Options, that’s what this week’s column is all about. We fishermen have several options when it comes to wetting a line for sport or, in many cases, a fresh fish dinner! We can own our boat which comes with some “built in” costs in the form of initial cost, fuel, registration, etc. etc. Or, we can hire the services of a fishing guide to enjoy a day on the water at our favorite lake. A few lucky anglers either own or have access to property with a fishing pond. We can fish public reservoirs “from the bank”. Through my many years as an avid fisherman, I’ve used all the above methods to get my line stretched and to my way of thinking, it’s all a matter of choice and often economics as to which is best suited.
I’ve stated many times that for an “occasional” fisherman who might enjoy one fishing trip a month, it’s cheaper to hire a guide than own a fully rigged fishing boat. But there is another option that is often overlooked by many anglers: Pay Lakes. I just enjoyed a fun fishing trip last week at Caddo Mills with Brandon Willner, owner of Texas Fishing LLC., my daughter, son in law and two of my grandkids. We arrived in the morning hours when the temperature was still comfortable, enjoyed a couple hours of action packed fishing, and left with plenty of catfish fillets for a mega fish fry that evening.
Willner has been in the fishing business most of his life, he grew up working around the stocked ponds on his property and decided to make it a life’s vocation.
“We have developed a system where anglers can come out; enjoy catching all the fish they desire in a setting that everyone from a first time angler to senior citizen can enjoy. We have several clients that are veteran fishermen that simply enjoy the ease of fishing here and, catching fish on every trip! ” Says Willner. “There is no fee to fish here, our guest simply pay by the pound for the fish they catch. It’s important that they bring tackle strong enough to handle hard fighting fish but we also rent tackle when necessary. These fish are hard fighters and a little spin cast kid’s rig with light line simply won’t get the job done.”
Through the years, I’ve fished at several “Pay Lakes” and I enjoyed each outing but Brandon and crew run a finely tuned and somewhat different operation which makes for many return customers. You might consider this a ‘semi guided’ bank fishing trip. When a fish is hooked and fought to the bank, one of the crew nets the fish and places it on the stringer for you. When you have caught the desired pounds of fish for your upcoming fish fry, you simply stop fishing. There is a fishing cleaning station and for a nominal fee, your catch is expertly cleaned and bagged.
Catfish can be caught on a wide variety of baits but Willner prefers ‘no stink’ type catfish bait and keeps a good supply of “Catfish Bubblegum” on hand for his clients to purchase. This is a bait developed by Lake Conroe fishing guide Bradley Doyle and it had absolutely no foul odor but more importantly, it catches fish.
Even though the ponds are deep and kept well stocked with hatchery raised catfish, it’s still fishing and when the temperature is soaring into the triple digits, fishing is usually best during the cooler times of the day. We arrived about 8:30 last week and after a couple hours fishing; we were on our way home. My goal was to get those grandkids in some fast paced fishing action and that’s exactly what happened. I don’t remember a period of over ten minutes when one of them was not either getting a bite, fighting a fish or getting re-baited after missing a fish.
Through the years, I have introduced a good number of kids to fishing and I believe that the worst turn off for youngsters is to spend long, unproductive hours without catching fish. Action, and a lot of it is what kids need and the species really doesn’t matter. Way too many kids have been turned off from fishing by setting in a boat for hours dunking minnows for crappie that simply aren’t biting or attempting to cast for largemouth bass which, as all anglers know, is an endeavor that requires skill and precision casting. These stocked catfish lakes are, in my opinion, an ideal training ground for young anglers.
There is a faction of anglers that simply refuse to consider fishing stocked “pay lakes” just as there are some that refuse to fish with a guide. But, after visiting with several angler, I learned that there are many folks that favor this style of fishing. One gentleman I spoke with told me he comes out to fish every couple weeks and has been doing so for many years. “I love to eat catfish and these are some of the best tasting fish I’ve caught. I come out and catch enough for a big fish fry, get them cleaned right here and I’m on my way home. I don’t have to clean a boat nor fight the crowds at the ramp. I don’t have to worry about the wind, fishing is always good here. I love it.”
Willner also sells fish for stocking and specializes in turning old stock tanks into great fisheries.
A Google search of Texas Fishing LLC with get you connected with Willner or visit the website www.ufishtx.com.
Listen to “Outdoors with Luke Clayton and Friends” weekends on radio stations from Nebraska to Texas or anytime online at www.catfishradio.org.