Fishing Lake Lewisville
When Texans talk about bass fishing, they also talk about Lake Lewisville. Its huge 183- mile-long shoreline, around which 17 boat ramps are located, brings anglers from all over the country to try their luck at largemouth bass, stripers and, depending on the time of year, Texas-size blue catfish. This past October's National Collegiate Bass Fishing Championship co-sponsored by BoatUS was the fourth major fishing tournament on Lake Lewisville in the past 18 months.
But fishing is actually secondary around Lake Lewisville. In the 1930's, the Trinity River-the longest river in the state-was dammed to provide a reservoir of drinking water for Dallas (24 miles to the south). As the population grew, a decision was made to make the reservoir (at the time called Lake Dallas) even bigger, so another dam was built and the original one was destroyed. Lake Lewisville was in business.
Some of the older stories that are told go back before any of the lakes (now managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) were created-to when a cane pole and a line were tossed into the Trinity River and a bass was pulled out of the water. One of the towns along the western shore of Lake Lewisville, Shady Shores, was originally a fishing camp for Dallas residents back in the 1920's. Today, fathers tell sons and daughters about their grandparents fishing for bass pretty close to where they fish now.
And many of those fishing now are serious anglers, among them Robin Babb who has placed in the Women's BassMaster Tour Championship.
"Lake Lewisville is a very good fishery and I've competed there in both 2004 and 2005 and done fairly well," Babb says, offering this advice: "There are large tire barriers put out at the entrance to the marinas used as breakwater barriers. Letting a worm fall in the middle of the tires is a fun way to catch bass in the summer time...make certain to use heavy line (20-pound fluorocarbon or braid) to keep from breaking off because you do have to wrestle the fish out from around the tires!"
Babb also has fished off the Westlake Park area and close to where the old dam still stands. There are two wide cuts, separating "the old lake" (north) and "the new lake" (south), allowing boaters to get past the old dam. But as a result of low water levels, only the north cut (called Rocky Point by the locals) is usable. Some record bass have been caught in this area because of structure along the lake's bottom. If there is a wind on the lake, boats will raft up in the lee of the dam to remain in "protected water."
A few miles south of the "old lake" and "new lake" is the city of Lewisville's 662-acre Lake Park (just west of Interstate 35E-also called the Stemmons Freeway, which crosses the low-water area. Lake Park provides 11 lanes of boat ramps and parking for about 108 tow vehicles and trailers (cost is $3/day). Campgrounds are scattered all around the lake and Lake Park provides more than 100 sites with water, electricity, grills and a swimming beach (in season). Eagle Point Marina is nearby as is the center of Lewisville Lake activity-Sneaky Pete's, a waterfront restaurant that served as the weigh-in for the Collegiate Bass Championship just completed.
Fishing is taken so seriously here that a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week Fishing Barge is open year-round in Lewisville. It's heated in the winter and air conditioned in the summer, bait and tackle are available as are snacks. Recently, a lake record largemouth bass was caught by a Lewisville resident at the Fishing Barge. It weighed 13.63 pounds, breaking a record set just a few months earlier by a professional angler near the old dam in a bass Elite 50 Tournament. (For the curious, the world record for largemouth bass was set in 1932 in Georgia when a 22-pound, 4-ounce trophy was brought in.)
When a break is needed from the fish, Lewisville has a downtown area worth exploring. Aptly called "Old Town," there is a series of unique storefronts-many of which keep to the original design and architecture from the late 1880's. You'll find antique shops and restaurants and the Lewisville Feed Mill, which began as a livery stable in 1886 and continues to be a working feed mill for area agriculture. Old Town also has a variety of restaurants including the Old Town Flying Pig (a sports bar). Dat's Good BBQ, Easy Street Cafe and the Veranda (an old Victorian house that has been redesigned to serve breakfast and lunch).
Because Lewisville is managed by the U.S. Army Corps, most of the shoreline is public property, meaning any recreational boat can stop anywhere — except for areas that are designated as being off limits (this includes a few private docks and many of the beaches in parks). The Corps operates a number of nearby lakes as reservoirs, too, including Grapevine five miles to the southwest and Ray Roberts nine miles to the north. Like Lewisville, these are prime fishing and recreational areas.
Despite some rain during the autumn, northern Texas is experiencing a brutal drought and Lake Lewisville is about 10 1/2 feet below its normal level. This has resulted in a number of boat ramps being closed along the western shore of the lake and to the west of the Stemmons Freeway Bridge (35E). The Corps updates ramp conditions/closures on the four boat ramps it operates on its website (found at the end of this story), but keep in mind that a number of cities around Lake Lewisville have jurisdiction over some ramps too.
This area is also the scene of an investigation where more than 3,000 trees on exposed lakebed were cut during the low water. Nobody knows why this was done, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been investigating since it was first discovered last March. In the meantime, there is concern once normal water levels return that fish won't have the protected structure that has provided both food and cover for years. When levels increase, there is also worry that boat engines could hit the stumps and wood that has been left. As a result, nearby boat ramps (Pilot Knoll Park and Sycamore Bend Park) have been closed indefinitely as a way to keep boat traffic away from what could be a dangerous area.
Low water levels have also been the cause of a number of groundings, a few at high speed that have resulted in injuries. First-timers are strongly advised to go slow the first time out and have an up-to-date nautical chart on board.
"Low water is going to be an interesting challenge for anyone fishing Lake Lewisville," notes Wade Middleton, host of the Fox Sports Collegiate Bass Competition coverage. "And with the low water, I expect most of the fishing will be done on the main lake areas and not in any of the backwaters because what back areas there are will be probably too shallow to access. Also, shallow areas replenish with fish a lot slower than do deeper areas."
One of the participants in the collegiate tournament is Casey Sobczak from Austin State University, who learned to fish in nearby Sam Rayburn Reservoir. While majoring in Sports Marketing, fishing is how he takes a break from the books.
"Fishing has taught me many things about myself and other people. You really meet many people through fishing and make many new friends consistently. Fishing is also a great way for me to get away from my studies when things get stressful. I also find that fishing brings me to a new level of enjoyment, more than anything else I do. Fishing also gets me away from the nightlife of the normal college student. No bars, just fishing when I have to wake up at 4a.m. for a tournament."
That, is serious fishing. And Lake Lewisville is just the place to do it.
Lake Lewisville Facts:
Average Depth: 25 feet
Deepest: 67 feet
Blue Catfish:63.12 pounds - Shannon Maynes, January 2000
Largemouth Bass: 13.63 pounds - Jon Babich, November 2005
Spotted Bass: 3.73 pounds - Kent Andrines, May 2006
Striped Bass: 15.09 pounds - Larry Richter, February 1998
Lewisville Tourism: www.cityoflewisville.com
Lake Lewisville Levels: www.swf-wc.usace.army.mil/reports/fish.htm