The water at Lake Ray Hubbard is heating up quickly and I would expect the fishing to really pick up in the next two weeks. The lake is about seven to eight feet low and is very dangerous, so be careful out there. In the meantime, here is a Ray Hubbard tale from G.O. Fishin': Tall Tales from the Tackle Box.
The Nephew: Making of Mark
Never underestimate the impact that takes hold of a young person when you bring them fishing for the first time. When they see their float submerge beneath the water and then feel that tug on the line, they’re hooked for life; and believe me, there is a lot worse things in this world to be hooked on. Such was the case when I took my wife’s nephew, Mark, fishing for the first time on Lake Ray Hubbard in the Dallas, Texas, area.
During the 1980’s, Lake Ray Hubbard located just east of Dallas was stocked with striped bass. The 30,000 acre reservoir with a dense shad population, proved to be an ideal habitat for the ravenous schools of stripers which roamed the lake. The only problem with the program was that the TPW (Texas Parks and Wildlife) soon realized that the fish could not reproduce in the lake. The striper, being a native salt water fish, needs a high salinity count in order to hatch its eggs, and Lake Ray Hubbard could not sustain a population on its own. TPW decided that the hybrid striper, which can spawn at a minimal rate, would prove to be a better choice for stocking the waters of Lake Ray and discontinued the striper program. Although the stocking was stopped, many huge stripers still roamed the lake and I was out to catch every one of them.
My wife and I purchased a small Fours Winns cuddy cabin which I gerry-rigged as a striper fishing craft and I began trolling the deeper waters near the dam trying too locate fish. Many times we could find the stripers by simply watching for the seagulls circling the busting shad at the surface, which was an indication that a school of stripers were beneath the baitfish and that a feeding frenzy had begun. When there was no activity at the top, the best way to find the fish was by doing a slow troll with a deep diving plug. My favorite rig was to use a Hellbender with a Pett spoon trailer (the same technique that had been taught to me by the old men at Cedar Creek Lake). The Hellbender would act as a down-rigger by taking the small spoon down to where the fish were and if you could catch one striper on the troll, you usually had found yourself a goldmine. By trolling back and forth over the hot-spot where you caught your first fish, you could more often than not hammer out a limit of huge stripers. The only drawback to this technique was the lake was infested with underwater timber near the dam and during the troll you could loose a fair number of lures on hang ups. This was the cost of doing business with a troll, but I was more than ready to give up a few lures in exchange for some lunker stripers.
When my nephew Mark was ten years old, his mother sent him down from Rockford, Illinois, to visit us during summer break. Since the boy had never gone fishing before, I planned to take him out on Lake Ray to see if I could get him on some fish. Most children begin fishing with a cane pole and a box of night crawlers in search of bream, but I decided to introduce him to the big leagues on his first at bat.
The day after he arrived in Dallas, my wife and I took Mark down to the Cove Landing where I docked my boat and we launched for a day of fishing and fun. The sun had begun to rise and the weather was so calm that I could barely see a ripple on the water. Heading out to the dam, I kept my eyes peeled for any surface activity but could not detect so much as turtle coming up for air. Once we arrived at the happy hunting grounds I stopped the boat and took out the poles. The week before Mark came down to visit us I had splurged by buying two brand new Garcia Ambassador bait casting reels, along with two stiff back-boned Ugly stick poles. Although the gear set me back some, I was tired of getting snapped off by some of the larger fish and I was now prepared to do battle with a much improved arsenal. I spooled the reels with a stout twenty pound test line and adjusted the drag on the Ambassadors at taut, but not tight. Throwing the Hellbender lures behind the boat I handed Mark one of the poles and my wife started up the engine in order to begin the slow troll. “What do I do now?” Mark asked.
“Nothing,” I said, “just sit back and relax.”
We trolled back and forth along the dam for several hours without a single strike and I was afraid the intense Texas heat had taken the fish deep and shut down the action. Mark was becoming a little antsy so I suggested we have some lunch. “Why don’t you ask your Aunt Lori if she could get us some of those nice sub sandwiches she made this morning.” Mark quickly regained focus after I mentioned food. He latched onto his sandwich and began devouring it like a catfish on stink-bait. “Can I get a soda?” Mark asked with bread crumbs tumbling from his mouth.
“They are in the cooler behind you,” Lori said.
As soon as Mark sat his pole down to retrieve the sodas I had a strike, “Fish on!” I shouted. The pole bowed down to the water and I could feel the weight of a solid striper behind the tug. “Mark, get over here and grab this pole: this is a monster.” Mark tripped over the cooler but quickly regained his composure. Right when I made the move to hand off the pole, Mark’s fishing rod jettisoned off his seat into the water, from another strike. Holy shit: there goes my new Ambassador. Mark did battle with the striper and I eventually netted a nice double-digit striper. I estimated the fish had to be close to fourteen pounds. Lori took a picture of an ear-to-ear smiling boy who had just caught his first fish and then I took the striper and flipped him into the live well. After I closed the lid, I looked up and Mark was no longer sporting the huge smile. “Why so serious?” I asked.
“I lost your pole Uncle Gary.”
“Don’t worry about that. Do you know how many people catch a fish like that on their first try?”
“It was really your fish.”
“No it wasn’t; you landed him.”
“How can I make up for the lost pole?”
“Don’t worry about it; it’s just a fishing pole. How about by pulling all the weeds in my front yard. Besides, I have some more poles. Let’s troll back over that spot and see if we can get another fish.”
Lori turned the boat around and we went for another pass. Right when we hit the honey hole, Mark had a strike, “Got one!” he screamed.
“Get him in; this one is all yours,” I said.
Mark reeled and reeled but seemed to be going nowhere. “Is he still on?” I asked.
“I can feel him pulling but I can’t get him in.”
“Hand me the pole.”
Mark handed me the pole and I felt the pull of the fish. Tightening up the drag, I handed it back to him. “Keep reeling,” I said, “he’s still on the line.” Mark reeled for several minutes more and then pulled up his Hellbender, which appeared to be tangled on another line. What the hell? I pulled the line up with my hand and felt the pull of a fish. Hand over hand, I grabbed at the line until my hands bled. When I finally came to the end of the line, I pulled up the biggest striper I had ever seen in the lake. “Git-the-net!” I shouted to Mark. I quickly netted the fish and tossed him into the boat. “That’s the biggest sucker I have ever seen out here,” I said, “he must be over twenty pounds.”
“Where is that other line going to?” Mark asked.
“Don’t know; why don’t you pull it up.”
Mark began manually reeling in the rogue line and when he came to the end he pulled up the missing Ugly Stick and Ambassador reel. “Well I’ll be dogged,” I said. “That fish you just pulled up was hooked onto your original pole and you had somehow snagged its line on the bottom of lake. That means the striper was hooked onto your pole which went overboard. Do you know what that means?”
“It means that the fish was caught by you. It’s legitimate.”
The ear-to-ear smile returned.
From then on there, Mark was hooked on fishing. When he became a teenager he bought himself a small Bass Buster boat from the Bass Pro Shop in Rockford and trolled the Rock River in Northern Illinois in search of walleye and bass. He would tell his friends about the fishing adventure he had with his uncle in Texas but they never believed him. “You’re just making up a fishing tale,” one of them told him, “I know your uncle: he just likes to tell stories.”
A fisherman had been born.