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Following is a micro selection of previous Anglin' With Austin columns.











13-year-old sets new blue catfish record

By Ray Austin

Published February 5, 2010

Welcome to another week of Anglin' with Austin. Counting the days until Spring and wearing shorts again.

Colton slams blue catfish Texas state record

Well, this wasn't a normal week around the Austin household. Getting a kid out to fish when it's warm is pretty easy, but give this a try. Tell them the drive is four hours and the weather forecast is calling for highs in the 30s and rain for two out of the three days.

All I heard was a grumble and a door lock. After a few hours of sliding candy under the door we were on our way to Twok (that's short for Lake Tawakoni, touted as the catfish capital of Texas).

The last time I had the lake in my sights we were going to hit Texoma and then follow up on Twok. Of course, they had an artic blast unexpectedly roll through, and I was left with three dead batteries and a pull rope in my hand in the middle of cold and windy Lake Texoma.

This time around, I was praying for a balmy 31 degrees and only 15 mph winds.

First day was Friday and it did not go exactly as planned. It's hard to catch fish from a motel room, although, we did have plenty of bait in our ritzy, $49.95 a night, room.

At 1 p.m., the heavy rain stopped and we were headed out in hopes of being covered in fish slime for the rest of the day. After dropping the boat in the water, we anchor up and start baiting lines.

The first five minutes we have a fish lay the rod over and it was a smooth miss by the offspring. A second rod goes down about five minutes later and nada (that means “nothing” in Spanish).

At this point, Colton's steaming and it's time for Dad to step in and give him the old pep talk. Less than an hour later a rod explodes and he lies into this one, driving the 8/0 circle hook into the beasts gum line; fish on!! This is where Colton got hands on experience learning how to work drag on a big baitcasting reel.

The line went slack and he says, “Nooooooo, not again”. Ron and I are screaming, “He's running towards you; catch up with him.” When Colton did get all the line in, the fish took the kid to his knees.

This was a test of equipment rolled up into one long fight with the whiskered whale. I was left worrying about knots and leader strength and praying, “don't fail me now.” Finally, Colton wore the fish out and I managed to get him in the net for everyone to see.

What a remarkable site that fish was.

After all of the hugs and high fives were over, it was time to put the fish on the scale. The only problem was, my scale only went up to 50 pounds. In central Texas, this is usually too much scale.

We laid the fish out to check length and he came in at 48 3⁄8 inches.

After filling out the paper work and getting the notary and witness signatures, the application was approved by a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department biologist.

Colton is now the official holder of the junior catch and release state and Lake Tawakoni water body records.

I couldn't care less if I ever catch another fish. There will never be another moment like the one at Twok on a cold, wet, windy day with Colton.

Local angler hauls in record blue catfish

By Ray Austin

Published January 14, 2010

Welcome to another week of Anglin’ with Austin. Question, is ice fishing legal in Texas?

Freezing temperatures drop lake water temperatures down to the fifties and big blue cat go coo coo for Coco Puffs. That sends this angler into a downward spiral of no sleep and bouncing from lake to lake in the area. When you have ice on your boots and you are still throwing a cast net with your bare hands you love fishing. When your anchor rope goes “clunk” you love fishing.

We fished the Guadalupe chain of lakes for the last six days straight and even dropped in on Canyon to let my customer bust my lake record. This past weekend when the temperatures dropped into the teens, we were there on the lake fishing. When your bait thaws and then refreezes twice, its cold. Three personal bests over a four-day period was priceless.

On Wednesday, we visited the monster, Canyon Lake, and all its splendor on a cold 40-degree day. It did not take us to long to find what we were after, cats on the sonar and stacked up.

Drop two anchors, throw out ten rods, sit back and wait for the action to begin. And begin it did, our rod buried itself and Ron Denson was the proud owner of the new Canyon Lake record blue cat at 25.5 pounds and 39 inches long.

This left me in quite a pickle and having to make on-the-spot executive decisions knowing that the brute on the end of the line would mark the end of my reign as Lake Record Holder. The little man on my left shoulder told me to push the customer overboard into the frigid water and keep the record.

The guy on my middle shoulder told me to just cut the line and be nice. The smart one on my third shoulder intervened and made me net the rascal and break out the camera. The third shoulder sucks. What a day on the water, why cant these big cats be just as hungry when its 101 degrees out?

Several blue catfish hit the floor of the boat this week. Ron followed his catch up with a 15 and 16 pounder on Tuesday.

Robert Aguilera and Travis Smith both landed their personal best, a pair of beautiful 24-pound blues on the Guadalupe. Both big cats put on one heck of a show and fought these two guys for several minutes. Travis even had the pleasure of witnessing day two of the jet boat race finale that took place on Dunlap. Needless to say the only boat in the competition, still came in second.

Please take that boat to Canyon Lake if you want to fly around like a 16-year old in a nova on prom night. There is plenty of room on Canyon and not many people to run into when the wind finally flips you.

If you are looking to catch a beast of a catfish, it is that time of year to be hunting for the big ones. Tie a big circle hook onto your rod, get a piece of fresh shad and put it on the hook. Then hang on tight.

Twas The Week Before Christmas

Twas the week before Christmas and out on the boat

Not a creature was stirring and my offspring was in tow.

My socks were hung on the bow rail with care

In hopes they’d dry in the crisp morning air.


My kid was nestled all snug in his coat

With visions of big fish landing in the boat.

While Colton daydreamed I put on my lucky cap

Then I settled down to read the contour map.


When out on the water there arose such a splatter

I thought the motor fell off or something that mattered

Away to the transom I flew like a flash

Feet spinning and heart racing I did a 6 foot dash


The motor was there but as the sun rose over the lake

I was distracted by the miracle of daybreak.

When what to my wondering eyes should appear

But a miniature ME, screaming “Fish On” and stripping gear.


This son of mine was lively and quick.

Like a pro, set the hook with a jerk and a click.

The kid is good and the fish was lively and game

Power and finesse and on the fish came.


On Colton, on fish, muscles burning and line singing.

A striper, I think, from all the twisting and turning.

Heading straight for the boat, this fish is wise,

Planning to beat this kid in fisherman disguise.


On Colton, on fish, the kid’s face is glowing.

A hard fought battle, but the fight is slowing.

Not a striper - Colton knows it’s a big cat,

A cat that might undo his dad’s record at bat.


And then, in a twinkling, I heard my son say,

“Get the net, Dad, I don’t have all day.”

Musing no more, I leaned over the rail

As that slimy monster slapped his big tail.


With water dripping from my head to my feet

I netted that rascal during his final retreat.

Flipping and flopping from whiskers to tail

He was a bluecat monster, all big, fat and pale.


His eyes how they twinkled, his dimples were none,

With fins like palmettos, he seemed to weigh a ton.

Fat like a hippo and a beautiful blue hue,

This was the cat that Colton was due.


Colton sprang to his feet,

With a loud whistle and whoopee,

Bouncing around and dancing with glee.

It was Christmas vacation two-thousand-nine,

Happy Christmas to all and, to all, tight lines.


Everyone be thankful for the gifts in your life during Christmas, not the gifts under the tree. Someone above sent me my wonderful gift of an offspring just 12 years and 360 days ago and it was more than I could have ever dreamed of. Don’t ever let them leave without telling them that you love them. Spend every possible hour with your gift. Forgive the ones in your life that do not understand what life is really about. Life is not about catching, it is about the time spent by yourself, with a friend, or a loved one enjoying simple time on the water. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!

Stupid Fishing Tricks 

By: Ray Austin
Published November 12, 2009

Welcome to another week of Anglin with Austin. This weeks topic is “Stupid Fishing Guide Tricks” or “Floating With Murphy’s Law” – either way, I’m going to make you feel better about yourself while admitting my fishing foibles.


Ever wonder why a fishing trip just does not go as planned? Sometimes a well-planned fishing trip works like a well-oiled reel – you get some backlash. Unexpected and unplanned diversions just seem to happen. Your planned early start gets rearranged because you set your phone alarm for pm instead of am. Then in the rush to leave the house, the tackle bag is left sitting on the front porch thus rendering all of your rods useless and fishing impossible.


How about this one? The battery is as dead as the fish you hoped to take home for dinner but you don’t find out until after you push the boat off of the trailer in a heavy wind. There you are floating out into the lake – just you and a paddle. I’d like to deny it but I can’t. This happened to me a couple of days ago at Lake Travis.


Why is it that after repeatedly checking the spare trailer tire it’s always low or flat when the inevitable blowout happens? Changing a tire on the interstate when eighteen-wheeler traffic is at its peak is a frightening experience. Along comes the “Snowman” in his 18-wheeled-missile, talking on the radio, not paying attention, almost blows me over and sucks the hat right off of my head. That makes me mad! If my luck ever changes, that lucky fishing hat might have come in handy.


Anchors have a way of ruining the best-laid plans. First, they’re expensive to replace when you do it as often as I do. Throwing the anchor out, then realizing that it’s not coming back - because there’s nothing attached to it - still makes me a little queasy. The last time I lost an anchor I managed to improve on this scenario by making sure that a rope was tied to it. Nobody told me that the rope wasn’t tied to the boat. I threw that sucker like it was a golf ball. Oh, well, another day, another anchor.


There are so many ways to screw up a great day of fishing. I’ve experienced or invented most of them including those peaceful times from the bank. I tend to be a bit hyperactive so when I’m bank fishing I entertain myself with little mind games. As I set out several rods, I’ll mentally pick which rod is going to be “the first to go” and then the “last to go”, etc. The trouble started when I turned my back to pick up the “first to go” rod and the “last to go” rod changed its title without telling me. The last time I saw that rod, the butt end was skipping across the water. Perhaps my mental agility games just aren’t compatible with fishing


Thanks to a good buddy I discovered a new way to ruin what had been a great fishing day. This friend was going to do a “touch and go” at the dock so that I could go get the truck and trailer. He never touched as he watched me go…right into the lake. Timing is everything on a touch and go, and my timing sucked that day.


Another time, on a friends boat, I left my favorite fishing hat, shirt, and rod and reel on the deck while I was backing his truck and trailer down the ramp. After loading the boat I went to get my things only to discover that I had no things left. I ended that evening hearing this line from him; “I never put anything on that deck…it’ll just slide off”. Thanks for that tidbit of information, hot rod!


One of my all time favorite worst fishing days happened years ago on Lake Georgetown with good friend Paul. Knowing that we’d be fishing late, I insisted that we take my pontoon instead of his bass boat. We left his boat and truck, fueled and ready to go, at the ramp, and headed up the San Gabriel River in my big, heavy, pontoon boat.  During the trip I can remember telling a story about another buddy that forgot to get gas – we laughed because this idiot friend of ours had to paddle back to the ramp. Laughing our way across the lake, we watched as boat after boat left the area probably heading home to a hot meal and a comfortable bed. This sounded like a horrible idea to us. Why would we head back when we could fish FARTHER up the river, late into the night? It was a good idea because there were fewer people to see the two morons navigating a pontoon boat with 1 (one) paddle! Oh, yeah, I stopped to get gas but I couldn’t get to the pumps so I went inside and bought some sunflower seeds and forgot all about the gas and besides, I figured we’d take his boat but I changed my mind. Paddling a pontoon is like running on a treadmill, it makes no sense and you get nowhere fast. Hours later, we paddled into the closest ramp where someone that we’d called was waiting to haul us to the farthest ramp to get our trucks.  This was early in the morning and our driver was not happy and had no desire to hear our funny paddling stories. She was mumbling something about “cell phone…blight...evil…dead meat”.  Obviously, not a morning person.

Fishing and marriage are a dicey scenario

Published November 19, 2009

Welcome to another week of Anglin’ with Austin. I’ve been on the water since 3a.m. Wednesday. It’s cold , there aren’t any other boats out and I’m catching fish. Wish you were here – I could use the extra body heat.

I posted a message on FB for good friend, and fellow angler, Paul Landreth, asking if he had any humorous fishing stories he’d like to share. Paul’s a funny guy and he’s kept me laughing over the years. Without realizing it, I’d posted my message to his wife, Regan’s, page and within the hour she had a story back to me. I’d heard the story but this version wasn’t exactly the way Paul had related it to me.

Paul was hitting the bass tournaments pretty heavy a few years back. He spent many weekends chasing fish while his wife and two beautiful little girls stayed at home. He searched for ways to get his wife involved in the sport. His passion for fishing would become her passion and they’d fish happily ever after, every weekend.

I’ve gotta hand it to the bass people – they’re smart. They developed a parallel universe to go along with the standard bass tournaments; Bass Couples, The Two of Us, Couples Trail – you get the picture. Paul figured that this togetherness fishing would be the perfect avenue to introduce Regan to fishing. Regan agreed, scheduled the babysitter and this is where a good idea went south. If you want to get your significant other out of the house and enjoying the good life of slime and tossing lures in a cold environment, you’d better put some fish in the boat.

Tournament day arrived, in February, and it was cold and rainy. Regan got herself decked out appropriately in her husbands favorite camoflauge coveralls. She said they fit just like they belonged to her 6’3” 260 pound husband. Her green and brown camo outfit was modestly accented with a flowing pink boa type scarf and matching gloves. Cabella’s take note; couture accessories department – right next to the stink bait.

Round One: Regan was not the least bit interested in seeing how fast the boat would go on a cold, wet day. Paul, under four layers of clothing and with rain pelting his face, couldn’t see her expressions or hear her grumbling. Skimming across the water at warp speed, Paul eventually noticed Regan’s lack of enthusiasm and decided to move directly to round two, locating fish.

Round Two: From spot to spot, Paul showed Regan the schools of bass on the sonar. They pitched lures ‘til they were blue in the face – or so he thought. Regan had actually developed that eerie shade of blue about the time they left the boat ramp.

 Not a fish hit the boat that day! Poor Paul, everything about his heart was in the right place but the fish and mother nature had an axe to grind. Regan has never been back out; sunny, dry, cold, or wet.

The moral of the story? Don’t try to introduce a new angler to the glory of fishing during these cold, wet months unless you have fish caged up somewhere. In the past I advised that you not take kids out on certain types of trips and this advice should also be applied to your significant other.

Austin lands ‘Big One’ in Lake Dunlap

Published September 15, 2009

Good day to everyone. We'll leave the big fish stories until after we talk about something that's been a long time coming — rain — and not just a little bit of rain — a whole lot of rain, like 5 1⁄2 inches in one day around Canyon Lake.

You could almost expect a fish to hit you in the noggin with all of the water coming down and there's a lot more in the forecasts too.

Here's a holler for all of us — WAHOOOO! This fresh water is what we needed.

Fish will become more active; grass beds will be underwater and loaded with fish and not as many boaters will rip the lower units off their boats. Close the dam at Canyon Lake, GBRA. Victoria is getting hammered with rain and it's time to fill our Canyon up.

More good news, the burn ban has been lifted so run out and start a campfire in the rain.

Rain and fishing

What's that old saying, “In every silver lining a little rain must fall,” or something like that?

As thankful as I am for this rain, I'm a little ticked off too. I finally patterned a few blue and yellow cats on Lake Dunlap and now they're probably all washing into the Lake McQueeney compound.

By the way, my Lake McQueeney invitation never showed up. Must have gotten lost in the mail.

The big fish story

In my last column, I wrote that Lake Dunlap had some potential for great fish in the future. Two days later that future proved to be now!

Monday night we dropped the boat in Dunlap with the intention of fishing a few spots that we had previously found holding catfish on the sonar. The plan was to fish a few hours and then call it a night but you know about the best-laid plans of men and fish. A few hours turned into all night and around 3 a.m. the bait clicker started screaming as a fish on the other end tried to rip the rod holder out of the boat. Finally, after a good fight, it was net time and I could see the brute and the mass he was packing. He bent the big net but we finally got him onto the floor of the boat. This blue cat was a jim-dandy by Central Texas standards - 35 pounds and 40 inches of slimy muscle.

Did I think that Dunlap would hold something that big? Sure I did. This is why I spent so many nights with so many rods in the water last month. Did I catch a fish every night that I fished? No, I got blanked on one 8-hour excursion. Do I think that the little lake that runs right under Interstate 35 and right up to residential doorsteps holds something even bigger? I think there are fish twice that size in Dunlap. I think that there are also some sharelunker bass floating around just waiting for the right bait to hit the water at the right time. If you are growing 35-pound catfish in a lake, the bass population is eating just as healthy and growing, percentage-wise, at a faster rate.

We took the fish to the official scale at Cabela's for the weigh-in and he never left. He was invited to stay awhile and join the other fish on display at the Cabela's aquarium. I met some good people and aquarium curator Christopher White took good care of my fish while quarantining him for a few days. The thing that worried me about “Boog” (yes he has a name) was whether he'd be a good guest. I mean it's not good manners to eat your fellow guests. When Boog arrived there were a few smaller fish in there with him and I was kinda hoping the head count would be the same when he came out of quarantine.

Into the Tank “Boog” goes.

Backstage at the Cabela's aquarium is unbelievable. I pictured it as having one big black aerator and a couple of huge fireman hoses. You know - kind of like a version of our aquariums at home, only 200,000 times bigger. Wrong! Christopher White's expertise and the facilities are just amazing. There's a slideshow of the entire behind the scenes ”Boog” baptism at

Lake Dunlap, with its non-existent boat traffic, has great potential to be a fishing haven. I think jugliners Josh Hoover and Aaron Burgette will agree after bringing in a 29.8 pound blue cat and several slightly smaller cats. I've been checking out Lake Placid too, looking for more big kitties, and I marked some up on sonar. I'm not going to say where exactly but, hopefully, there will be pictures of another good fish in the next month or so.

Grand Slam of a Week

Published August 9, 2009

Hello anglers and welcome to another week of Angling with Austin. The best time to go fishing is yesterday. That’s when they’re biting. 

It was a great week of fishing for my customers and this ol’ fishing guide. Kind of an angling slam of sorts, a triple play…much better than some of my no-hitters.  From Calaveras to Choke Canyon to Canyon Lake in four days; from Redfish to Blue Cats to Large Mouth Bass to Yellow Cats to Gar – it was a great week for fishing. 

On Saturday we fished busy Lake Calaveras.  That place reminds me of five o’clock traffic in Austin - too small for that many people. I took some customers from Kerrville to catch reds and that is what we did, landing four monster freshwater redfish with three measuring over 32”.  

The next two days were spent on the legendary Choke Canyon Reservoir catching catfish until we were blue in the face. Over 150 cats in two days was exhausting from my standpoint but I wouldn’t have it any other way. At the end of the day Monday, I decided to relax and do some big kitty fishing.  Unbelievably, those big catfish I was looking for led me straight to a TOAD of a bass, pushed over ten pounds and into the club. 

I am always reading forums and seeing these bass anglers talking about fishing with artificial lures and complaining about accidentally hooking into some big catfish that I’m sure had my name written all over it. The thing that upsets me the most …THEY WEREN’T EVEN TRYING. Well, I finally fixed their little red skeeter and tied into one of their monster fish on my terms - my first Largemouth Bass over 10 pounds. That’s TEN, t-e-n, 10 pounds!  

If you think this is a “fish story”, it’s not. I actually have a witness and pictures of the fish with a cloth tape beside it, that’s almost as rare as the fish I caught.  

We were fishing live bait, chasing big kitties, when the rodeo began.  Bass dudes, this is going to be like a shot to the abdomen. I caught this boss bass on a Team Catfish Double Action circle hook. I’m positive…looked at it twice and another angler with 20/20 vision verified it – Team Catfish hook attached to a bass, a large bass – no, make that a Very Large bass. Fishing with live bait for catfish and trying to get the bait through the bass on Choke Canyon Reservoir this past week was kinda like dangling a Twinkie in front of me and trying to hand it to the guy behind me – it’s just not gonna get through. We were catching bass, one after the other. The only time I can remember catching that many bass was at Lake Amistad last month. I caught so many 2 and 3 pounders in one schooling spot, I thought I would have to call a wrist doctor to the motel. For the record, I’ve never caught a bass over 7.5 pounds but this trip we caught 6, 7, 8, and 9 pound bass, and, not sure if I mentioned it yet, a 10-Pound Bass! One of the 9 pounders missed the magical mark of ten pounds by mere ounces. We tried and tried to get the live bait down to the big kitties but the bass just hammered our bait before it could get through.  Geez!  Bass big enough to eat my large live bait, when I’m trying to catch big cats, are just a nuisance.  But then, did I mention that I caught a 10-Pound Bass??  The cats will get their vittles one day maybe, that bass was put right back in the reservoir after pictures. 

The following day we fished Canyon Lake and caught more catfish and about 15 @%^*# gar. These fish are a major nuisance and I am seriously contemplating selling guided trips to catch these trash fish and get as many of them out of the lake as legally possible.  

Attempting this three-lake slam has been exhausting and expensive and should only be attempted by single people. The repercussions for someone with a spouse…I am not responsible for.  

The men who throw the artificial lures and the men who throw the live bait are both searching for the same results, big fish and lots of ‘em. Some days one is better than the other. I prefer live bait and occasionally bring the artificial out when downrigging for stripers and reds. Emphasis on “occasionally” because to me this is real work. I try to set aside enough time to soak the baits and kick back and relax. The anglers that throw the artificial baits are steadily moving and covering more ground and seeing more fish while I am waiting for the fish to come strolling by. Heck, just watching some of these anglers makes me tired. There is no right or wrong way to fish for your trophy. A ten-pound bass, a thirty-seven inch redfish, or a twenty-pound catfish are all trophies that you’ll talk about for years, no matter what method you used to catch it. They all make you smile and this is why we fish. 

A fishing trip takes an unexpected turn

{The Gator Story}

Published June 21, 2009

Welcome to another week of Anglin’ with Austin. This has been a very interesting week for this angler/wrangler.

Just a normal fishing trip

On Tuesday evening, Skip and Robyn Gladden from the Baytown area joined me for a guided night fishing trip on Canyon Lake. I picked them up at the Cranes Mill Marina, a great place to fuel the boat up, grab some drinks and snacks, even rent a boat. After getting everyone on board we headed up to the north end of the lake to catch some cats and crappie, but little did we know what the evening would bring.

It started off as a real normal night of fishing for us. Windy conditions forced us to relocate to several different fishing spots up in the river. One good thing about a winding river is that you always have a bend in the river to hide behind, out of the wind.

We caught a few catfish early into our adventure and after night fell, we fired the lanterns up and commenced to crappie fishing. We talked about family, Skip and Robyn’s lives back in Baytown and fishing — no set agenda in mind, just fish till they fall asleep…and that we did.

We caught crappie all night, around 100, with about 18 good size keepers in the box. The three catfish in the box made for a nice fish fry for their family and friends back home.

There’s something out there

During the trip they asked me if there were any gators in the Guadalupe and I responded with a stern “NO” that probably sounded like, “are you crazy? There aren’t any gators in this area.”

Skip was the last angler standing that night when we wrapped up around 3 a.m. and poor Robyn was passed out in the comfort of the bench seat and a beach towel, probably just resting for the real work ahead.

We picked anchors and lanterns up, untied from the trees, and headed back with headlights blazing through the star covered sky when we saw a strange animal swimming about fifteen feet in front of us. I couldn’t see much from behind the console of the boat and asked Skip to tell me what the heck it was.

This is where the fun began.

Skip returns to me with the definition of the weird swimming critter…Gator. He did not even skip a beat when he said it either. I laughed and asked again, “Really, what is it?”…same answer. I began to believe him.

Let the games begin

Monster alligator wranglers reporting for duty.

Ok, not exactly a monster at 52 inches but still a rodeo with two amateur Steve Irwin wannabees in the boat.

Instinct always makes me reach for the big net on the boat whenever something is coming out of the water longer than 24 inches. I tell Skip, “Here, catch him in this net” but I never made it past the point of, “what then?” Skip responded with no words just a blank stare. You know, the kind you see from people when you’re telling fishing stories.

He obviously had the same sleep deprivation that I had because the message reached his hands before it reached his brain. He swooped down with the net and missed on his first pass. The gator was ducking and diving and Skip was falling all over the boat.

Robyn woke up with terror in her eyes. Her fishing companions had gone nuts while she slept. If only I could have read her mind at the point that she realized that we were trying to catch an alligator. Was she thinking that it would be fun to actually catch it and put it on the deck of the boat with her? I don’t think so.

Gator Wranglers

Again, we miss the gator with the net, but he comes back up 10-feet away and we go after him. My only intent was to catch him and have him relocated to an area with other alligators and away from my fishing hole.

Alligator removal and replacement is not easy when there are big teeth involved. Alligators are naturally afraid of humans and rarely stay around long enough for humans to get within 50-feet. There is an interesting link written by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. You can Google Texas alligators and the link is right there to teach you about the mild attitude that gators carry around. We were the aggressors that night and probably deserved to get a pearly white in the buttocks but everybody had all appendages attached at the end of the night…excuse me, morrrrning, yawn.

Pursuit continued as Godzilla made his way into his lair under a rock. I extended the net into the hole and in runs an alligator.

Well, now what, Cletus?

There was a weird, spontaneous reaction as I put the gator on the floor of the boat. Skip and Robyn’s leg muscles retracted simultaneously as they inched up the seats. Somehow we managed to put a towel over his eyes and taped his mouth shut — because that’s what the Crocodile Hunter would do.

Not sure about my options at this point, I left a message for the game warden and began the 45-minute trip back to the marina. About five minutes out from the marina, the game warden calls back and he asks me to release it back to the area where we caught him. Very valid point. This paragraph was taken from the alligator information page on the TPWD website:

Alligator-human conflicts are rare in Texas. No human fatality attributed to alligators has been recorded in Texas. Good judgment on the part of humans can reduce incidents to a minimum.

Catching one in a net, snapping pictures with no tape on his snoot, riding back out alone to release him in the dark, carrying him in my lap at one point was probably not good judgment…duh.

The trip back out to what I now refer to as HIS fishing hole was interesting.

To make a long story short, the knot that we’d tied came loose from the net, unknown to me of course. Out of the corner of my eye, I see what looks like a lizard climbing a wall…yep. He is on his way out of the boat with tape still on his snoot. When I removed this alligator from his habitat, he didn’t have tape on his mouth, so I don’t want him to go back in with the tape wrapping up his only avenue to eat.

I gently tackle him and placed him on my lap for the last quarter-mile of the trip to his lair — actually snapped a picture of the two of us in our cozy seat.

Upon arrival, I laid him on the floor and unwrapped the tape from his mouth and let him run out the door of the boat to freedom.

A rare occurence

I have spent a lot of nights on that river and have never seen an alligator — until now.

In my opinion, this was probably a pet that someone couldn’t handle anymore and irresponsibly released into the wild.

Fishing on Choke Canyon, I’ve enjoyed observing the big 10-foot-plus alligators in their natural habitat. They’re fascinating creatures and getting to meet one like this was a gift that I’ll never forget.

I’ve named this one Larry. In the future, Larry and I will be battling for the same fish but never each other. This is his place. If I ever see him again, we’ll probably exchange a wink and a smile and go on doing what we do best — fish.

Dock courtesy is key during fishing season

Published May 31, 2009

Welcome back for more fishing talk and torture.

On Monday night, as I was pulling out of the Potters Creek ramp, I finally met the guy who reads my column — Mr. Waterman. Thanks for keeping up with the column and, especially, thank you, for not kicking my tail. Giving fishing advice can be a dangerous business if it doesn’t happen to work out.

Snakes Alive

Before I forget, let me write this down. Snakes … lots of ‘em.

Walk down the ramp at Potters Creek ramp on a 90-degree day this week and peek under the ramp going down to the dock.


Opens up ideas for the unwanted fishing guests that you’re trying to keep off of your boat. Toss the truck keys to them and land them in the general vicinity of the serpents. If you have kids, hide and seek should take part in another area of the lake.

Courtesy Docks

Don’t let your kids hang out around the courtesy docks during busy loading and unloading times. I realize it says “courtesy dock” and some will use it to fish and swim off of, but please, not during the busy times. Some of the boaters and jet skiers out there aren’t real courteous and some lack that common sense gene. Chances are, they won’t see you, your kids or your fishing line.

Boat Ramp Etiquette

Last weekend I fought the crowds on two different lakes and took in the craziness that the ramps had to offer. I wanted to talk a little about boat ramp courtesy. Anyone can go and buy a boat and put it in the water with no experience or training required. This is alarming and the results have become a regular sight to me.

Common courtesy — Take up one line on the boat ramp. If you can’t back down the ramp straight, go practice during the week when its slow. I saw a man at Choke Canyon on Friday back the boat down the ramp and then he had his wife and kid holding the boat in the middle of a three-lane ramp.

The boat was blowing sideways and had all three lanes tied up and no one could get in or out of the lake. He must have spent five minutes parking the trailer while everyone waited on him. I was about to go out of my mind and about 10 seconds from fishing out of his boat for the weekend. That might teach him a lesson.

Picture him coming back down the ramp to see his boat leaving on a guided trip full of customers, including his wife and daughter and he might be half as mad as I was waiting on him.

Load First — Have the boat loaded with everything prior to entering the ramp area. I love waiting on people that pull right in the middle of the dadburn ramp and then commence to load the dog, ice chests and bags into the boat.

They were just sitting in a line, waiting for 15 minutes to unload, and had the chance to do it then.

Arghhhh … How I’d love to help them load their boat. My crash course on loading at the ramp is free and only takes about 30 seconds.

Common sense and courtesy play a big role on the ramps.

Almost a Disaster

I knew this was going to happen but was not aware that it would happen right in front of me and thank God no one was hurt.

Picture this … a big white buoy marking a shallow area with rocks sticking about 8 inches out of the water to boot. Jet fleas, I mean skis, going back and forth around the Cranes Mill fishing pier area while people had their lines in the water. Had I been on the pier, I’m sure I’d have been able to land one of them with just a cork and 1/0 hook.

The brainiac on one of the jet skis finally had the brain lock I was anticipating and ran up on the shallow area. He wasn’t hurt and I watched as he pushed his fiberglass death-wish out of the shallow area — 10 feet from the big white buoy and rocks.

Here comes the funny part.

I swear it wasn’t me. The comment came from the fishing pier that’s about 50 feet away, “Hey, %^#@, can’t you read the sign?” Pride and watercraft were damaged that day. I’ve tried to warn people but I don’t think these guys had the ability to open the paper, much less read it.

Later on that day, two more braniacs took off up the river on their guided missiles and I guess they were looking for stumps and timber for a new pinstripe. I ask myself, what would possess a person to take a jet ski into a river full of timber when there is a lake full of open water. Again, let’s use our heads out there.

If plan A doesn’t work …

One good thing about fishing is that there are several choices and types of fish to fill the voids when one species decides to get lockjaw. On Tuesday, I had a customer who wanted to fish for bass while we waited the catfish out. There I sat, tied up (not me — the boat) with six catfish rods soaking and the customer doing some great casting off of the back of the boat. While watching him cast in and out of obstructions, I mentally listed all the fish that had hit the lines earlier that day.

What a variety of entertainment — largemouth bass, channel cat, blue cat, a yellow cat that broke off, and a spotted alligator gar.

After dropping the customers off, I went back out for a little night fishing with good friend Travis from the Tackle Box.

While fishing for cats, we burned the lantern and Travis gave me a little crappie 101. We fought bugs, discussed which types of mayflies taste the best, and caught big black and white crappie well into the night. While cleaning fish at 2 a.m., I came to reflect on the entire day and I thought about how lucky we are to be angling in Texas and have such a variety of fish to chase.

When limiting yourself to one species of fish you might be cutting yourself out of some good fishing. My customer jumped up on the back decks on my boat and threw lure after lure, around trees and rocks, catching bass, while we had six rods off the front waiting the catfish out.

Tied up to trees that night, we had six or seven lines out catfishing. With a lantern hanging off the back to attract baitfish, the crappie came up to chase after the minnows we had dangling from our two handheld rods.

All of this can be done from a boat or from the bank at night. Find a good open spot to toss your lines for cats and let them sit with a good punch bait or cut shad.

Take a lantern and place it by a spot with timber and the bugs will come and attract the little bait fish, the crappie and white bass will soon follow.

BlueCat landed with fast feet and greed

Published May 3, 2009

Hello anglers. Welcome to my first fishing column at the Herald-Zeitung.
I’m a professional fishing guide, operating under the dba of TopCat Fishing Guide Service.

When I’m not fishing, I’m usually talking about fishing, blogging about fishing, scouting fishing or repairing tackle, boats and throw nets.

With this new endeavor, I’ll be sharing all of the above with you — the good, the bad, the wishful, and the mostly truthful facts about fishing in Central Texas.

 Every angler has a secret method, specific weather signal, or a special baiting ritual that turns us into “fish whisperers.” These methods tend to work only when there are no cameras or witnesses.

True fish story

I am going to share something rare with you — a fish story documented by a witness and photos.

Last month, I invited good friend and fellow fishing guide ##### #### (name has been deleted from this site by request) to go out on Canyon Lake, to chase big catfish.

It was a beautiful day and all the rods and reels were working, the boat was ready to dance and the shad were screaming from the live well. Having found the first of many “perfect” fishing spots, we dropped some lines in the water.

#####’s cell phone rang and this is where we apply fishing tip No. 1: take someone fishing who is busier than you are.  The fish will be stripping drag while Mr. Top Guide is on his phone and you’re pulling in the fish and all the glory.

While ##### was blabbing away and booking client after client, I was making idle chit chat with myself, counting hooks in my tackle box, weighing my lead weights and landing the lake record blue catfish on cut shad in 3 feet of water.

##### still refers to my catch as “location, fast feet and greed,” which I interpret as, “congrats buddy.” This will teach him to make a living while I am trying to fish.

The blue cat qualified with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department as a Trophy Texas Blue Catfish, minimum length of 36 inches.

I’m not sure what magic editors use but the proof and picture is supposed to be somewhere close to this column. In the picture I’m the one with the short whiskers and no fins.

This, my friends, is why we fish. The heavens, the sun, moon, and mother nature all conspire to surprise us, delight us, infuriate us and keep us coming back for more.

Taking advantage of the calm lakes

Fishing has been good through the winter and anglers on Canyon, Dunlap, and Placid lakes have enjoyed the time away from the recreational boaters and jet fleas — jet skis, I mean. Even with the lake levels and temperature dropping at the same rate, anglers all over our area were donning winter gear dressed up like the Michelin man in search of “the big one.”

We refer to ourselves as smart while fishing these lakes and not having to fight the waves from ski boats. Personally, I think we have a screw loose. Why do you think they make straight jackets with sleeves in the back? It’s so we anglers stay warm and can’t hold a fishing pole during the winter. We should be ashamed to talk about fishing all the time, but we’re not. We brag, we stretch the truth, we bore non-anglers to tears, and we are in a class of our own.

Don’t forget your life vest

Now that it’s getting warmer and the rain dances are working, we will be out in mass. It’s time to finish the honey-do list and get the kitchen pass signed because it’s time to fish.

Let’s make it a safe year. This column needs return readers. There are surprises on every lake, so, please, be careful and wear your life vest. We have had a rough, very windy start to the year with Texas Parks and Wildlife officials pulling people out of lakes in record numbers, alive and deceased, all across the Lone Star State. Fashion statements are not a necessity on the boat.

People magazine has never named one angler to the 100 most beautiful list. The pink Barbie vest you bought at a garage sale might work, but there are a lot of size appropriate vests on the market that have great photographic appeal, fit well and keep your head above water. Every angler has at least one reason to wear one. I do not want to read an obituary for another angler this year. I check them everyday looking for my name and who showed.

What are they biting on?

Fishing should be excellent from sunup until about 10 a.m. and in the evening, after work, from 6-10 p.m. The spawn for most bass and catfish is arriving late; these fish should be ready for the meals you throw at them.

Disclaimers: if you fish these times and they do not bite, move. I was specifically talking about the other spot you fish.

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