Welcome to our new blog. We plan to feature articles by Texas fishermen who are skilled in the art of catching sunfish. If you would like to join our group please feel welcome. If you would like to post on this site please contact me at lilburn@uwmail.com. I have contacted many of you, and I await hearing from you and receiving your first article. Please limit your posts to how-to articles and stories about your fishing experiences. The more pictures the better. Controversial items, criticism of TPWD, and such should best be posted on the TFF or other forum. If you decide to post on a regular basis I will need a picture of you, your real name and your website if you have one. You will be added to the sidebar as one of our fishermen. No handles or avatars, please.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Braided Line For sunfish

Braided Line for Sunfish

Braided Line For Sunfish

    Sunfish, particularly big sunfish, are line shy. Also, if you want to cast a light lure or bait a long way you must use a small diameter line. For that reason most serious sunfishermen use 4 pound or even 2 pound test mono filament. Of course, the line easily breaks if a larger fish takes the bait or if the line gets hung up. Where I normally fish big bass, catfish and carp are regularly caught. There are a lot of ways to get hung up. It is very annoying to have a slip bobber rig which takes 10 minutes to thread broken off, not to mention the cost of the premium balsa bobbers I use. 
    One solution is braided line made from a fine filament trade named Spectra. The micro filament material is so fine that several strands can be braided together to form a very thin flexible yet strong line. Several manufacturers make such a line. I bought a spool PowerPro 10 pound test line. It has the same diameter as two pound test mono filament. It was not cheap. A 300 yard spool cost me $26.00 from Amazon. However, 300 yards will last me for years.

     The braided line was the solution to my problems with 4 pound test mono filament. However, it introduced a few of its own. 
     First, the old standard clinch or Berkley knot will not work with braid. They just slip right off. So I had to learn to tie two new knots: the uniknot and the Palomer knot. The uniknot is used to splice the braided line, to tie a leader to the line, or to tie the braided line to mono filament backing to save the high cost line. The Palomer knot is used most of the time to tie the hook or sinker to the braided line. Learn to tie the Palomer Knot at this web page. The Uniknot can be found on this web page

Second, the line tends to ravel unless a perfectly clean cut is made, making it difficult to run the line through the eye of a small hook. Most tackle box cutting tools will not cut the line cleanly. I use a small pair of sharp line scissors. 

     Third, the braided line tends to snarl up around the bobber or the rod tip, and since it is so small in diameter it is a bear to untangle. Patience is the only sugestion I have for this problem.

     Fourth, the Gizmo brand bobble stoppers are the best I have ever found. They beat all the other designs hands down. But they slip on the braided line. The solution is to thread two of the holes as usual, then wrap the line one time around the bobber stopper, then continue threading the last two holes. 

     Even with its flaws the line works well for me and I highly recommend it.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Palo Pinto Mountains State Park

This past weekend my wife and I took the Palo Pinto county historical tour. This tour is a self guided driving tour which covers about 8 sites in Palo Pinto County with historical significance. One of the stops this year was the newest Texas state park, the Palo Pinto Mountains State Park.

The term Palo Pinto Mountains refers to range of hills in western Palo Pinto County, Texas. The name Palo Pinto roughly translates to "painted stick" because the early settlers found totem poles carved by the Indians in the area. Isolated, rugged, and scenic, the ridge extends some fifteen miles, from near the intersection of Texas State Highway 16 and Farm to Market Road 207 in the southwest, to Crawford Mountain just south of the Fortune Bend on the Brazos River in the northeast. Although small, the range contains steep slopes and deep valleys. The high point is Crawford Mountain at the north end, with an elevation of 1,470 feet (450 m) and about 360 feet (110 m) of prominence.

The state park is located near the city of Strawn. The park consists of about 4000 acres. Palo Pinto Creek runs along the north edge of the property. The park contains Tucker Lake, which is stocked with bass, catfish and crappie. The lake is only 81 acres when full, and at present is low. The lake is reached by an unimproved gravel road off FM2372.

The park superintendent is John Ferguson. Mr. Ferguson can be reached at 254-210-3015 or email john.ferguson@tpwd.state.tx.us.

According to Mr. Ferguson the park will not be open to the general public for some time, depending upon when the state legislature appropriates funds for development. However, the park is available for use by groups by contacting Mr. Ferguson. The lake is open for fishing, but it is a rugged climb down to the water. I did not see a boat ramp.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Raising Mealworms


Today we welcome Charles Burnett as our guest author.

Charles  is new to the fishing world. He picked up the sport early in 2011.  A transplant from California, he works in Information Technology field as a project manager. He posts to the TFF regularly as "drrouter".

When I first began fishing for bluegill, all I used were lures.  Fishing with Rooster Tail spinners or Rapala lures, I quickly learned that this was an expensive way to fish, especially for someone new.  Missed casts, unseen cover that constantly snagged my hooks all contributed to the expense (and frustration!) of my fishing trips.

After joining the Texas Fishing Forum, I began to learn that live bait was, in all likelihood, a more effective and less costly alternative to artificial bait.  At first, I just started using a combination of night crawlers and red wigglers, experimenting with all sorts of setups.   Transitioning from expensive lures to real bait not only improved my fishing, but lowered the cost of my newly found hobby.

During one of my visits to the local Academy Sports store, I noticed small cups of “mealworms”.  I didn’t know what they were used for specifically, so I did a bit of research and learned that they were very effective for catching sunfish.   Over the next few weeks I fished with mealworms almost exclusively; I found them to work as well for catching sunfish as regular live worms – and definitely less messy!  However, the quality of mealworms at Academy suffered dramatically.  I would find the cups half empty, worms near death, etc. so I began to look online for a different source.  I quickly figured out that it was easier and less expensive to raise them yourself than it was to buy them.

mealworms1Raising mealworms is about as easy as it gets.  First, you will need some sort of container that has walls that are at least 2 inches high on both sides.  I have found that the 3 drawer storage bins are very effective.  Mealworms will need three things to breed well; a source of food (Oatmeal works best for this), a source of water (carrots, celery) and a bit of structure for them to lay their eggs.

Your first step after buying your container is to buy some small or medium sized mealworms.  You do not want mealworms that are labeled “Giant”; these have been sprayed with a hormone which allows them to grow larger but they will not molt into beetles and breed.  You also don’t need many mealworms: 25 or so worked for me when I purchased them at Petsmart.  Next you’ll need to put your substrate down (a fancy word for about 1.5” of oatmeal), add the worms, some carrot pieces and you are set.

mealworms2Mealworms do not like cold temperatures, so if you want to breed them, you’ll need to keep your farm at room temp.  Make sure you continue to give them a slice of carrot every 2-3 days.  You can use any type of vegetable that isn’t overly acidic.  I have used leftover lettuce, cucumbers, apples, potatoes, etc.  Just be careful to take out anything that becomes moldy (lettuce and carrots work best for me).

A mealworm farm takes a couple of months to establish.  At first you’ll see small little pencil-lead sized meal worms, usually in the corners.  They will grow larger over time, ending up at about 1” long before they molt into pupa.  It takes about 3-5 weeks after the first signs of newly hatched mealworms for them to be of size suitable for fishing.  You’ll want to leave about half your mealworms in your farm, so they can molt into pupa.  The pupa stage will last about a week, after which mealworms will turn into beetles.  A lot of pupa won’t make it through to the stage of becoming a beetle, so don’t be alarmed if many of them die during this phase. 

After your initial batch of worms, depending upon your consumption rate, you will need to truncate your farm.  Beetles will produce rapidly and soon your initial farm will be overgrown.  I only use mealworms for myself; I don’t sell them, etc. so I’ll occasionally prune the farm, throwing excess mealworms into the local pond.  It’s my experience that you only need 20-25 beetles to sustain a farm that provides enough worms for fishing.

mealworms3After your farm is established, every few months or so, you’ll need to sift through your bins and transfer your mealworms to new substrate.  This is very important.  Your mealworms are eating, eliminating waste, etc. in their home and over time this will affect the health of the colony. 

To use mealworms for fishing, I use empty pill bottles with a bit of oats in them for transport.  I also recommend using either fly or very small 10 or 12 sized hooks.  You can utilize mealworms as you would any other live bait, with a drop shot, under a bobber, etc.  However, the most effective method I have used is a weighted bobber with the hook 10-12” below, allowing the mealworm to gently sink, as if it just fell from a tree.

Mealworms can be an easy, inexpensive and fun way to raise your own bait.  I still use other live baits, but during the spring, summer and early fall seasons I have found that mealworms are a very effective, low cost way for catching sunnies!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A Do It Yourself Alabama Rig For Sunfish

Alabama Rig for panfish
A Do It Yourself Alabama Rig for Panfish

The Alabama rig has enjoyed a great deal of publicity lately. Since it was used to win a FTW tournament the bass world has been sharply divided on whether to allow it or not. BASS has banned it. All seem to agree that it is a good way to catch bass.

I have an infected tooth that is confining me to the house. I can't even eat, so I have been climbing up the wall to find something to do. I cleaned up and rearranged my tackle bags. I watched numerous videos, including one which pointed out that the Alabama Rig is actually an old striper technique. It occurred to me that if it catches whites and stripers and the sunfish family of bass that it might catch panfish as well.

Alabama Rigs from the tackle companies sell for anywhere from $10.00 to $50.00. It occurred to me that since I was under house arrest for illness anyway that I should be able to build a credible rig out of supplies on hand.

The key item is a tube of .032 piano wire that I have on hand to build radio controlled model airplanes. So if you want to duplicate my project go to the local RC hobby shop and ask for K&S stock number 501 .032 wire. You will get a tube of four 36-inch pieces of wire. It should cost about $1.50 per tube of four wires.

Cut a five-inch piece of wire and bend a u-shaped hook on one end. Slip a barrel swivel over the hook and then bind the end with fine copper wire. I robbed my copper wire from a short piece of flexible automotive wire, Neatly wind about five turns of wire to hold the swivel on the wire so that it is free to move. Solder the copper binding securely. See photo1.

Next drill a .032 hole in the center of a dime. That may turn out to be the most difficult part of this project. Dimes are made of a sandwich of nickel and copper, and the resulting clad metal is harder than a witch's heart. Just be careful not to hurt yourself or break the .032 drill.

Take one piece of your wire and cut it exactly in half. Then bend each piece into a right angle at the center.  Find a piece of scrap cardboard bigger than 18 inch by 18 inches and place the dime in the center. Stick the 5-inch piece of wire in the hole in the dime with the swivel up. Push the wire through until about 2 inches of wire is left. Now arrange your right angle pieces as shown in photo 2 and tape the wire down to the cardboard so that it will not move. Now solder the wires to the dime. Use lots of solder and get the wire hot so that the solder flows. The soldered assembly is shown in photo 3.

Now bend a hook in the other end of the center wire. Slip a barrel swivel on and bind and solder. At this point you should have an assembly which looks like photo 4.

Measure 4 inches from the center of the dime along any one of the wires. Bend a right angle in the wire pointed in the direction of the short swivel. Then bend the wire back forming a hook for a snap swivel that is 1/2 inch long. It will be clearer if you look at photo 5.

 Bind and solder.

At the end of the wire form a similar  1/2 inch hook and place a swivel. Bind and solder.  Do the same for the other wires and your rig should look like photo 6.

That finishes the bending and assembly. Now we have only to bait our rig. The Alabama Rig is supposed to mimic a school of bait fish. Our rig has 8 tightly grouped fish and a straggler. The idea is that the crappie or bluegill will be forced by his killer instinct to pick off the straggler.

I used Bobby Garland baby shad on number 4 hooks. Make up 9 baits and put 8 of them on the snap swivels. Then take about 8 inches of 6 pound test line and make up the center bait so that it drops about 6 inches behind the school. See photo 7.

Some versions of the rig have swept back wires. Our rig is straight out, but pulling it through the water will make the arms bend back. If desired the wires can be bent at the dime for a more swept back look.

As I mentioned at the beginning I am confined to the house by illness. When I recover I will take the rig to Lake Mineral Wells and see if it fools the fishes.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Lake Mineral Wells Under a Comanche Moon

Comanche Moon
Fishing Lake Mineral Wells Under a Comanche Moon

For you non-Texans and young whippersnappers, a Comanche moon is a full moon on a bright, clear night. At 3:30 this morning the moon was so bright that it cast shadows like daylight. The term originated in the 1800's when the Comanche Indians would raid and pillage when the moon was full and bright. They had a regular route through South Texas to Mexico and back. The Comanche moon struck terror in the hearts of the early Texas settlers.

This morning I loaded the pickup under the bright moon and arrived at Lake Mineral Wells State Park just as the automatic gate opened at 6:03 AM. The gate out of the park opens on time at 6:00. But the gate into the park is 3 minutes late.

Lake Mineral Wells has a number of fishing piers. All of them but one require a long hike over rough terrain. The one exception is the lighted, handicap-access pier at the marina. For those of us with mobility problems that pier is outstanding. It is built in a deep-water cove so it is actually possible to catch fish, and it is wheelchair access. Four mercury vapor lights make it as light as day.

This morning I had the pier to myself until one other fisherman arrived. I put on a jig in the Electric Chicken pattern on a 1/32-oz. pink jig head. I cast into the edge of the light and slowly retrieved the jig. It only went a foot or two when a feisty 11-inch black bass grabbed it. I took a photo and sent him back to grow up.

Two casts later I caught a slightly bigger bass. What is going on? Don't those bass know I am fishing for panfish? A short time later the big brother of the first two grabbed my lure and headed out into the main lake. With 6 pound test line on an ultra-light rig I watched helplessly as the fish stripped line and broke the light line. I backed way off on the drag (ever hear about the farmer who built a secure barn after the horse was stolen?).

The crappie were obviously not in the cove after the cold front. I tried a while longer then took the lure off and tied on a #8 hook baited with a worm. My signature rig is a slip bobber over a small hook and sinker just off the bottom. However, after my experiences at Fairfield and Bluegill Lakes I knew that I would catch fewer but bigger fish without the bobber and slowly retrieving the hook and sinker across the bottom. I cast out and slowly brought the hook back to the pier over the bottom. A 7-inch Bluegill took issue and nailed the worm.

Now a 7-inch bluegill is not very impressive after the 10-inch fish at Bluegill Lakes last week, but it is about as big as they get at Lake Mineral Wells. I continued to catch small Bluegill for the next two hours. Along the way I caught a 13-inch catfish.

The sunfish were small but very healthy and in beautiful colors. I released them all, knowing they were not going to get much bigger in that lake. The lake record is 7.13 inches and several of mine were almost that long. I keep trying for an 8-9 inch fish.

My limited stamina gave out, and I headed for home.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Bluegill Lake Cabins

Bluegill Lake Cabins
Bluegill Lake Cabins

Do you want to go to a place where you can catch all the sunfish you want in rustic pine covered surroundings? Recently I noticed an item on the Texas Fishing Forum about a place called Bluegill Lake Cabins. It was a small mention but it caught my eye so I searched for the name on Google and found this website. I called the number and talked to an interesting gentleman named Devon Weatherford. Turns out he and his wife Judy own 32 acres in the Texas piney woods near Canton. On this land are several small lakes, the Weatherford farmhouse and four rustic cabins, which the Weatherfords rent.

Devon told me the lakes are heavily stocked with sunfish, bass, catfish and tulip but with emphasis on the sunfish, which are fed and managed for size and numbers.

The place sounded too good to be true, but I reserved the smallest cabin for my wife and I for two nights about two weeks in advance. My wife, the best selling author Caroline Clemmons, has just finished her latest novel and wanted to decompress, and I wanted to catch sunfish.

We arrived at the cabins on Thursday morning just ahead of a weekend-long thunderstorm. The cabin we choose is called the Feed Store Cabin because that it what it once was. Devon restored it to its original appearance and outfitted it. It has a television with Dish TV, a stove, microwave, air conditioning, a queen-sized bed, and a bathroom with an old claw-footed tub. It is completely hidden in the pines and only about a hundred yards from two of the ponds.

I barely had the car unloaded before I was on the A-Frame cabin dock. Unlike the Feed Store, The A-Frame Cabin is right on the water of the largest pond, and it has a dock attached to the back porch. Devon graciously invited me to fish on the docks of any of the unoccupied cabins.

This is the A-Frame Cabin.

I rigged my favorite ultra light rig with a slip bobber and impaled a cricket. I caught a Bluegill on every cast and on the fourth or fifth cast I caught this big fella.

Now I realize this fish is no record, but you have to remember I am used to 6 or 7 inch Bluegill from the area lakes.

I caught sunfish one after the other. Some were caught on crickets, some on worms, and a few on a little gold Mepp's spinner. I included the Redear to illustrate there were several species, and put the little 7-inch Bluegill to illustrate a point. Back home in Lake Weatherford I would have been thrilled to catch a batch of fish that size. Here they were bait stealers. How fickle we are.

I sat on the dock and hauled one big Bluegill after another for two or three hours until I noticed the sky suddenly get dark and ominous thunder and lightning.  It started raining. I was willing to get wet, but sitting on a dock in a lightning storm is not how I got to be 75 years old. I beat it back to the cabin. I spent the rest of the day reading a paperback in the dry and air-conditioned cabin. That was not why I was paying $110 bucks a day.

The next morning my oldest daughter Stephanie drove down to fish with me. We started at the A-frame dock again, but Devon suggested we try the dock behind Rose's Cabin instead because the bigger Bluegill hung out at that end of the lake.

We sat on the dock and caught literally hundreds of fish of all sizes and several species. We caught native Bluegills, hybrid bluegills, coppernose Bluegills, Warmouth, and bass, all on crickets and worms. At first we fished with a slip bobber but I lost so many of the Thill 3-buck premium bobbers that I took my last one off and began fishing tight line on the bottom. It was the best move of the day. I caught my biggest and most fish after I ditched the bobber.

We fished until 1000 crickets and a trash bucket of worms were gone. We caught hundreds.  For the first time in my long life I was tired of catching fish. We let them all go. I was on vacation, not cleaning fish.

If you want to go to the cabins, call Devon and Judy Weatherford on 903-479-3554. The cabins run $110 - $150 per day for two people. Additional persons are $10. They are located between Canton and Athens off Highway 19.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Our Tax Money Well Spent

I do not always agree with government personnel who manage or mismanage our tax money. My battles with TPWD, the City of Weatherford Utility Board and the Somervell County Water District are epic.

However, one agency commands my utmost respect: the City of Weatherford Parks and Recreation Department. Our acquaintance goes back many years, starting when I was chairman of the Field Day program of the local Amateur Radio club. I have found that this agency actually wants to serve the public.

The Parks and Recreation Department owns three lakes within city parks: Sunshine Lake in Cartwright Park, Holland Lake Park Pond and Love Street Park Pond. Sunshine Lake is an old 30-acre lake originally built to supply water to steam locomotives. It has a good population of bass, crappie, catfish and carp.

Holland Lake Park Pond is the location of two youth fishing events every year, one in the spring and one in the fall. Holland Lake is also stocked several times a year. Fish commonly caught in the lake include Blue Catfish, Channel Catfish, Bass, Sunfish, and Trout.

Love Street Park Pond is the latest acquisition and the subject of our blog today.

Love Street Park is the newest of the parks with ponds. The pond was built in 2009 and stocked with exactly 10 adult largemouth bass, 30 adult bluegill and 804 fingerling channel catfish. In 2011 612 more fingerling channel catfish were added.

The 30 bluegill have been busy. They spawned in 2010 and 2011. And the pond is now wall to wall with small bluegill. I have been able to identify two distinct populations. One group is roughly 4-5 inches long and the other is roughly 5-6 inches long. I assume that corresponds with the two spawns. Both groups are fat and healthy.

Now comes a puzzle. I also caught several yellow bullhead catfish. Neither the city nor TPWD stocked the pond with yellow bullheads. They got in the lake as passengers on birds or someone dumped them there. They were all alike: roughly 8 inches long.

The city built a really nice fishing pier and a bridge over the small creek. Both were built of cedar and looked to be of quality construction. They provided the best access to the deep water for fishing. Then came a problem: the pier and bridge were condemned as unsafe, although to my eye they were built like a battleship. The Parks people had to barricade them in February 2011 and secure funds to rebuild them. The pier reopened last week sporting a composition floor and welded iron railings. The bridge is still closed.

This picture shows the bridge. Notice the wooden rail.
 Now notice the snazzy welded rail on the pier.

I look forward to watching the bluegill grow long and feisty and catching the channel cats for the skillet. And I am grateful to the folks at the Parks and Recreation Department for their services to children and old retired folks.