STORIES THE VIEW UPSTREAM By: Keith ''Catfish'' Sutton Texas Hotspot Destinations for Fall Catfishing With plenty of lakes and rivers stocked with catfish, the Lone Star State is becoming one of America's hottest fisheries Trophy-class catfish like this often bend the poles of anglers fishing this trio of lakes in the Lone Star State. (Keith Sutton photo) Texans love catfishing. Of the almost 7 million over-age-16 catfish anglers in the U.S., slightly more than 1 million reside in the Lone Star State alone. Lucky for those folks, and visiting anglers from other states, Texas encompasses many waters renowned for great catfishing. Some are best known for producing heavyweight trophies. Others have well-deserved reputations for fast action – lots of cats caught during a day of fishing, with an occasional lunker in the harvest to keep you on your toes. All of them offer excellent fishing for in-the-know catfish fans. If you’re planning some whiskerfishing in the Lone Star State this fall, this trio of blue-ribbon honeyholes should be among the locales you consider visiting. Lake Texoma Straddling the Oklahoma/Texas border, this 89,000-acre reservoir is first and foremost a trophy blue cat lake. Texoma gave up two former Texas record blue cats – a 116-pound trotline-caught blue in 1985 and a 90-pound rod-and-reel record in 1995. The Oklahoma portion of Texoma surrendered a 118.5-pounder to a jug fisherman in 1988. That fish stands as the Sooner State’s unrestricted tackle record. At least four IGFA and National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame line-class records also were caught in Texoma. These include fish weighing 80, 75 and 69 pounds. The most notable catfish caught here, however, was the 121.5-pound former world-record blue caught by Cody Mullennix in January 2004. Although anglers take Texoma blues year-round, the best chance to catch a record-class fish, say local guides, is during late fall and winter. Blue cats are more concentrated then, because the shad they feed on are concentrated. Lots of big fish congregate in small areas, and if you can pinpoint them on a fish-finder or by other means, chances of catching several trophy fish are superb. One excellent locale for catfishing is the lake’s Red River arm from the islands to the dam, a 6-mile stretch of water. The Washita arm is good from the Roosevelt Bridge to the main body of the lake. Drift-fishing over the river channels with live shad is a popular local tactic, especially on calm fall and winter days. Most blues stack up in bends of channels. Texoma also boasts a substantial population of dandy channel cats. Heavyweights are rare, but small ones serve up plenty of action. Flatheads aren’t common here, but occasional 50-pounders turn up. For more information, visit laketexoma.com. Guide service is available from former world-record holder Cody Mullennix himself at codysguideservice.com. Lake Livingston No body of water in Texas has more potential for producing lots of big catfish than Lake Livingston. Located on the Trinity River 75 miles northeast of Houston, this 82,600-acre impoundment is one of the best year-round catfish lakes in the country. Blue cats, channel cats and flatheads thrive here in fertile shallow-water environs rich with shad and other forage fish. Hefty specimens of all three species are taken on a regular basis. According to Texas Parks & Wildlife (TPW), the lake record flathead weighed 82 pounds, the lake-record blue weighed 71 pounds, and the lake-record channel cat weighed 14 pounds. Catfishing is good throughout Livingston, but especially productive are some old lake beds inundated when the dam was built. Places such as Hickman Lake, Horseshoe Lake, Hardison Slough and Halls Lake are a few of the spots producing excellent catfishing. The Trinity River channel winds across the lake bed, with shallow flats and bars along the side. The upper lake in particular is full of old tree stickups, with some still standing further down the lake near the Trinity River channel. These areas produce outstanding numbers of out-sized cats. One favorite area for local cat fans is a several-hundred-acre spot known as “The Jungle.” Aptly named for its dense woody cover, this catfish honeyhole is in the lake’s upper end across from White Rock Creek. Another spot favored by local cat men is the Highway 190 bridge that crosses Livingston near its midsection. The 1.5-mile causeway is near Onalaska, Texas. Concrete walkways lead to excellent bank fishing areas here, and literally hundreds of people fish there day and night year-round. Catfish congregate here to gorge on huge concentrations of shad. Another hot spot for line-stretchers is the tailrace below the dam. Chances of hooking a trophy-class channel, blue or flathead in the roiling waters here are excellent year-round. For more info, visit the TPW Lake Livingston page by clicking here. Lake Tawakoni Just 28 miles east of Dallas, this 36,700-acre Sabine River Authority lake serves up excellent fishing for the big cat trio – flatheads, blues and channels. One- to 3-pound channel cats are abundant, but much larger fish are caught here. The lake record tipped the scales at 29.8 pounds. A 3- to 4-hour fishing trip often results in 50 landings of eating-size cats. Most fall for sponge baits – either commercial cheese products or homemade chicken-blood brews – fished in 12 to 14 feet of water around flooded bois d’arc trees near the lake’s north end. The lake-record blue cat weighed 87 ½ pounds, and locals contend bigger blues swim here. Most aficionados drift-fish with shad cutbait along channel drops and adjacent flats. Tawakoni flatheads reach enormous sizes but remain almost untouched by rod-and-reel anglers. Trotlines baited with live sunfish or goldfish baits account for many 18- to 70-pounders each year, and have produced at least two 100-pound-plus fish – a 108-pounder, the former lake record, and a 110-pounder that is said to be the heaviest legal flathead catch recorded in Texas. The lake’s upper reaches produce most big ones. For more info, visit TPW’s Lake Tawakoni page here. Hot Texas Rivers Lakes and reservoirs aren’t the only waters where you’ll find Lone Star catfish. Many of Texas’ rivers also harbor healthy populations of channel, blue and flathead catfish. For channel cats, the Trinity and Colorado rivers stand out, as well as the Rio Grande, Frio, Guadalupe, Brazos and upper reaches of the Sabinal. Blues cats are common and grow large in the Trinity, Nueces, Guadalupe, Sabine, Red, Lavaca, San Antonio, Frio and Navidad rivers. The Trinity and Navasota are top producers of flatheads, along with the Colorado Navasota, Guadalupe, Sabine, Brazos, San Antonio, Frio and Neches.