Striper migration keeps us moving

December 29, 2012

I talk a lot about striper migration in our North Texas lakes during the winter. There are some generalities that can be drawn, but don’t get fixated with the fish being in one location.

One thing for sure is that these fish will move.

Generally, after the first good freeze, striped bass will move to the upper ends of most reservoirs. Not all fish will move up, but many will. Some may move to the back of feeder creeks and some may stay on the main lake.

Hybrid stripers don’t necessarily follow the path of the striper, though some will. This article features the full-blooded striped bass in our inland reservoirs.

So what makes these fish move upstream? There are a lot of theories.

One theory is that as the temperatures fall in winter, the spawning urge comes on due to the water temperature changes, even though the fish are not ready to spawn.

Another theory is that the water in the shallower creeks and rivers will warm faster than the main lake, which draws the bait fish and the predators.

The third theory is that stripers are just mobile fish and they are known to travel long distances in a single day, and if the bait fish are there, they will be close.

I know of two studies done on migrating stripers. One was done on Lake Whitney and one on Lake Texoma.

The results of the study on Whitney showed that the deeper into the winter season, the more upstream the fish would go. The study on Texoma showed that a female striper traveled from the dam to the upper ends several times back and forth before actually spawning in the river.

I think what those studies tell us is that all of the above theories probably have some basis. It is also known that younger, smaller stripers tend to stay in the main lake as they do not have that “spawning urge” as of yet.

This will also tell you that if you get on the fish when they are on the upper ends, your chances of catching a bigger fish are better.

I can validate that many of the bigger fish will make the run upstream. I generally catch some of the bigger fish of the year on the upper ends at the start of the winter season.

So how do you know whether to try on the upper ends or to go to the lower ends on the main lake? Your best chance, in my opinion, is when the main lake is near its coldest point and the river tends to warm faster than the main lake. In this case the bait fish and predators will probably be there.

I actually went to the river above Whitney last weekend for a couple of hours. Water temperature in the river on this day was 53-55 degrees.

The bait fish were there. However, the only predators I came across were schools of gar.

About 9 a.m. I loaded the boat back on the trailer and drove to the main lake (too costly to run by boat). The main lake was about 57 degrees. Therefore, the main lake was the place to be.

This year we are way behind schedule as we have had a relatively slow start to winter. I am sure some of the fish will be making the move upstream with this latest cold spell during Christmas.

On a recent trip to Lake Texoma, many of the stripers are already at the upper ends. Weather on the Texas/Oklahoma border has been colder than here in Granbury. Water temps were in the low 50s and surely will be falling again with this last cold snap.

On this day a contingency of stripers were on the west end of the Red River feeding Lake Texoma and others were near the main lake opening near North Island. There are also many anglers fishing the Washita (the other major river feeding Texoma).

One thing for sure, there is an abundance of fish to catch up there. It is hard to miss.

Once the fish are in the river, then you can target them better as there is less water to search. On the colder days they will huddle in the deeper holes. At times on the coldest days, the main lake may be slightly warmer and the stripers may run back to the first deeper water they find.

On Lake Whitney, the bend at Lake Side has some deep water where I have found they have done just that (moved to the slightly warmer deeper water during a strong cold snap).

Like I said, not all fish will move up. There seems to be a contingency of fish, even the bigger fish, that may hang in the main lake.

Again, on Lake Whitney the area in front of the State Park is known to hold fish in the winter at times. The area around Cedar Creek and Bear Creek is also known to hold fish.

I don’t like thinking about the golden algae, but if the algae bloom starts to show its ugly face, then it is imperative to find clean water to locate fish.

Golden algae has been showing its ugly face in the winter since 2001 in the Brazos lakes and it is extremely deadly to all fish.

So if you are out chasing stripers and they are not where you expect them to be, you might need to burn some fuel to try those other spots.


Cold water fishing on Granbury continues to be good for sand bass. Action is good on the lower ends near deCordova Subdivision, near the Power Plant and near town.

Some of the sand bass are moving upstream. Birds will point you to active fish at times. Some crappie and black bass continue to be caught on numerous locations across the lake.

Squaw Creek reservoir is reporting great catches of numbers of black bass on soft plastics. This power plant lake is much warmer and many anglers are drawn to the exceptional fishing in the winter.

Many anglers are fishing near the Glen Rose dam near the Big Rocks Park for stocked rainbow trout. Yes you can go catch trout on the Paluxy.

On other reservoirs, hybrid action on Benbrook, Lewisville and Bridgeport is reported as good on most days. Benbrook hybrid stripers are good to near 10 pounds. Stripers are good to 15 pounds on Texoma on the west end on soft plastics.

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Category: Sports Archived