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Lake Texoma Basics

By Rex Walker,Texas
Lake Texoma is an 88,000 surface acre flood control reservoir built in the 1940's along the Texas and Oklahoma border by the Corps of Engineers. The lake is located about an hour's drive north of Dallas and about an hour and half from the DFW airport. The lake is a popular fishing destination for Striped, largemouth, smallmouth, white, and even spotted bass species. The lake recently gave up a 120 lb Blue catfish and a 130 lb alligator gar. I don't know about that catfish or the gar, but the other fish can be caught on a fly rod.

My experience fishing large reservoirs was very limited the first time I put a boat in Texoma, and quite frankly, it was a little overwhelming. I basically looked around and thought, "Now what do I do?" This article is an attempt to summarize what I wish I had known that day, and hopefully it will be a good introduction for someone new to the lake. I'm sure some of you reading this article know a lot more than I do about Texoma, so write it down and submit part two of this article to FAOL.

First, some basic details of the lake. It is located on the Texas and Oklahoma border and historically these states don't cooperate very well. That means that they do not recognize each other's fishing licenses, so to fish both sides of the lake, you either have to buy both a Texas and an Oklahoma license, or purchase a Lake Texoma specific license. In 2004, the Lake Texoma license was $12. The lake is big and there can be a large volume of both "pleasure" and "fishing" boat traffic. Especially in the summer, watch out for other boats, because every year someone is killed in a boating accident. There are a couple of hazards that you need to be aware of if you bring your boat to Texoma. One is the weather. Watch out for fast moving thunderstorms, and watch for high winds. If the wind speed is over 20 mph think twice about launching, and use a big boat. While we are on that topic, some of the bigger boats can create wakes that are very dangerous to hit while on plane. These wakes can be difficult to see, so use caution around those boats. Texoma is not a real wide lake, but it is long and you can burn a lot of gas trying to get across it. Public ramps and marinas are easy to find, so it is possible to launch close to the area you plan to fish. Ramp fees range from free to about $5. Texoma is fishable year round, and crowds are significantly smaller between Labor Day and Memorial Day. During the winter, you can have schools of fish all to yourself.

Steve striping fly

Most Texoma fishing is done from a boat, but it is possible to fish from the bank. Two easy access bank-fishing locations are the river below the dam and the dam's face. The Red River holds a variety of species, but if you want to wade it, you will need an Oklahoma license because they own the river. The riprap on the face of the dam can be fished and can be a good place to find smallmouth bass and sometimes Stripers.

The crown jewel of Texoma is its Striped bass population. Stripers reproduce in this lake, and the population is enormous. The liberal catch limits reflect the population size, in 2005 - 10 Stripers per day with no minimum length limit but only two of these fish can be over twenty inches in length. Texoma may not be the best choice if you are looking to catch a "trophy" size Striper, but it is an excellent choice if you want the opportunity to catch multiple Stripers. The large population makes this a good fly fishing location.

Author with Striper The techniques for catching Stripers are a little different than those used for black bass, although they do overlap. Black bass tend to stay in a fairly small area and ambush their prey. Stripers chase their prey and will roam all over the lake looking for shad. The "start and stop" retrieve that works so well with a black bass doesn't usually work with a Striper. Instead a steady, constant pace often works better. I think that is because Stripers are used to chasing shad, and when you are being chased, you go as fast as you can and you don't stop. The best retrieve speed varies from day to day, so experiment until you find a speed the fish react to.

Stripers spawn in the late January to February in the rivers. So, there is a little bit of a seasonal migration of the Texoma Stripers. In the winter, they tend to be found more on the western end of the lake toward the Red River, and then in the summer, more of them are found near the dam where the water is deeper and cooler. There is a similar pattern to the north in the Washita River arm of the lake. With that said, the Stripers travel so much that you can find them all over the lake year round, but your odds of finding fish tend to be better by following that pattern.

Most Striper fishing on Texoma is done with live bait and to a lesser extent with large artificial lures. There are hundreds of guides available on the lake, and in the summer this creates an atmosphere where many people "chase the guides." They will follow the guide boats or use binoculars to watch other boats to see who is catching fish. The result is that you will see Texoma "boat shows" on the lake in the summer where anywhere from 10 to 50 boats will all be fishing the same school of fish. Personally, I don't like fishing in a crowd. So in the summer, I tend to fish the early morning topwater bite, and then I'll go after black bass. Texoma has enough shoreline that you can always find a place to fish in peace.

Productive area

Speaking of topwater, it is a wonderful way to fly fish for Stripers. The best topwater times are spring and fall when the Stripers chase the shad into shallow water. You are looking for wind blown points preferably near a rapid depth change. The Stripers will corral the shad against these points. You really should experience a topwater Striper strike at least once in your life, but be warned that it is not for the faint of heart. The strikes can be subtle where your fly just disappears and starts heading for China at high speed, or the lake may explode right in front of you. Although, the hardest strike on my heart is the "near miss" where you'll see a bright silver flash right below your fly and you know a Striper just changed their mind right before taking your fly...Ouch! For topwater, cast right on the edge of the bank, you'll often catch them in less than one foot of water. If they are away from the bank, put your fly right in the middle or just past the center of the circle where a Striper has just been. Or just fan cast and you'll be surprised when one appears unexpectedly. Bob's Banger style flies are good choices to start with and recently, I have had some luck with Crease flies. Please note that the topwater bite on Texoma is short, usually only lasting for an hour or two after sunrise, so get on the lake early.

Topwater is my favorite, but most Stripers are caught in the open lake. In the open, I suggest using a fast sinking line. When you find a school you will basically fan cast from your boat and then let your fly sink before starting your retrieve - the faster your line sinks the more casts you will be able to make. Let your fly sink deep. The larger Stripers tend to be deeper than the smaller Stripers that rise to the surface. This is why you want a fast sinking line. It takes way too much patience to wait for a slow sinking line when you are surrounded by a school of Stripers. Long casts are also good because they give you more line in the water to sink and still have a long retrieve after waiting forever for it to sink to the right depth. Use baitfish imitations for your fly choices; Clousers, deceivers, whistlers, etc. type flies - you want to imitate a shad. The colors to start with are chartreuse or white or some combination. Other colors will work and the casting crowd is even starting to use hot pink/white and orange/white combinations. So, again experiment to determine what works that day. The size of the flies is important. I tend to use flies, that when laid across the palm of my hand, will hang over both sides. One last comment on winter Striper fishing, Seagulls winter on Texoma so bring binoculars and watch for them. If you can find feeding birds, you have just found a feeding school of Stripers.

Patient Fisher

The black bass population in Texoma consists of largemouth, smallmouth, and spotted bass. The lake was built in the 1940's, so there is no timber left in the main lake, and you will find little vegetation. The main bass cover is either rocks or man-made such as boathouses or the tire reefs in front of the marinas. When looking for bass, target rocky points or coves that contain a lot of rocks. In the heat of the summer, the shade of the boathouses can be productive, especially those that are located next to deep water. The largemouth population seems to be scattered across most of the lake, but the smallmouth population is more numerous closer to the dam. Good areas to search for smallmouth's include the rocky bank along the Texas state park and any of the riprap in the dam area. Texoma is starting to build a reputation for great smallmouth fishing. The Oklahoma smallmouth record was caught in 2003 in the Washita arm of the lake and weighed 7 lb 12 oz. For largemouth's, I fish rocky points and boathouses most often. The sandy banks of the islands are good targets during spawn. However, a summer time "bikini hatch" tends to disrupt the fishing around the islands as the weather heats up. Oops! Back to fishing. As far fly choices are concerned, all of the standard bass flies seem to work well. Personally, I'm partial to Calcasieu pig boat's, olive rabbit strip worm flies, clousers, assorted baitfish patterns, crawdad patterns, and of course topwater flies. Just remember that the primary forage for the bass, just like for the Stripers, is shad. So, be sure to bring some flies in the sizes and colors that imitate Shad or baby Stripers.

If you do get to visit Texoma, DFW is the closest major airport. Sherman and Denison, Texas are close to the lake and have a decent selection of hotels and restaurants, but the closest fly shop is in Dallas. If you are coming to Texas or Oklahoma from out of state, you should try barbecue, some Mexican food, and around Texoma the fried catfish. The easiest directions to a catfish restaurant involve driving across the dam into Oklahoma and looking to your left as you enter the town. However, my personal favorite is called "Huck's" and is now located on highway 75 in Denison.

For equipment, I'd bring a floating line and a fast sinking line and somewhere around an 8 wt rod to fish the main lake. I use a 7 wt rod and some folks use 6's and 9's. Just bring whatever rod you are comfortable casting in the wind. There are at least two full time fly fishing guides on the lake; "www.teamgrady.com/fly_fishing.shtml" and "http://www.trinex.net/flyfishing/". Grady's site also contains several recommended fly patterns and it is worth visiting. For current fishing reports, check out the bait fishing reports on a couple of regional bulletin boards; "www.sixoldgeezers.com" and "www.texasfishingforum.com". The 6 old geezers site is maintained by a group of six retired guys in Oklahoma who go fishing together almost every day. Gee, retired and Striper fishing daily, that sounds like a good plan to me.

Have fun. ~ Rex Walker

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