The unpredictable redfish that dominate the Calaveras Lake fishing scene are taking their own sweet time with an annual spawn that is all show and no go, creating a double tap situation for anglers this year.
The millions of saltwater redfish stocked in the lake by Texas Parks & Wildlife Department biologists over the years seem to have decided to extend their unproductive annual reproductive efforts well into November.
The last two months of the year are typically prime times to hook into the abundant channel and blue catfish that compete with the redfish as the lake’s largest underwater predators. With the redfish action still in high gear, this could result in hefty catches of both reds and cats by anglers on the lake.
Normally, the redfish spawn takes place in September and October as the stocked reds make a fruitless effort to reproduce in fresh water. During the spawn, the redfish become more active and anxious to latch onto the right lure at the right time and the right place.
“The redfish action has been great all through September and October and I expect the spawn to continue through much of November – that is unusual,’’ said veteran guide Manny Martinez.
One of the factors creating the rare late redfish action is that water temperatures at the CPS Energy recharge reservoir are remaining higher than normal.
“The water is staying warmer this year, probably because we haven’t had any really good cold fronts come through,’’ said the veteran of more than three decades of angling on the lake.
Martinez said the optimum temperature for hooking into redfish is about 89 degrees and there were times in the middle of October when his readings were at the 93 degree mark or higher.
When the water is at or near the optimum, three fish limits of spawning redfish can find their way into the boat quick, fast and in a hurry, he added.
“During the late months is also when the lake water cools down and the catfish kick into high gear, moving into the shallows to get ready for their spawn in late February or March,’’ he said. “I expect the channel and blue catfish action to be excellent toward the end of November and through December.”
Another indication of a potential catfish bonanza this winter has been regular hook ups with Mr. Whiskers on lures being dragged around the lake on downriggers in search of schooling and spawning redfish. When catfish start snatching up artificials meant to entice a big redfish into biting that bodes well for some big time cold weather action for both blue and channel catfish.
Tactics for hooking into the late action redfish will be the same as those used during the summer month. Popular bite-attracting combinations on the downriggers include Tony Accetta spoons, either in gold or silver depending upon whether skies are blue or cloudy; and Hogue or TTF plastic shrimp tails in chartreuse, red and white, strawberry, and plum with chartreuse tails.
Hot spots like Striper Ridge, Picnic Point and both sides of the dam are expected to remain as the go-to locations for redfish schools. In order to entice the catfish into giving anglers a tussle, Martinez uses two techniques for putting limits of 25 catfish per person into his boat.
Both methods involve shaping a ball of cheese punch bait about the size of a peach pit around No. 6 treble hook – shad, garlic and minnow seem to be the best fish-catching flavors. The baited hook is then either cast out away from the boat to settle on the lake bottom or dangled beneath a small bobber in shallow water to hold the bait just off the bottom.
Martinez favors CJ’s Catfish Punch Bait and emphasizes that a sharp treble hook is essential to angler success. He uses a VMC 4X Strong No. 6 treble that he typically replaces after every half-dozen or so hook ups. Dull hooks or frayed line that has been rubbed on rocks or grated by the rough mouth of the blues can often cause the loss of a hooked fish. “Afternoons are generally better for catfishing than the mornings. Typically the blues will be hanging around on the edge of the schools of channel catfish. They don’t school together,’’ he said.
The bigger blue catfish, often ranging from five to 20 pounds each, seem to patrol the schools of channel catfish looking for bait fish that have been scattered by the smaller predators, Martinez said.
For further information about late spawning redfish and cold weather catfish action contact Guide Manny Martinez at (210) 386-6695 or on the web at fishingwithmanny.com.