Where Are The Bass?

What can be learned about largemouth bass behavior and movements in late fall, early winter on Texas lakes?

Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) biologists used Livescope electronics and receivers to track bass fitted with transmitters at the Texas Toyota Bass Fest recently held on Lake Fork. The study was to look at bass movement and the impact of boating and fishing activity on them.

The tracking study, which is also being conducted on Toledo Bend, began last spring. It involves bass 2 pounds and up released in Birch Creek on Fork and Housen Bayou on Toledo Bend.

Although a few of the bass have died or the transmitters have failed, there are still enough for research purposes. TPWD latest tracking effort on Fork coming just two days before the B.A.S.S. event.

The biologist found 75 percent of the fish located were on timber, up about 25 percent from October. One was on a boat dock, down from three in October, and two were found in schools, also down from the previous month when five were running with other bass.

“I think overall what we have seen with the fish we are tracking lined up pretty well with what the pros saw,” said Jake Norman, TPWD district biologist.

Walters caught most of his fish on jerk baits after long casts. The key was not to not disturb the fish. That correlates with TPWD’s results which showed two-thirds of the fish they tracked prior to the tournament reacted to fishing activity.

“The first big takeaway is how many fish are reacting/moving when our boat gets near them. I don’t think this observation is special to the fall, but it was apparent during the tournament. I heard the BASS commentators mention many times how critical it was for Patrick Walters to make long casts at the fish he saw on Livescope to avoid spooking them,” Norman explained.

One seemingly contradiction between the tournament and the study were fish on boat docks. Several fishermen had success around boat docks.

“However, after watching the anglers fish the same boat docks over and over, and making statements about how important a few docks were, our data doesn’t surprise me. If anything, it highlights that fish certainly use boat docks, but they are not relating to all boat docks. If that were the case, I think the anglers fishing docks wouldn’t have struggled later in the tournament as they slowly wore out their best docks,” Norman explained. He added the key is the right location, water depth, habitat and nearby structure.

TPWD showed little movement between its October tracking and November. Some had moved up to a half mile, but most remained close to the same location month to month.
“From the data we have so far, I would speculate more often the fish are still around and simply more challenging to be caught than the previous day,” Norman said. Walters saw that during the tournament and noted the bit got tougher later in the event even though he could still see the fish.

“It will be interesting to see how this trend continues over the next few months with water temps dropping,” Norman added.

Last summer the Lake Fork bass were homebodies moving no more than 100 yards between June and October. Most stayed shallow even in the hottest months.

Norman said he had 144 total locations of individual fish over the summer. Six of those tracking pings were in too thick of cover to test the impact of boat noise or lure presentation on them. Of the 138 remaining 67 reacted to boat noise, moving either a short distance or 50 yards or more away. Of the 71 that did not move, 12 did move to fishing or the presence of a lure.

On Toledo Bend biologist Todd Driscoll had summer data showing average fish movement of just 130 feet per day.

The transmitters are expected to last up to two years and the survey will continue as long as the transmitters perform.

Photo courtesy TTBF


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Fishing Report from TPWD (Jan. 19)

GOOD. Water stained; 55-58 degrees; 3.33 feet low. Fishing remains the same as we head into another cold front. Bass are good on Carolina rigs and crankbaits in the points, ditches and drains. Crappie are good on live minnows, then jigs after the live bite subsides. You will find them in creeks and river channels. Catfish are good in shallow to 15 feet of water, moving towards the creeks. Report by Lynn Atkinson, Reel Um N Guide Service.

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