To beat the angling blues, find the rainbow on area waters

Lynn Burkhead
For the Herald Democrat
Thanks to wintertime stockings from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, Texomaland anglers are seeing their chances for trout fishing success heating up as Christmas Day approaches on the calendar.

As Christmas approaches, the best fishing in the area just might be the trout that are being stocked in area waters.

In fact, this week marks the first of several put-and-take rainbow trout stockings in Grayson County as the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is scheduled to stock trout at Pottsboro Lake on Tuesday, Dec. 14 and at Denison’s Waterloo Lake Park Pond today on Friday, Dec. 17.

While such stockings can occur a day or two earlier or a day or two later as hatchery supplies, schedule interruptions, and weather conditions warrant, the bottom line is that trout are coming to Texomaland over the next few weeks.

In fact, they’ve already been stocked for several weeks now by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation at the Blue River near Tishomingo, Okla. And so far, fishing reports from the seasonal trout stream are good despite mild temperatures and a lack of recent rainfall.

If you’re interested in getting in on some of this trout fishing opportunity while the fish are being stocked and the weather is unseasonably mild, the days around the Christmas holidays are prime.

To start with, make sure that you have the necessary fishing licenses and/or trout fishing endorsements before heading out the door. Visit the TPWD website at www.tpwd.texas.gov or the ODWC website at www.wildlifedepartment.com for full details. You can also purchase what you need from area license vendors too.

If you’re looking to catch these stocker rainbows in area waters with conventional tackle, all you’ll need is a lightweight spinning rod-and-reel or a small baitcasting rig that is spooled with monofilament line in the 4- to 6-pound range. I suppose even a panfish cane pole will work well for stocker trout, since these fish aren’t the biggest fighters in the water and can be quickly caught on most any type of lightweight tackle.

For natural bait selections, add in a light bronze hook, a split shot, and some PowerBait selections — think PowerBait dough, nuggets, nibbles, and worm products — and you’ll be in the game. You can also use corn nuggets, earthworms, and grubs if you can find them.

For artificial lures, think small Mepp’s style spinners or maybe even a very small crankbait, a Bettle Spin, a Roadrunner, a gold spoon, or a crappie jig.

One fun way to tackle local trout is with fly fishing gear. I will add a word of caution, however, and that’s that you’ll need to be extra careful if choosing this angling option on any small water body in the area. Either find an open area away from the crowds where you can cast without hooking someone, or opt for a less crowded day.

When you can get out and safely fly fish for local trout, tackle selection is also simple for these diminutive fish. A three, four, or five-weight fly rod with a floating fly line will suffice, especially one that has a 7 ½ foot 5X leader tipped with six to eight inches of 5X or 6X tippet material.

Do note that these stocker trout can be more finicky than you might imagine — angling pressure will cause almost any fish to become harder to catch — so it pays to have a fly box with multiple selections in it.

Most fly patterns that imitate traditional trout stream insects can get a look on local trout waters, so carry caddis patterns, mayfly patterns, nymph patterns, midges, and terrestrials.

For dry fly options, watch and see what is hatching. If nothing is, do some prospecting with elk-hair caddis patterns in tan, gray, and olive shades (sizes #14-18); parachute and standard Adams flies (#14-20); blue-winged olive patterns (#16-20); and attractor dry fly patterns like a Royal Wulff or a Stimulator in sizes #10-18.

If the trout aren’t looking up to feed, try nymph patterns like gold-ribbed hare’s ear (#14-18); pheasant tail nymphs (#14-18); beadhead caddis pupa (#14-18); and small olive and gray sowbugs (#18-20). In any sort of current, drift these nymph patterns freely or under a small strike indicator. If you’re in a pond or lake where water isn’t flowing, try a slow hand-twist retrieve.

Midges are also good fly pattern options — think the Zebra midge, a Copper John, or something with red and silver in it — especially in sizes #20-22. Small streamer patterns — Clouser minnows, Zonker patterns, and wooly buggers as small as you can find — will often work too as can small terrestrial patterns that imitate ants, crickets, grasshoppers, and worms (think a small San Juan River worm pattern here).

While you can enjoy catch-and-release trout fishing if you like when targeting these local wintertime rainbows (especially on the Blue River, where the season lasts into late March), don’t forget that trout can’t survive in local waters as things warm up in 2022.

That means that keeping your limit isn’t a bad thing, so bring along a small cooler, knock your catch in the head to dispatch them, and put them on ice for the ride back home.

When you home and get them cleaned and prepared for the table, there are all kinds of recipes to prepare trout for a holiday meal. You can find some help at the Game and Fish Magazine website (https://www.gameandfishmag.com/editorial/5-tasty-trout-recipes/339106 ) to find a few recipe possibilities.

The bottom line here is that as the Christmas holidays approach for 2021, piscatorial angling gifts from TPWD and ODWC are finding their way into area waters with some regularity now.

With any luck, you’ll find a limit of angling gold at the end of the rainbow, not to mention some great eating as your holiday guests arrive from out of town.