Texas outdoorsmen will tell you there aren’t four seasons in the year, only two—hunting and fishing. While visiting a long-time West Texas client a few weeks ago, we asked how he passed time when his pond was 3-feet low and water temperature hovered around 90-degrees. He replied, “Like I always do this time of year. Build a baitfish blind“. A what…..?
After more questioning, he explained summer drawdown creates a 3 to 4-foot perimeter of bare ground around his pond. It’s a clean surface with scattered pea gravel. Mourning dove regularly feed in a nearby sunflower patch adjacent to the pond. They seek such areas to water at sundown before going to roost. By now, we kind of stared at each other wondering how that related to baitfish. He chuckled and waved, follow me.
He picked-up a saw, five T-posts, a post pounder, some fence wire, two folding stools, and tossed them into the bed of an ATV. We drove to the upper-end of the pond near a dead tree. Seems dove like dead trees. He pounded each post into the ground in a u-shaped configuration about 25-yards from the shoreline. We looked at him, anticipating an update on the next step. He looked at us as if to say, you still don’t know. He shook his head, picked-up the saw, motioned us to follow, and said, “don’t step on a rattlesnake”. We’re in West Texas. There are abundant mesquite trees. Still not offering any clues, he cuts five full limbs, six feet tall, and tells us to grab one. Returning to the posts, he stood limbs upright and wired them to the posts. Just as he placed stools against the screen of limbs, he looked-up and smiled as a flock of doves flew past.
“Do you fish guys get it now”, he wryly gestured toward the birds.
We got the hunting blind part. After a little more ribbing, he finally related how the blind got its name. North Texas dove season typically runs from September 1 to late October. By season end, leaves that offer camouflage are withered and falling off. After the last hunt, our buddy dismantles the blind and tosses limbs into the pond. Winter rains return water levels to normal pool and cover blind brushto make, you guessed it…baitfish habitat. We agreed it may not qualify for a patent, but sure was a good idea.
Habitat is what fish need to reproduce, feed, hide, congregate, ambush, loaf, and live in a harmonious community. Heavy on the word community. While elements described above are just fine, rarely do we come across a lake with a complete habitat plan. Almost everyone thinks of habitat for their target species, especially folks who want largemouth bass. But, what those same good stewards often forget is providing for species which provide the buffet line for their revered game fish. If you plan to have bass, you need habitat for their forage fish, too.
Bluegill are the backbone of the food chain. Provide what they need, too. Oh, and don’t forget, each size of each different species prefers different habitat. Baby bluegill have totally different requirements than big bass. Big bluegill live differently than medium-sized bass. Redear sunfish are different than bluegills. Threadfin shad have totally different habitat choices than any other fish, and it’s the same with hybrid stripers, smallmouth bass, and so on. Your job is to understand habitat for different sizes of different species you plan to stock and manage. Provide that habitat and your odds of success rise exponentially.