Ray Sasser’s out­doors col­umn

Fa­vor­able con­di­tions at Lake Tawakoni could yield record cat­fish haul

The Dallas Morning News - - SPORTSDAY - 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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