When people think about going to the lake, they often think about peaceful waters, time away from work, memories with family or friends, boating…. and of course fishing. If a man has at one time in his life, hooked an aquatic creature, and wrestled and fought to bring it ashore or into the boat, he can hardly drive past a body of water and not wonder what kind of “monster” trophy fish lies in those waters. Possum Kingdom Lake is no different. From muddied shallow waters where the Brazos River enters the lake, to the inlets and coves skirting the lake parameter, there are plenty of options. Some experts are also thriving in the deep waters near the PK dam or inside Hells Gate Cove.
According to Texas Parks and Wildlife, Possum Kingdom Lake is naturally inhabited by crappie, blue and channel cats, and of course, largemouth bass. Plus, our lake stocked with our now famous gamefish hybrid bass known as strippers. Here are some tips from local fishing guides to help you land that trophy fish or maximize your fishing experience.
Most all of the fishing guides at Possum Kingdom Lake lead expeditions and are adept at catching striper, or striped bass. PK lake has a plentiful population of this species and fishing for them is sure to give the new and veteran angler a lot of fun. I spoke with TJ Ranft with Ranft Guide Services about his expertise in the area. He said that while he leads trips for sand bass, white bass and catfish, striper is by far his favorite.
TJ is a 3rd generation fishing guide at PK Lake. His great grandfather moved to the area in 1945. His grandad began as a fishing guide in the area as a young kid. “He started off with just guiding friends, but one eventually he went full time”. TJ’s dad took up the family mantel and was a part time fishing guide in the area before TJ himself became old enough and is now a full time guide.
When I asked TJ for his suggestions on catching striper, his immediate response was “live bait”. He went on to say that he likes to troll around in the summer. Until you really know the lake, he said, you just have to “keep looking ’til you find something”. He also spoke about the importance of trusting your electronics and equipment. TJ said he usually fishes with 10 rods and that fishing can go from “0 to 200 MPH real quick”. He said, it’s not uncommon to have 6-8 rods with fish on them at the same time.
To some people, when you say “catfish” they instantly think back to that one friend who found out the person on the online dating site wasn’t who they said they were. When you talk to someone who has been fishing (not “phishing”), they will often tell you about the fight they had bringing one of these bad boys up from the depths. If they don’t have one of those stories, they may tell you about the “monster catfish” the lives at the base of the dam, “bigger than any man”, or so the legend goes (nobody has every confirmed this fish story, but nearly every lake in Texas has one). Regardless, catching catfish is sure to be a thrill.
I spoke with Chris with Krazy Fins, about his experience with guiding catfish tours, and he didn’t disappoint. Chris, has been on PK guiding for 5 years, with a short spell where he went down to Port A to enjoy the salt and the fishing, but once you’ve tasted the waters of Possum Kingdom, it’s hard to leave. Chris is now back at PK Lake, based out of Golden Cove, where he said, “we can be on the water in 5 minutes if we have to.”
When it comes to bait, everyone who has fished catfish knows “it’s gotta smell”. Chris said the same thing. He said, “tv shrimp or frozen shad may as well go home. It has to be fresh caught gizzard shad. Those big blues want the biggest bloodiest piece of bait you can cut. A lot of guys are fishing shallow up the river. I don’t like going up river because of all the stumps and silt and sand getting sucked up into your motor, so I stick to the deeper water.” To find catfish, most people know you have to find rocks and tree stumps or drop-offs where they lie. Chris said that’s what he’s looking for with his electronics and tools.
When talking about the types of catfish, Chris said, “Blue catfish are like teenage boys at a pizza buffet… They never stop eating. Because they don’t retain fat, they have to constantly eat. Flathead and channel cats’ metabolisms slow down, so they can hunker down in the wintertime, but not the blue cats”. Catching big fish, Chris said, comes down to using the right bait. “Catching bait is probably 70% of the success rate.”
Sand Bass and Crappie
I asked Casey Armstrong with Hooked Up Outfitters, for his suggestions on Crappie and Sand Bass at Possum Kingdom Lake. Casey said that while crappie may be the most fun to catch, especially for a new fisherman, or someone that wants a lot of action, Crappie is the best meat for eating at PK Lake. Sand bass, in his opinion would follow right behind crappie for best fillets. Casey grew up as a young boy fishing Possum Kingdom and after serving 17 years with Palo Pinto law enforcement, he has spent the last 12 years doing guide services. Casey’s mindset towards fishing is “I want to see folks that aren’t into fishing become fishers. I want to insure their success”.
Sand Bass Tips
When it comes to sand bass fishing, most people in the area will talk about the spawning runs up the river in mid Marach to early April. When fishing for these bass during the rest of the year, the techniques are not much different. Casey explained that one of his favorite setups is to run a double rig. He usually likes to put a slab on the end with a spoon or spinner blade (Something flashy), and then about a foot up the line he likes to put another slab with a Mr. Twister 2″ curly tail or something similar. “Sometimes they won’t hit the first one but will the second one. Other times it’s the other way around. A lot of times, you can actually catch 2 at a time.”
When discussing Crappie, Casey, like everyone else we spoke with, hammered on the importance of live bait. “You can’t beat live shad for crappie. It’s hard because you can’t buy it. You can’t freeze it. And you have to learn how to catch it yourself. For crappie,” Casey continued, “I’m watching the water temperature. As soon as the water gets over 60 degrees, I’m out there fishing.” The reason, he said, is that once the water temperatures warm up to that point, the crappie will begin their spawning. They will take to shallower waters, where it’s easier to fish them. During the colder months, November-February, Casey said the best tactic is to “fish the treetops”. This refers to fishing coves and once wooded areas that have been flooded since the building of the lake. He said, he likes to run his jigs about 25′-30′ down, so it’s just barely in those tree tops. Obviously, there are only specific areas of PK Lake where those “tree top” areas can be found, so it’s important to trust your equipment or be with a guide who already knows the area.
Why do we fish?
When I think back to when I was first learning how to fish, I remember my dad taking me. I remember the memories we made. TJ Ranft implied this same thing when I spoke with him. He mentioned how there was a lot of action when fishing for striper, but the thing he mentioned that stood out to me was he said, “kids love it”. And isn’t that what fishing is supposed to be? A break from the chaos, a time of peace and companionship, making those memories of reeling in “the big one”, or maybe it’s “the first one”. Regardless, to me, fishing is about memories. Hopefully some of these tips will help you make those memories as well.
My Advice?? Contact a guide!
There are multiple guides at PK Lake, many of them that I unfortunately did not get a chance to talk to for this article. If you want to contact any of the ones mentioned here, the links to contact them are below. All three of these guides have been successful at fishing Striper, Catfish, Crappie, and Sand Bass. For more Possum Kingdom Lake guides you can also easily find them online. GOOD LUCK and send me your phishing… I mean fishing photos at [email protected] so we can share them.
TJ Ranft – Ranft Guide Service
Chris – Krazy Fins
Casey Armstrong – Hooked Up Outfitters
Written by Matthew Renfro