At the peak of yesterday’s historic high-water event at Toledo Bend Reservoir, long-time guide Jerry Thompson estimated the water level around mid-lake hit 175 feet.
“My dock was set at 174 ½, and I have 6 inches of water over my dock, maybe 8 inches,” said Thompson, owner of Living the Dream Guide Service.
According to the Sabine River Authority, Friday morning at 7:30 the lake level was at 173.89, with nine spillway gates still open at 22 feet.
“They’re running at 230,000 cubic feet per second,” Thompson said Thursday evening. “To put that in perspective, on the Arkansas River, small craft warnings are given at 70,000 cfs. We're running at 230,000 cubic feet per second."
He said areas that he described as “saddles” would likely be holding fish in the high water conditions.
“Anywhere between two creeks where the migration of fish will come from two different sides of a point — where they can come up between it — there’s going to be a bunch of fish piled in there,” Thompson said. “They’re going to follow it as it goes up, but they don’t become comfortable with it until it stabilizes. And once it stabilizes, the fish will become comfortable with it and they’re going to move up.
“Every fish in this lake will move up. There will not be a deepwater fish in this pond. And the first place they’ll go to is where the water will sit at between 168 and 172 — that’s where they’re going to sit. They don’t care that it’s high. They just have 40,000 more acres of water to be in — they’re going to go explore it.”
Thompson said the water level appeared to stabilize somewhat Thursday afternoon, and said the key to the bite moving forward will be water clarity, not so much water level.
“Square-billed crankbaits that run shallow and have a lot of vibration where they can find them quick,” he said. “A spinnerbait, not necessarily for the flash but for the thump, and if you can throw it, a Chatterbait bladed jig. Once it starts to fall, they’ll move out a little bit and you’ll be able to flip and pitch in the bushes a little bit more.
“But they’ll move up past some of those bushes at this point.”
Moving forward, Thompson cautioned anglers that floating debris of all kinds is all over the reservoir: stumps, logs, pilings, pieces of docks, sunken boats and lots more.
“It’s going to be a cool place to fish in the next week or so because the water is so high, and it’s going to be fun to do because of the stuff you can get into that you never got into before. But I will tell you to please warn everyone to take extra caution: Don’t run on this lake,” he said. “There’s so much stuff floating in it, and if there’s any ripple, a lot of this stuff will float just under the surface and you can’t see it. If you hit it with your boat or your lower unit, your lower unit will come off and you’re going over.
“So when you run, take your time — you don’t have to be in a hurry. You’ll save your life by doing it. You’ll probably still hit something because it’s floating, but at least you won’t die when you do it.”
Thompson actually fished on Friday, and surprisingly reported positive results on the rain-swollen reservoir.
"We're catching fish right now. We're looking for big fish, but we've seen some other anglers catching fish," he said. "There was a 12-pounder weighed in today."
It's possible the torrential rains might actually help the fishery in the long run.
"It was a warm rain," he said. "It actually warmed up some areas. I'm looking at 64-degree temperatures."