The Dallas Morning News

Ray Sasser’s outdoors column

Favorable conditions at Lake Tawakoni could yield record catfish haul

- RAY SASSER READ Ray Sasser’s outdoor briefs on SportsDayD­FW.com. rsasser@dallasnews.com

Cabela’s King Kat Tournament is Saturday at Lake Tawakoni. The venerable lake east of Dallas is where the eye-popping tournament record was set in 2013. Brothers Danny Miles of Irving and Paul Miles of Lake Dallas brought in a five-fish tournament limit of blue cats that weighed 239.8 pounds.

They didn’t exactly lap the field. Two other teams had more than 200 pounds. Texas catfish fans have always known Tawakoni as one of the state’s catfish hotspots. After the 2013 tournament, Tawakoni’s reputation was nationwide.

The 2014 tournament wasn’t as good, but recent fishing reports indicate Tawakoni cats are bigger and better than ever. The worst problem Saturday could be low water, accord- ing to Paul Miles. Tawakoni’s water level is more than 11 feet low.

“We only have three ramps open at the lake, and all three are single lane ramps and the water is very shallow, so launching gets congested,” said Miles.

He said the lake is getting a lot of fishing pressure, but the big fish seem to be holding up well. Miles said he wouldn’t be surprised if a new record is set on Saturday and he thinks it could even top 300 pounds.

“The playing field is becoming more level as we see more anglers interested in targeting big cats,” he said. “There was a time when 50-pounders were rare. Now it takes a 65-poundsplus fish to turn heads.”

Michael and Teri Littlejohn, a husband-and-wife guide team, figure their customers have caught about 150 blue catfish weighing 30 pounds or more since Nov. 28. Michael Littlejohn said the fish are definitely getting bigger.

One of their youth female anglers recently caught a 62pounder, barely missing the youth lake record. Michael Littlejohn said he anticipate­s the 2013 tournament record being broken, either this year or next year.

Like many fishing guides, the Littlejohn­s require their clients to release big fish. They can keep the small ones to eat. Jody Jenkins, fishing with the Littlejohn­s last February, caught the lake record blue cat. It weighed 871⁄ pounds.

2 Michael Littlejohn said low water hurts fishing access, but it hasn’t hurt the fishing. He thinks Saturday’s catch will benefit from the stretch of consistent temperatur­es this week. Temperatur­es that change from seasonally chilly to downright warm make the fish unpredicta­ble. A week of cold weather should put the fish into a consistent pattern.

Teri Littlejohn is entered in the tournament.

Tournament executive director Darrell Van Vactor said all reports point to a good catch for this event, and he’s also hoping for a new tournament record. All fish caught by tournament competitor­s are kept healthy in large tanks aboard the fishing boats. They are released after the weigh-in, which is set for 4 p.m. Saturday at West Tawakoni City Park, Quinlan Parkway.

Statewide limits for blue catfish are 25 daily with a minimum size of 12 inches but there are exceptions. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has three experiment­al lakes (Waco, Lewisville and Richland Chambers) with a slot limit for blues. It protects fish between 30 and 45 inches. The overall daily limit remains 25 blue and/or channel catfish, but only one blue cat 45 inches or bigger may be retained per day.

TPWD has also done angler attitude surveys to determine support for more restrictiv­e limits on blue catfish, which live more than 30 years and achieve sizes greater than 100 pounds. A big blue catfish is the largest fish most freshwater anglers will have a chance to catch.

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