Fishing the Bayou

Fishing the Bayou has always been one of my favorite places to fish. I grew up fishing trout streams in Colorado and Missouri, so streams are in my blood. In Houston we don't have streams or creeks, we have Bayous. There are 2 types in Houston, Old Bayous like Buffalo Bayou and White oak which were here when the area was first colonized by the native Americans and drainage ditches which were lined with cement and used to move flood waters out of neighborhoods. Bayous are great places to find Bass, Bream, Rio Grande Perch, catfish and carp as well as non-native species like tilapia. There are many other  non-native fish also, I have seen Plecostomus, and several small fish like mollies and fan tail guppy's.

Alex got his first bass on a spinning rod in the bayou

One of the things about fishing the bayous is they change after big rains. When the flood waters come up trash, trees, grocery carts, old tires and other refuse moves down stream. This is where the fish will hold till the water goes back down to normal. Erosion also occurs continually as floods happen, changing the direction of the stream and making the channel wider and in some cases deeper. These changes make the fishing interesting and gives you the chance of catching a big fish from that old tire or cart. I caught a 4 pound bass by striping a big fly over the center of a tire and had the bass come from inside the tire to smash my fly. I have also jigged a fly down inside an old washer and pulling 6 bream in a few minutes. 
This is Alex, first bass caught single-handed on a fly. Where the bass are as long as your leg.

Houston has many sewage treatment plants around town and they all drain "clean" water into the bayous. This stream of warm water year around is why many non-native species of fish can survive all year long. Also people watering their lawn and washing their cars add fresh water to the bayou. Because of that I would never eat anything out of the bayous. Sewage treatment is not perfect and if a big flood happens raw sewage spills into the bayous. Heavy metals from the street also ends up flooding the bayou with pollution. Fertilizer and pesticides end up with the fish when the lawn watering goes on too long.

Sara got a nice bream

The culverts that allow street water and treated water into the bayous are great places to find and catch fish. The flood waters will make a hole in front of these culverts that can be 5 to 7 feet deep in some places. These are deep enough to protect the fish from freezing during the winter and keep the fish cool in the summer. It is also a great place for bass to get a meal of worms, bugs and small fish as they fall into the bayou. Be sure to cast so your fly seems to fall out of the culvert and you will see some action. 

Under the bridges is also a great place if there is a hole or channel. It is also the only shade you will find when fishing bayous that are in the outskirts of town. Buffalo bayou has many sections with trees but it is a hard place to use a flyrod.

The concrete bayous south of town are also fun to fish. I have seen huge carp come out of a section of Braes Bayou near the 610 loop. A strange place to catch fish I but have read web pages of Japanese business men who spent $3,000 each to come fish for carp in the bayous of Houston. These have steep banks and a channel at the bottom that always has water in it. The shade of the bridges hold carp and you must be quiet and stealthy to catch them. I use a yellow bead head nymph or woolly bugger to get them to bite. One day I hooked some weeds on my back cast and was not paying attention and let the weeds sink while I looked in my box for a different fly. A 29 inch carp grazing ate my weeds and fly. It took 20 minutes to bring him to shore. All I could do was run up and down the bayou till it was as tired as I was. In the dirt bayous these carp will cruse along undercut banks looking for a meal. If you cast a foot or so in front of them when they are on top of it move it a little they might strike and you will have a great tug of war with a fresh water redfish.
The dark spots are Plecostomus in a 20 foot stretch of bayou near my house. I counted 48 plecos in this shallow water.

The most important thing about fishing the bayous is it can be dangerous. Trash can cause an infection if you get scratched. There are alligators that can bite your leg clean off (said with a crock hunter accent). I was wade fishing in a foot of water at the YMCA at 4 in the morning a few years ago and had a 4 foot gator crawl across my feet. I don't wade there anymore after seeing a 7 footer swim by while fishing one day. They crawl up from the bayou to nest and find food. 

But snakes are the biggest problem. If the grass is tall you can't see your feet and I have almost stepped on more cotton mouth than I can remember. If you make noise most snakes will go away from you and will scare you when they drop in the water in front of you. However I have on more than one occasion been fishing and looked down to see a large moccasin coiled up a foot or 2 from my leg. I could have easily been bitten but was not. I have had copperheads strike my boot as I walked by a stick or log so you must be aware or wear snake boots. 
Cottonmouth or water
moccasin

Bayous can be a wonderful place to watch wildlife and catch fish if you are careful and prepared. Take bug spray and watch where you put your feet. Most important DON'T EAT THE FISH. Heavy metals build up in your system and other biological pollutants are all over. The last thing I want is flesh eating bacteria from getting a dirty hook in me or fined by a catfish. Have fun, be careful and catch some fish, take some pictures and even pick up some trash. The Bayous will be here for your kids also.

Mark