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Lake Fork Fishing Guide
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11/21/2005
    CABELAS OUTFITTERS JOURNAL - LAKE FORK CATFISH: BY MATT WILLIAMS
    Lake Fork in northeast Texas is known worldwide as one of most prolific trophy bass lakes on the planet. But fishing guide Gary Paris of Quitman is working hard to broaden that reputation to include catfish as well. "Lake Fork has always been known as a great bass lake, and it still is," said Paris. "But what a lot of people aren't aware of is how many catfish are out there. It is an untapped resource. This lake is full of them — big ones." Paris has recognized that Nature furnishes a near foolproof way to exploit fat Fork cats throughout fall and winter. At its heart is the double crested cormorant. A fish-eating Northern migrant species, the cormorants flock to East Texas lakes by the thousands each year to ride out the winter. When cormorants aren't actively feeding, they spend most of their time perched in flooded timber thinking about it. Experts say a mature cormorant will eat about 1 pound of fish each day. All that excess protein has to go somewhere, and on Lake Fork, most of it winds up in the bellies of hungry channel and blue catfish. They’ve learned that roost trees equal an all-you-can-eat dinner buffet. "People have been using soured grain to chum for catfish for years," Paris said. "This is basically the same deal, except the cormorants do the chumming for you. A catfish is one big olfactory gland. They can smell that bird poop from a mile." A bass angler at heart, Paris has learned to incorporate the "run and gun" bass-fishing strategy into his catfishing agenda. Rather than moving from point to point, he goes from roost tree to roost tree. There he uses conventional baitcasting gear to tempt fish that are poised to strike the second the bait hits the water. Paris' bait of choice is a chicken gizzard. He rigs the gizzard on a 4/0 or 5/0 hook with no weight and casts to the base of suspect trees from about 20 feet away. The idea is for the bait to go "splat" like bird feces when it hits the water, then begin a slow, methodical fall. "I think the catfish hit the gizzards more out of reaction than anything else," he said. "They are sitting down there just waiting for something else to land in the water. There is a bunch of competition and they grab it before they realize what they have done." Gear with guts is essential to achieve success with poop-hungry cats. Paris suggests 20- to 25-pound-test line and a heavy-action rod. The idea is to turn big fish quickly before they can wrap up in all that underwater timber. "I have landed several blues up to twenty pounds," he said. "But I have also stuck some fish that I couldn't begin to turn before they broke the line. If you get a big fish on, everything has to go just right to land it." Paris has experienced the best results on overcast days with light wind. The fish like to suspend just a few feet beneath the surface when skies are cloudy. This allows a slowly falling bait to reach the strike zone — and get slammed — quickly. On clear days the fish tend to suspend deeper. This makes getting strikes more of a waiting game, because it takes longer for the bait reach the strike zone. If you are interested in booking a trip with Paris, contact him at (903) 878-2968 or by e-mail at gparis@flash.net.
   
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