There is a peculiar right of spring in my part of the country (that would be the country of Texas, in case you were wondering) that involves the White Bass run. Some in north and east Texas call these fish “Sandies”, but in the Hill Country, they are White Bass, or Morone Chrysops (chrysops means “golden eye”) if you are of a scientific bent.
For some, this may be the only time of the year they fish because they are plentiful and fairly easy to catch. You don’t need a boat or fancy equipment to target these aggressive fish because catching white bass can be very simple. You can use just about any type of freshwater fishing tackle that will dangle a minnow, flip a jig, or cast a fly. For that reason its a great time to get kids or spouses on the water for a little rod bending fun. The trick is timing (a spring rain or releases of water from a dam tend to get the fish moving), and location, location, location. Once you find fish, you can generally catch quite a few.These are also one of the few fish that I will actually keep for the table, as they are prolific spawners, and rarely live more than four year – in other words keeping some will not hurt the population.
White bass are primarily lake-dwelling fish that make spawning runs in the spring into the lower reaches of reservoirs tributaries. We Texans have been in an exceptional drought for the last year, which means that last year there wasn’t a lot of water for the whites to make spawning runs in. This spring has been blissfully wet in comparison, and the whites have obligingly made their runs upstream like pied pipers, with fisher-persons in tow.
I primarily like to fish for White Bass with a fly rod, but these fish hug the bottom. That means I have to break out my sink-tip lines and weighted flies to get down where they are. I like to look for places in the river where there are riffles or shoals that might prevent the fish from easily moving further upstream, and focus my fishing on the pools just below these barriers. I cast and allow the line to fully sink. To insure the fly stays near the bottom, I push my rod tip below the water’s surface, usually to within inches of the bottom where I am wading. I use short erratic strips to imitate a fleeing baitfish, and wait for the tug. Because the rod tip is underwater, I use a strip-set when I feel the fish take the fly rather than sharply lifting the rod.
White Bass are strong fish, and they put up a great fight on a fly rod. They are not acrobatic, but they will pull hard and fast before being subdued.
A word of caution – the fish are not the only whites you may encounter…
But the scenery on hill country rivers when the Bluebonnets are blooming is intoxicating..
And White Bass aren’t the only game in the spring. I caught this beautifully golden common carp…
And a few freshwater drum (aka Gasper-goo for you of the Cajun persuasion). These fish look similar and fight like their salt water cousins, the redfish. Both Carp and Gasper-goo are great sport on the fly.
White Bass are great catch and release fun, but also are great catch and hot grease release fun! Fish tacos tonight!