Talkin' Outdoors

While Caney Lake and Toledo Bend have been getting attention for years as lunker bass lakes producing bass in the 14 to 15-pound range, Lake Claiborne near Homer has been biding time and letting these lakes get the publicity. In the meantime, this 6,400-acre lake near Homer has remained in the background as a lunker bass lake. That, however, could be about to change. In fact, the change could be coming sooner than expected.

One night last week, Scott Tanner was fishing a big plastic worm on an underwater hump in 16-foot water when he felt a thump, set the hook and landed an 11.8-pound buster of a bass. A few nights earlier during a night tournament two eye-popping fish came to the scales, an 8-pounder and another 10-pounder.

With this latest success with big bass making news, what the future holds for Claiborne’s bass fishery could result in even bigger news. The Lake Claiborne Watershed Commission has recently purchased and released into the lake 80,000 two inch fingerlings of a variety of bass that are destined to make waves a few years down the road, said Commission member Chad Reeder of Haynesville.

“We had enough funds in our account to purchase these fish, known as ‘Tiger’ bass from a hatchery in Alabama. These were recently released into the lake at the same time the spawn was going on with other species which means these fingerlings won’t be standing alone as targets for forage fish,” said Reeder.

The fingerlings were released at select areas around the lake to give them better distribution rather than all in one location. Hatchery biologists report a 50% survival rate of these released fish.

“We are committed to release these fast growing fish at the rate of 80,000 a year for a total of five years which should give the lake a growing population of these fish that have a history of gaining up to two pounds a year,” Reeder added.

Creating the “Tiger” bass has been an interesting proposition, Reeder noted. Florida strain largemouth and regular northern largemouths are bred in ponds at the nursery and those that grow quicker are put in a separate vat. The most aggressive ones of this group are added to yet another tank to create Tiger bass like the ones released into Claiborne last week.

With money in the Lake Commission’s budget, Reeder reported some other improvements that are taking place around the lake.

“The public boat ramp off Highway 146 has been rebuilt, an 80 foot fishing pier has been constructed for public use.

“One of the more exciting additions is that all the major boat roads and channels have been marked with pilings. On top of each piling are blinking lights, each light with a separate code for each channel. In other words,” he said, “each channel has its own blinking code. For instance, you can go up Beaver Creek and the lights are blinking the code for Beaver; the same thing for Horse and Bear Creeks and the Thousand Foot channel. Once anglers and boaters learn the codes, they will know exactly where they are on the lake at any time.”

On May 17, 1968, water coursed over the spillway for the first time, two years after the gates were closed. That was 50 years ago and in many cases, a lake that old will have seen its better days. With the introduction of Tiger bass and improvements around the lake, Lake Claiborne’s best years may well be yet to come.