Outdoors Digest

Lynn Burkhead
For the Herald Democrat

Calendar

Through Jan. 2 – Texas North Zone second split of dove season.

Through Jan. 2 – Texas North Zone general whitetail season.

Through Jan. 2 – General whitetail season in Grayson and Collin Counties with the means and method of take restricted to lawful archery and crossbow gear.

Through Jan. 15 – Oklahoma archery deer season.

Through Jan. 16 – Texas South Zone general whitetail season.

Through Jan. 30 – Texas North Zone duck season second split.

Through Jan. 30 – Oklahoma Zone 2 duck season second split.

Through Jan. 31 – Texas woodcock season.

Through Feb. 15 – Oklahoma quail season.

Through Feb. 27 – Texas quail hunting season.

Jan. 4 - Monthly meeting of the Red River Fly Fishers at the Rec Hall at Eisenhower State Park. For information, visit www.rrff.org .

Jan. 7 - Second TPWD trout stocking at Denison’s Waterloo Lake Park Pond.

Jan. 8 - 15th annual City of Denison Howard Caylor Trout Derby at Waterloo Lake Park Pond. For information, call (903) 465-2720 (extension 2034) or visit the city of Denison's website at http://www.cityofdenison.com/parksrec .

Jan. 30 - Third TPWD trout stocking at Denison’s Waterloo Lake Park Pond.

Feb. 1 - Monthly meeting of the Red River Fly Fishers at the Rec Hall at Eisenhower State Park. For information, visit www.rrff.org .

Feb. 5 – 2022 Red River Fly Fisher’s “Red River Rendezvous” at the Rec Hall at Eisenhower State Park.

Feb. 26-27 – 5th annual Texas Fly Fishing & Brew Festival at the Mesquite Convention Center. For information, visit https://txflyfishingfestival.org.

Feb. 27 - Fourth TPWD trout stocking at Denison’s Waterloo Lake Park Pond.

Feb. 27 - TPWD trout stocking at Sherman’s Pebblebrook Community Park Pond.

Notes

On this Christmas Eve morning, allow the Herald Democrat Outdoors staff to wish you, your family, and your friends a very Merry Christmas! And thanks for reading!...Since 2012, the Game Warden Peace Officer’s Association has been working to relocate its memorial from the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens to the grounds of the Texas State Capitol. According to a TPWD news release, the life-size bronze figure of a Texas Game Warden stands to honor the Texas game wardens that have lost their lives in the line of duty as well as serving as a reminder of the enduring legacy of wardens across the Lone Star State. “The Association saw this as a necessary move since other memorials—specifically peace officer memorials—are housed on the grounds of the Texas State Capitol,” said Game Warden Peace Officer Association president and current Texas game warden Major Quint Balkcom, in the release. “Housing the memorial on Capitol grounds would also serve a larger audience, many who have never interacted with a Texas game warden. This is an educational opportunity to learn more about our history and our critical conservation efforts.” When the Game Warden Peace Officer’s Association took the reins of this project, they also facilitated the necessary funding and legislative efforts required for relocation according to TPWD. After multiple attempts, a 2017 resolution in support of the project passed through both chambers of the Texas legislature. And last week’s hearing of the State Preservation Board cleared any remaining logistical hurdles that had stalled relocation. “This is an incredible step in the right direction,” said Colonel Chad Jones, director of law enforcement for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. “The fallen wardens this memorial honors aren’t just the wardens of the past. Some of them were my friends and colleagues. Placing the memorial at the Capitol ensures their sacrifices will be remembered daily by the leaders, residents, and visitors to this state.”…TPWD notes that despite overcoming monumental hurdles, the memorial still faces an uphill battle to reach its final home. “Now that the project has received final approval from the State Preservation Board, we have moved into the planning phase of relocation which will be a lengthy process as well,” said Balkcom in the news release. “Ordering the granite for a new pedestal and physically moving the memorial takes months to plan and perform, but I am thrilled the project is one step closer to its new home and honoring our fallen family the way it was intended.” Balkom also added that an updated sculpture will be replacing the memorial in Athens in the future…Did you know? As the state’s only conservation law enforcement agency, TPWD’s game wardens patrol a vast network of waterways across Texas, respond to natural disasters, and oversee hunting and fishing regulations statewide. Through the agency’s 125 year history, a total of 19 Texas game wardens have lost their lives while serving the people of Texas…ODWC reports that the Sooner State’s 2021 holiday antlerless deer gun season opened up in specific zones on Dec. 18 and runs through Dec. 31. And once again, the agency is reminding everyone that “Hunters in the Know … Take a Doe!” …ODWC says that every hunter who participates in the holiday season may harvest two bonus antlerless white-tailed deer, even if the hunter has already harvested the maximum aggregate limit of six deer for all other current deer seasons…The holiday season in Oklahoma runs 14 days in all open zones, providing ample time for hunters to get out and help manage the state’s deer herd by increasing the antlerless deer harvest…Dallas Barber, big game biologist for ODWC, is hoping hunters will respond and help create a more balanced buck-to-doe ratio in the state’s deer population…ODWC notes that it’s big game biologists have a goal for overall antlerless harvest between 40 and 45-percent for all seasons combined. Heading into this year’s holiday season, so far, only about 37-percent of the statewide deer harvest in 2021 has been antlerless deer. So, Barber is hopeful the holiday season will push antlerless harvest over the agency’s 40-percent goal…Why is such a higher antlerless harvest necessary? ODWC says that it yields several benefits including an improved buck-to-doe ration, which brings a healthier overall herd in the state; promotes better antler growth by reducing competition for forage; prevents localized deer overpopulation; reduces the potential for damaging and potentially deadly deer/vehicle collisions; and lessens the extent of potential crop depredation problems across the state’s agricultural lands…

Hunting Reports

Despite this being Christmas Eve, most reports indicate that hunting is slow over much of the Red River Valley due to the unusually mild weather here and to the north…On the whitetail hunting front, there have been few if any recent reports of bucks being tagged by archers in Grayson County…On the duck hunting front, Dakota Stowers and his North Texas Outfitters are still putting clients on mixed bag hunts in southern Oklahoma, but he admits that many are having to work hard to find huntable concentrations of birds on area tanks and small lakes…There’s no recent update on quail hunting in Texas and Oklahoma, nor is there any report on woodcock hunting in East Texas, where the season for timberdoodles opened up a few days ago…Looking for a good, different hunt with family and friends over the Christmas holidays? Then don’t forget that the second split of dove season continues in Oklahoma through Dec. 29 and in the Texas North Zone through Jan. 2…Also, don’t overlook small game hunting options for rabbits and squirrels in North Texas. Check the TPWD website for full details and regulations…While deer hunting is slow as the season winds towards its conclusion on Sunday, Jan. 2, 2022, don’t forget that several of Grayson County’s biggest bucks have been tagged over the holidays and in the final few days of the season…Right now, hunting food sources is your best option unless a yearling doe proves the secondary rut is true and a buck chases her through a bottleneck area in front of your stand…Buck sightings might be slow in the unusually warm weather, but you can’t tag a whopper whitetail sitting in front of the Christmas tree!...

Fishing Reports

As Christmas weekend arrives at Lake Texoma, the water remains lightly stained, the water temp is 56 degrees, and the lake is 1.21-feet low. While there probably won't be much fishing as families gather for the Dec. 25th holiday and travel far and wide across the state. But for those who do get out in the mild weather conditions, the current striped bass fishing at Lake Texoma is rated as excellent according to guide John Blasingame of Adventure Texoma Outdoors. He tells TPWD in its weekly fishing report that stripers are good in the main lake on Alabama-rigs, with the larger fish biting on swimbaits tossed around structure. The dead stick bite is also producing as jolly old St. Nicholas flies into town tonight.…At Lake Ray Roberts, site of the 51st Bassmaster Classic earlier in the year, TPWD says that crappie are good on main lake brush piles in 20-30 feet of water on minnows. The agency says that the bigger slabs remain in the Buck Creek area in the standing timber around 20-foot depths, with bait suspended in the 10-12-foot range…At Lake Fork, where water is being steadily drawn to reduce the lake level for work on the dam, water is lightly stained; water temps are 62-64 degrees; and the lake is 4.36 feet low and falling. Fork guides Jason Hoffman and Marc Mitchell tell TPWD that largemouth bass are good using suspending jerkbaits along drop-offs and ditches in 6-10-feet of water. Slow rolling spinnerbaits are also working in these same areas work also. The veteran Fork guides also note that Viper XP jigs in black and blue are also working against big timber found along the creeks and ditches in 7-10-feet of water. Finally, Shakyheads are also working in these areas with a four-inch Ring Fry as the bait. The guides say good luck and Merry Christmas to all! Meanwhile, the crappie bite at Lake Fork is good between the 154 and 515 bridges on creek channels according to Jack Wiggins of Jack Wiggins Guide Service. He tells TPWD that the slabs are feeding up on bait, so they are shad and happy! The Fork guide says to fish deep in 45-55-feet of water with fish suspended around 20-30-foot depths, with the best action on top of the timber with minnows…At the Blue River, ODWC says that rainbow trout are good on in-line spinnerbaits, PowerBait and spoons cast along channel braids and rocks. In-line spinnerbaits and spoons have been working the best for catching trout, especially in metallic colors slowly retrieved just off the bottom. For fly fishers, try small streamer patterns, midges, and nymphs. ODWC says that trout are hugging the bottom and are in deeper pools because of how clear the water is and the lack of stream flow in the gathering drought conditions… If you’re heading for the Texas Gulf Coast over the Christmas and New Year’s Day holidays, Galveston Bay in the Houston area is one place to consider. TPWD quotes Capt. David Dillman of Galveston Bay Charter Fishing as saying that there are plenty of sheepshead around structures such as pier pilings, oyster reefs, and rocks. He says that live shrimp is the best bait for sheepshead right now. Meanwhile, speckled trout and redfish are being caught on the shorelines around Eagle Point and April Fool Point. In the jetties, fishing is the same song and dance according to the guide. Bull reds are also being caught on the bottom by anglers using fresh dead shad and crabs. A few oversized black drum are also mixed in. Anglers throwing live shrimp against the rocks are catching slot reds and sheepshead too…At Rockport, Damian Hubbs of Mathis Bait Company tells TPWD that redfish are good in 2-4-feet of water in sand pockets on gold spoons and cut bait. Speckled trout are good in 2-4-feet of water on Bass Assassins and topwaters fished early. Black drum are good on dead shrimp fished near drains on an outgoing tide. And flounder are good on Berkley’s Gulp baits fished on the edge of channels…At South Padre Island, Capt. Lou Austin tells TPWD that there is a good mix of redfish and speckled trout when anglers find them and can stay with them. Redfish have been really soft in their bite on live shrimp under popping corks and for those anchored and using cut mullet. The guide says that a good place to look for redfish is around the gas wells and near Three Islands. He’s also heard of a good bite in the Arroyo for those using cut mullet. Some are catching a lot of sand trout and some whiting too and sheepshead are being caught around the jetties and both causeways. Finally, Capt. Austin says be safe out there on the water since it’s gotten cold and Merry Christmas!...

Tip of the Week

As the city of Denison gets ready to celebrate the city's Sesquicentennial Celebration next year, D-Town is getting ready to host the 15th annual Howard Caylor Trout Derby early in 2022. This upcoming event will take place from 9-11:30 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 8, 2022 at Waterloo Lake Park Pond according to Andrew Means of the city’s Parks and Rec Department. Look for more details soon; call (903) 465-2720 (extension 2034) during business hours; or visit the city of Denison website at www.cityofdenison.com/parksrec .