Simple fishing and simple times

Woods, Waters and Wildlife

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I asked a new neighbor about his bumper sticker about saving Lake Travis. He asked why I was interested.

I said I sometimes fished there. He immediately took interest and wanted to know more about that, asking, “Bass fishing?” – like that was the only fishing available. He didn’t seem to know people fished for anything else. That was sad but understandable.

With all the bass fishing TV shows and ads touting bass fishing, bass boats, bass tackle and bass tournaments, that was his only reference. It’s far from reality, and maybe a little “bassackwards.”

Perch (properly called “sunfish”) are probably the first fish most people ever catch and are a great sport for kids. Guess I’m one who never completely grew up.

A friend asked me recently to join him for some perch fishing. I replied, “Sure!” Perch fishing is easy and fun. And a throwback to earlier times in life.

I have fond recollections of trudging the Guadalupe River bank like Huck Finn – a bamboo fishing pole over my shoulder strung with braided cotton line, a bottle-cork cut half way through on the long side to allow line to be forced into it, a small lead sinker and a narrow Mustad hook. Worms make excellent bait, but a can of worms cost a dime back then and since 10-year-olds seldom had a nickel, swatting grasshoppers with my baseball cap provided most of my bait. Simpler times; wonderful memories.

There’s a hypnotic fascination sitting along a shaded stream watching a cork bobber. It begins to twitch a little, then progresses to lateral movement and a staccato series of bobbles ending in disappearing under water. Fish ON! And you don’t know whether it’s one of the eight varieties of sunfish, a catfish or a turtle.

I said eight species of sunfish, but there are more that don’t count as the “perch.” Largemouth and smallmouth bass and crappie are also sunfish, but fishing for them is different. For descriptions and illustrations of most fresh and saltwater species, see “Fishing Texas” by my mentor and beloved friend, the late Russell Tinsley.

Another “perch,” although it isn’t a sunfish, is the Rio Grande perch. It’s actually a cichlid. Most Texans have never seen one since they are restricted to the warm waters from Lady Bird Lake south to the Rio Grande. Adults are dark with a distinctive humped back. Largest concentrations are in Las Moras Creek at the Fort Clark Resort at Brackettville. At age 10, I caught one in the Guadalupe west of Seguin that weighed 1.25 pounds and would have been the state record. The current record is 2.02 pounds, caught just upstream in Lake Dunlap.

And I’m not the only adult that fishes for perch. Two other outdoor writers once abandoned a bass tournament to perch fish.

All perch can be caught on earthworms, crickets, grasshoppers and assorted other insects and small spinnerbaits. There is no limit to the number you can take home … and fry up! They’re great eating!

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