My Blue Heaven

Written By: Steve Stainkam - May• 28•14


I had lunch the other day at Brick’s River Cafe, a favorite Bandera eating establishment. As is my custom, I chose their always-delicious catfish lunch offering (the catfish platter has more food than I can eat) and thought to myself, “I need a catfishing “fix.” I should call my pal, catfish guide, David Hanson of Lake Tawakoni’s Little D’s Guide Service.” After lunch, I sat and daydreamed of the following fishing trip.

It was an overcast summer’s day, and the sun snuck a peek from behind a raft of clouds.

On the heels of days of welcomed rain, the air was crisp and fresh, not stifling—unusual for a summer’s day in Texas. I dropped the red, No. 4 treble hook into the ripe mash, shoved it to the bottom of the bait bucket and retrieved the gooey mess by tugging on the 20-pound mono.

Careful not to smack my buddy in the chops, facing the stern, I released the bail on the Shakespeare bait cast reel and slung the odorous offering beyond the boat’s Mercury outboard. Ande monofilament zipped through the float loops and the bait sank to the desired 4-fathom-depth off the lake bottom over a forest of gnarly snags and tackle-robbing stickups.

In seconds, the bobber floundered, listed and disappeared. I took up the slack and retrieved line, setting the hook. With a swat of its powerful tail, the blue catfish sent a diamond spray into a darkened sky and sounded. In seconds, the sleek five-pounder was safely on ice.

David Hanson of Little D’s Guide Service Trophy Catfishing (Phone 903-662-5668) plies his trade east of Dallas on Lake Tawakoni, the 37,000-acre impoundment 15 miles southeast of Greenville, Texas. Caddo Creek, South Fork Creek and the Cowleech Fork of the Sabine River were impounded there in 1960 to form Lake Tawakoni, a moderately stained, catfish reservoir.

Beneath the lake’s inky swells lurk enormous striped bass and hybrid striped bass, white bass, largemouth bass and two species of catfish—tons of ‘em—channels and blues. But David Hanson is a one-fish kind of catfish guy. He lives and breathes blue catfish, first introduced to the lake in 1989. And when he told friends and the owner of the marina out of which he fishes there would be tournaments for the humble catfish one day, he was roundly laughed at.
No one is laughing at him today—catfish tournaments have popped up everywhere.
David left the plumbing business years ago to guide, and in a handful of years has had remarkable success on the under-fished Tawakoni. Since their introduction to the lake 20 years ago, blue catfish have done remarkably well. Their numbers—and size—have taken off!
Today, the lake has untold trophy-class blue catfish, and David’s hauls are proof of it.

In the past 6 years, he has boated and released dozens of blue cats over 60 pounds. He’s done the same with numbers, “easily in the hundreds,” of blue catfish in the 50-pound, bragging-rights-class. “One March day not long ago,” he reported, “I caught 23 fish that weighed over 800 pounds.” I later did the math. That is an average of 34.78 pounds per fish!

David believes Tawakoni is destined for bigger and better blue catfishing days. And the numbers bear this out. “Several 80 pounders have been hauled in, and we’re due more fish in the 70-pound range. My all-time best is 65 pounds, but before now, 60-pound fish had been tops.”

The amazing thing for me, a deep sea fisherman, is David’s fish have all been caught on light tackle. When he invited me to fish, I offered to pack my Penn 4.0 with 90-pound mono—the outfit I use for hook-straightening sharks and tuna in the Gulf. You’d have thought I’d poked David in the eye with a stick! “That wouldn’t be sporting,” he said, “We only use light tackle.”

I fished twice with David—and what a challenge those trips were! Our first took place in August; the second was in November. Now, it takes a ton of persuading for me to fish on the whitetail deer opener—especially on my birthday. But my first trip with him was so much fun and successful—I came home with 2 limits (mine and David’s) of blues in the 2- to 5-pound range—I returned in the fall for trophy blues, monsters caught from October through March.

And I wasn’t disappointed!

On the first trip we used a special stink bait David makes to catch limits with corks over stickups. On the second trip, we drift-fished in deep water with fresh cut shad, and by midday we boated over 300 pounds of blue catfish. We did the responsible thing and released the brood fish—30-pounders and heavier—to ensure the future of blues on Tawakoni. And despite my catching and photographing, and being slimed by (i.e., releasing) a 50 pounder and 2 dozen fish that tipped the scales at 40 pounds, I came home with 50 pounds of delicious catfish fillets.

It doesn’t get any better than that!
Or does it? Perhaps you have a blue cat honey hole—and story—you’d like to share.
If so, give me a holler at:

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.