Where the buffalo roam

WOODS, WATERS & WILDLIFE

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A new lake record for smallmouth buffalo in Lady Bird Lake has been certified by Texas Parks & Wildlife Department. The 64-pound fish was caught on rod and reel while baited with tiger nut and imitation corn. Tiger nut is not really a nut and imitation corn isn’t really corn, but they are attractive to suckers like carp and buffaloes. Photo contributed by Cassady Douglas, pictured.

A new lake record for smallmouth buffalo in Lady Bird Lake has been certified by Texas Parks & Wildlife Department. The 64-pound fish was caught on rod and reel while baited with tiger nut and imitation corn. Tiger nut is not really a nut and imitation corn isn’t really corn, but they are attractive to suckers like carp and buffaloes. Photo contributed by Cassady Douglas, pictured.

I caught my first fish at about age 8 or 9 — two small perch — fishing in the Guadalupe River between Seguin and New Braunfels. I was hooked.

Later, again visiting my grandmother on the Guadalupe, I strolled down barefooted early one morning to the little store there that sold milk, bread, bacon, and bait. I bought a Grapette soda for a dime and went outside. Through the early morning mist, I could dimly see people gathered near the dock. That was unusual this early. Something was happening.

A little boy’s curiosity sent me downhill to the dock. A large man in khaki pants and an undershirt had a fish on his line. His fishing rod was bent like it was a Big Fish! I managed to get on the dock as he finally landed it. Someone said it was a buffalo. I thought buffaloes were much bigger and had four feet and horns. I’d never heard of a buffalo fish. And I had never seen a fish that big.

That was the beginning of a lifetime fascination with fish … and fishing.

John Jefferson is a lifelong outdoorsman, Texas Parks & Wildlife Dept. hunting and fishing regulations coordinator and director, 20-year editor of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Outdoor Annual, author of two hunting books, and recipient of numerous awards for writing and photography.

John Jefferson is a lifelong outdoorsman, Texas Parks & Wildlife Dept. hunting and fishing regulations coordinator and director, 20-year editor of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Outdoor Annual, author of two hunting books, and recipient of numerous awards for writing and photography.

My wife told me recently someone had caught a 64-pound fish in what is now Lady Bird Lake in Austin. I figured it had to be a carp, a catfish, or a buffalo. It was a buff.

A man named Cassady Douglas (love that name!) had broken the lake record for smallmouth buffalo on what was formerly known as Town Lake. It happened on Valentine’s Day this year, 2022. It took a while for the paperwork to be approved and the final certification of the new record to be posted. It’s now official.

After a little effort, I contacted Mr. Douglas and we met to discuss his catch.

Cassady Douglas is from Terlingua, in the Big Bend. He grew up catching catfish in the Rio Grande. He says he caught a small carp once in the Rio but hadn’t really fished for carp until he arrived in Central Texas. He heard of the big fish in the area lakes. That interested him. Many are caught in the Colorado River and its chain of lakes. Walter E. Long Reservoir (formerly Decker Lake) has some big ones, too.

Buffalo resemble carp, but don’t have the barbels (“whiskers”). Their feeding habits are similar.

Cassady told me he was fishing with a “carp reel” that held more line than conventional reels. He used 25-pound test monofilament line. He baited with a tiger nut and imitation corn on the same hook. Bait and gear came from “Big Carp Tackle” through the Internet. His technique was to cast out to water roughly 35 feet deep and let the bait just sit on the bottom. Carp and buffalo are both bottom feeders.

The previous waterbody record for Lady Bird was 52.56 pounds, set by Luke Hartwig using imitation corn. Cassady said it took him about 25 minutes to carefully land the record fish, which was heavier than his line-test rating.

Cassady’s patience paid off.