Finding predators near food

November 23, 2013

Most avid anglers know that the predators they seek to catch will be near a food source. The only other thing that motivates these creatures is the urge to spawn.

This is true for all wildlife on this earth. This article will detail some facts about the predominant baitfish species on our lake and then detail how some of the bigger predators can actually help other species by preventing an overpopulation of baitfish.

Once you locate the forage, the predators will not be far away. The primary forage on our area waters is the shad species. The two shad species on our area waters are threadfin and gizzard shad. Each of these species has different preferences and movements, and understanding these habits can help you locate predators.

Gizzard shad are bright silvery blue-green on back, with silvery sides and a dull white belly. A dark spot behind the gills is common on younger gizzards, but may be absent from adults.

Gizzard shad commonly reach 4 inches in length during the first year of life and can grow as large as 21 inches. They prefer sluggish rivers and soft-bottomed lakes. The fish is synonymous with mud. It is found most commonly in open water near the surface, but can be located deep in cold water months.

The fish are random, nocturnal group spawners in shallow bays, coves, or sloughs with no care given to the young. Eggs are released near the surface of the water from late April or early May to early August at 50 to 70 degrees. the eggs are adhesive and sink. The females are prolific, producing up to 400,000 eggs.

Threadfin shad rarely grow larger than 9 inches in length.They exhibit a scaleless, strongly compressed head. The back is dark gray to bluish black while the sides are silvery. Fins are yellowish in color. A dark spot is common behind the gills.

Threadfin prefer large lakes and rivers with moderate current. They usually congregate in schools over deep water during the daylight hours and will often move into shallower areas at night. They are sensitive to cool temperatures, and below 45 degrees they have decreased swimming and schooling abilities. They cannot tolerate water temperatures below 35 degrees.

Shad predominantly feed on plankton. However, some bottom feeding does occur. In addition, adult shad may also prey upon fish larvae.

Shad, especially gizzard shad, quickly outgrow the vulnerable forage size and can quickly become a nuisance in our manmade Texas waters or when predator populations are insufficient to control them. In many cases, large shad can compete with the young of other species by consuming the same resources.

Stripers and hybrids are often introduced into lakes to help control the populations of these larger shad. While shad may grow too large to be consumed on a regular basis by other game fish, the same cannot be said for stripers. A 20-pound striper has no problem sucking down a 21 inch gizzard shad and coming back for more.

Many folks believe that stripers in our waters impact the population of other game fish by consuming other game fish, but this is generally not true. A large striper can consume other game fish and may on occasion, but studies have shown that stripers consume great quantities of shad and rarely target other species.

A body of water with insufficient forage where the predators compete for the available food will hurt all species. Our Texas Parks and Wildlife biologists survey all Texas bodies of water and manage the fisheries, so hopefully this condition is avoided if possible.

A study conducted by the Tennessee Department of Fisheries confirmed these facts. Over 1,000 Stripers from Norris Lake were examined over a four-year period. It was determined that while stripers consume great quantities of shad, they rarely target other species.


Water temperatures continue to fall and are close to 60 degrees. Lake level is almost 9 feet low. Sand bass action continues to be good to excellent on several areas of the lake. Black bass continue to be fair to good on soft plastics near laydowns.

Squaw Creek black bass are good to 7 pounds on soft plastics on the upper ends. Tilapia continue to be good to excellent on worms.

Hybrids on Lewisville have been reported as good on jigs under the birds. Possum Kingdom sand bass are good near Costello Island on slabs and jigs.

Benbrook hybrids and sand bass are being caught on live bait and slabs near the dam and Richardson Slough. Possum Kingdom continues to be on fire. I was there this last weekend both days and the action for stripers between the Peanut Patch and Costello Island is excellent on live bait. Sandbass action upstream of Costello under the birds is excellent as well.

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Category: Sports Archived