By John Goodspeed
Special to the Express-News
Predicting what the fishing will be like in nine months is like next week’s weather forecast calling for rain — there may be a downpour, but it might not be in the right place.
In this case, fishing guide Manny Martinez is like the weatherman.
In July, Martinez expected a boom this spring for hybrid striper fishing at Calaveras Lake. He based it on landing more stripers than he had ever seen in 28 years of fishing there, with catches numbering between 20 and 50 on each trip through May.
Most were just a few inches shy of the 18-inch keeper size, meaning they would be ready for the frying pan during this spring’s feeding frenzy.
While those fish no doubt are big enough, they’re just not hungry enough.
Instead, the stripers turned on at Braunig Lake last weekend, with reports of numbers of limits of five between 18 and 22 inches. And Braunig, which receives fewer numbers of striper stockings because of its smaller size, is not known as a hot spot for striper fishing.
While Calaveras is producing some stripers, mostly near the banks, they have not hit like Martinez thought.
He thinks it has to do with the water temperature at Calaveras, the cooling lake for CPS Energy’s primary electrical generation site, which added a sixth plant last year.
Last spring, before the new plant began operating, the temperatures were cooler and more favorable for stripers. In March, though, temperatures quickly jumped through the 70s and now are between 80 and 90 degrees.
Not so at Braunig, where CPS rarely fires up the plant until electrical demands skyrocket in the summer. There, the water is still in the low 70s — perfect for stripers, which are less active in warmer temperatures.
“The trend we may see over the next few years is one of longer hybrid striper fishing at Braunig because it’s taking longer for the water to heat up in spring and summer, and a shorter hybrid striper season at Calaveras because it’s heating up so quickly,” said John Dennis, a Texas Parks & Wildlife Department freshwater fisheries biologist.
With so many undersized stripers caught at both lakes last year, “there is a potential for some really good fishing and some really good harvesting,” Dennis said.
The downside for Braunig, however, is that fishing for redfish is slow with the lower water temperatures.
Meanwhile, at the warmer Calaveras, redfish are gulping everything thrown their way.
“Fishing for spring has exploded, and Calaveras is the bomb,” Martinez said.
On trips last weekend, Martinez’s clients limited on reds between 22 and 30 inches and weighing from 5-15 pounds.
“Girth-wise, those fish were beautiful, and there was a lot of fat in them,” said Martinez, who landed the Calaveras record redfish of 41 inches in 2008.
Blue catfish at both lakes are still good along shorelines, reeds, rocks and in water between 2-3 feet, he said.
As for the stripers at Calaveras, the water temperature must have jumped over what they prefer too quickly and now they may be in spawning mode, he said.
“They’re not on, but they will be — trust me,” Martinez said, sounding not at all like a weatherman.
John Goodspeed is a freelance? outdoors writer and photographer.? E-mail email@example.com.
– Trolling with downriggers for hybrid stripers is a preferred method. Last weekend at Braunig Lake, they were hitting gold and silver spoons between 12-20 feet. At Calaveras, redfish like the same setup along with soft plastics in white and chartreuse.
– Bank anglers at Braunig and Calaveras lakes are finding success fishing for stripers with green and white soft plastic Storm Lures and chicken liver, also good for catfish. Also try cut shad and whole tilapia, which redfish like, too.
– More information about Braunig and Calaveras lakes may be found at braunig-calaveras.info.
– Fishing guide Manny Martinez may be reached at 210-386-6695 or fishingwithman