Clayton: What's your favorite fish species and why?

Luke Clayton
Special to the E-T
Luke Clayton with a feisty white bass. After reading this week’s column, if your interest in fishing is not sparked, Luke suggests you might think about scheduling your next Tee Time at the golf range.
Luke Clayton

Did you ever give thought to your favorite species of fish to catch? I mean, if you had the opportunity to fish for anything, anywhere, what would it be? And then, what is your favorite species to fish for around your home waters in Texas?

I guess I have led a charmed life when it comes to catching fish. I simply love the feel of a fish tugging on my line and through the years, I have had the opportunity to fish for a good number of species. If challenged to answer my own question, I think my favorite species to catch would be big northern pike on a remote lake in northern Saskatchewan but pose that question to me while I’m watching my cork disappear below the surface of a farm pond by the tug of a big bluegill and my answer will change to fit the moment.

There is something very special about fishing remote waters where the fish have never seen a lure and catching is as easy as getting the appropriate lure in the water. Everyone that loves fishing should treat themselves to a trip to Canada to catch pike, walleye, lake trout and arctic grayling. But I warn you, once you have experienced the scenery and remoteness of these lakes; you will more than likely make plans to return.

But right here in Texas we have a smorgasbord of fishing opportunities to experience, everything from sport fishing off the Texas coast to catching white bass, crappie, largemouth, catfish and stripers on the inland lakes. How many of you have fished offshore from an economically priced party boat for red snapper and grouper or, targeted bull redfish or flounder during the fall "run"?

Right now and throughout the hottest part of the summer, shark fishing is at its best along the Texas coast. Some of the better shark action occurs around shrimp boat while the crew is culling their catch. No need to go very far off the beachfront to catch shark, most sharks are caught in the Gulf within sight of land.

How about going after a brute of an alligator gar on the Trinity River? Now, that’s a different type fishing that guys like guide Chris Moody specialize in.

Lake Texoma up on the Texas/Oklahoma borders offers some of the very best striper fishing in the country. Fed by the Washita and Red Rivers which have the "just right" salinity to facilitate a successful striper hatch, Texoma is a self sustaining striper fishery providing excellent fishing throughout the seasons.

I love catching largemouth bass and grew up fishing for them but I must admit I seldom bass fish on the larger reservoirs these days but I absolutely love fishing smaller waters for these hard-fighting fish. The past few years, I have renewed my love for creek fishing on my good friend’s place that joins a feeder creek on Lake Fork. We catch a variety of fish in the creek and often set a short trotline for catfish to insure we have plenty of fish for an evening creek side fish fry.

Because I love cooking and eating fish almost as much as I enjoy catching them, I have no qualms about keeping a limit of just about any species I catch with the exception of largemouth bass. Not to say bass aren’t good eating, the smaller "yearling" bass are very tasty and I often keep a mess of them when fishing private ponds and lakes.

Schooling fish such as white bass and stripers provide not only adrenaline packed action but excellent eating as well. I often hear folks say they don’t enjoy eating white bass or stripers because of the "red meat". Once they learn to use that fillet knife correctly and remove the small strip of red meat, they usually rate the flavor right up there with crappie or catfish.

I often joke with my buddies that crappie are neutral tasting fish, they are fish that "non fish eaters" enjoy eating. But don’t get the idea that I will snub my nose at a platter of crispy crappie fillets, no sir! But I am just as happy with properly cleaned, seasoned and cooked white bass or striper fillets. I love striper cooked in butter and blackening seasoned, not truly blackened but cooked in just enough butter to give them flavor and a bit of crunch. With a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, striper cooked I this manner is about as good as fish eating gets!

I have a friend that spends a lot of time fishing for bream and is a master at using a small fillet knife to remove the tasty fillets. We used to scale and fry sunfish whole when I was a kid but in later years, I began filleting them. When you think about it, even an average size bream provides a couple of fillets about the size of a jumbo shrimp and they are just as tasty to my way of thinking.   

I’ve often made the statement that I would remain a deer hunter the remainder of my life if I knew all I could harvest would be spike bucks. The same holds true with fishing, I plan to be a fisherman as long as I am able to cast a bait. In my ‘golden’  years this might not entail a trip to a remote lake up in Canada on the border of the Northwest Territories but I hope to be dunking minnows in a nearby farm pond.

It is my fervent desire that if you have not yet discovered the joy of fishing, you will give it a try. It’s doesn’t take a giant northern Pike or trophy largemouth to get you ‘hooked’. A trip to a local city pond for bluegills might just do the trick. Consider booking a trip with a guide that offers trips for ‘action’ species such as white bass, catfish or stripers. Let them expose you to some red hot ‘catching’ and the fire will be lit! If it’s not, then you probably need to schedule your next “Tee Time” at the local golf course!

Contact outdoors writer Luke Clayton via email www.catfishradio.org. Watch the weekly video by searching "A Sportsman's Life," on YouTube.