginning to set over the hills and it was time to head back to the vehicle, load up the kayaks, and head to the lake house. The kayaks were all slimy from the dead fish water and we had to thoroughly clean the kayaks and our gear the next day with the hose. Even though the water was gross and required equipment clean-up, it was worth it for a surprisingly good and unique fishing day!