Winter is the perfect time to fish in Texas, from the warm salt water of the Gulf of Mexico to freshwater lakes and streams, ponds and rivers throughout the state.
Locally, Belton Lake, Stillhouse Hollow Reservoir – consistently ranked among the best lakes in the state – and the Lampasas River are considered excellent places to land a stringer full of bass, sunfish, catfish, crappie and/or bream. No fancy gear is needed, as fishing from the shore is a great way to fill a cooler using just a rod pole and a bucket of minnows or a box of red worms undulating or night owls.
For those who want a more exotic fishing experience, the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife implements a statewide stocking program each year in which hundreds of thousands of rainbow trout Hatchery-bred Rainbows are released into lakes, streams, river tailraces, and state park ponds. , and the public is invited to bait a hook and catch up to five fish each.
Generally, rainbow trout – native to North America west of the Rocky Mountains, averaging two to five pounds in size – do not breed in Texas and are unable to survive the summer temperatures here, so every fall and winter, TPWD releases over 350,000 of the popular game fish and welcomes anglers of all ages and skill levels to get out and bait a hook.
A simple rod and reel is what the fisherman ordered to fetch rainbows, along with some simple bait: cheese, corn kernels, worms, crickets, teaspoons and spoons.
TPWD recommends using lightweight gear, including a small closed-face spinning reel, six to eight-pound test line, and small hooks. Slipshot weights help cast and sink bait to the desired depth. Floats are useful for youngsters and beginning anglers to easily see when a fish is taking the bait and starting to pull the hook.
Children 16 and under can fish for free, while anyone 17 and over needs a valid fishing license. A permit is not required to fish inside a Texas state park. Most parks charge an entry fee for admission.
In Central Texas, upcoming Rainbow storage dates and locations include:
Copperas Cove Municipal Park Pond: February 13; 1000 fish.
Harker Heights Carl Levin City Park Pond: January 13; 1,500 fish.
Temple Miller Park Pond: February 27; 1,500 fish.
Georgetown Blue Hole Park Lake: January 16; 1,500 fish.
Sites stocked in December included:
Lampasas WM Brook Park Lake: December 15; 900 fish.
Nolan Creek to Belton: December 18 and 30; 1,400 fish.
With a limit of beautiful rainbows on the ice, what next?
First of all, the fish must be prepared for cooking. This is called cleaning the fish.
Step One: Use a sharp knife to cut off the head just below or behind the first gill.
Second step: cut the caudal fin.
Step Three: Cut the fish below the anus forward to make a long straight incision or a butterfly cut. Point the blade of your knife upwards and slide it down the spine. The knife should cut along the outside of the rib cage. Flip the knife over and cut along the spine to the base of the tail, but not through the skin.
Repeat this process on the other side of the trout. You will now have two sides and the rib cage in the middle with no meat. Then remove this bony structure along the base of the flesh and remove the remaining rows of bones by cutting on each side without cutting through the skin.
Now these beauties are ready for baking.
Crispy Baked Trout: Parmesan cheese and panko breadcrumbs combine to form a light, crispy coating on these baked fillets. Dijon mustard and garlic add just a touch of spice.
Veggie Roasted Rainbow Trout: Empty your vegetable bin with this veggie-packed recipe that makes for a light weeknight dinner perfect for post-holiday detox.
Lemon Pepper Pan-Seared Rainbow Trout: All you need for this is a handful of pantry staples and 20 minutes.
Mustard and Herb Crusted Trout: If you’re craving fish with a serious crunch factor (without frying), here it is.
Grilled Rainbow Trout with Lemon Parsley Butter: A zesty recipe with a bonus tutorial on part culling your own trout if you’re feeling brave.