Exploring and fishing small waterways in the Pineywoods is not only fun from an angler’s perspective, but it also provides scouting opportunities for game animals. Many anglers who enjoy blue-lining small streams, also enjoy hunting. Luckily, East Texas offers ample opportunity for both. While walking through a stream, keep an eye out for trail crossings, tracks, and scat. When you find intriguing sign, make a mental note, or better yet, write down your findings in an outdoor journal.
A perk of being a blue-lining, small-stream angler, is you often discover waterways that are overlooked by others. Even though these waterways may be small, they still usually hold populations of fish, as well as act as travel corridors for other game animals such as pigs, deer, squirrels, rabbits, and ducks. Keep this in mind while you’re out fishing in the numerous creeks in the national forests of East Texas.
One hot summer day, I tramped through a creek in one of the national forests, with a friend, Jose. We were having a very successful day angling for feisty spotted bass and panfish. As we rounded a bend in the creek, we noticed a pronounced game trail coming down the bank, crossing a shallow section of the creek, and running up the opposite bank. Jose and I looked at the animal tracks and saw that wild pigs, deer, and coyotes all used the trail with regularity.
Fast forward to the fall, I found myself comfortably positioned in my tree saddle overlooking this same trail. My compound bow rested on my lap and the waning evening light cast rays of yellow and gold over the leaf-covered ground.
I heard the sound of leaves crunching as an animal approached along the trail. A large boar came into view, rooting amongst the leaves. The big boar moseyed along the trail until it was within bow-range. It presented me with a shot and I gratefully harvested the delicious wild meat.
On another occasion, I wandered through a different stream, with a fly rod in hand. As I fished along the waterway, I continuously spooked groups of wood ducks. I made a mental note of the area and noticed an abundance of water oaks lining the banks of the creek. These oaks would provide acorns for the woodies in the late fall.
When waterfowl season eventually rolled around and I knew exactly where to go to harvest a couple of wood ducks for the dinner table. Before daylight broke through the canopy, I was in position along the creek with another buddy, Nick. We could hear the shrill calls of wood ducks all around us. Their piercing whistles bounced through the forest, reverberating off the trunks of trees and palmetto leaves. By the time we left the creek, each of us carried a couple of woodies.
The months of spring and summer are a great time to fish the waters of the Pineywoods of East Texas, but they are also a great time to be scouting for signs of game in anticipation of the upcoming hunting seasons. Keep your eyes open while you’re out exploring Pineywoods streams.
Remember that game animals and migratory game birds are regulated in the same way as fish. Always abide by the Texas Parks and Wildlife game laws and bag limits. Be sure you have taken a Hunter Education course and carry proof of certification with you while in the field. If you plan on hunting waterfowl, you must purchase a Federal Duck Stamp as well as sign up for the Harvest Information Program (HIP) Certification at checkout. You will also need to purchase an Annual Public Hunting (APH) Permit if you plan on hunting public lands managed by the state of Texas.