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
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.
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.