Living on Lake Livingston for the past eight years has lead me to several understandings about bass fishing and this lake itself….change. Because of the “change” that I am referring to, this lake sometimes gets a bad rap from bass fishermen who visit it occasionally. Being that the massive Trinity River feeds this lake and that there are a number of substantial feeder creeks, change is common. Rainfall is the most dominating factor of change for Lake Livingston. Heavy rains north of the lake along the Trinity River, including as far north as the Dallas area can almost demolish bass fishing efforts on the north end of the lake. Heavy local rains can dirty up the creek backs and within a few days, a whole creek can be unfishable. The bad rap from fishermen comes from when they visit the lake and catch fish, sometime later they come back under similar conditions but rains have moved their fish up or down the creek in search of clear water. Their prior information is almost worthless and locating fish starts over.
Understanding Lake Livingston’s Fluctuating Tendencies
Learning to deal with this lake is really very simple, however you have to consider the whole lake to understand it. The easiest black bass to catch are in the major feeder creeks, smaller tributaries, and ditches that feed both. In these areas, the fish that are in the clearest emerald green water are the ones that I target. My information is somewhat biased because I live on the north end of the lake where rainfall affects the lake most. The creeks on the north end are long and some of them can be traveled for miles. This allows for stretches of clear water in the creeks even during periods of heavy rainfall.
Rule #1. Local rainfall dirties up the backs of the creeks first and then water moves toward the main lake at a speed relevant to the amount of rainfall. If there is a heavy rainfall then the main channel of the creek may be wiped out, however, up and down the creek there are small ditches and draws holding pockets of clearwater. These ditches and draws hold clear water even though the creek they feed is dirty because they receive very little runoff and/or there is a silted in sandbar at their mouth that acts as a buffer to the dirty water in the main creek channel.
Rule #2. Heavy rains upriver will bring muddy water down and cause the river, the jungle, and much of the main lake above the 190 bridge to be off color. If the major creeks were in good shape to start with they will remain that way unless the river just keeps pumping in some astronomical amount of muddy water. Sure the river and main lake will be dirty, and the off colored water will be trying to push into the creeks but most of the creeks are lengthy. The off-colored water usually does not push very far into the bigger creeks unless the lake is on severe rise. And even if it is, it takes time for the muddy rising water to push into the clean creek water.
Rule #3. If the lake has been in good shape and suddenly there are heavy local rains and there is dirty water on the way down the river from heavy rains upriver as well, there will still be some fishable water. Somewhere between the mainlake and the backs of the creeks, there will be stretches of clear water in the creek channels along with pockets of clear water in the ditches and feeder creeks. This clear water may be temporary but is usually loaded with bass seeking clean water.
There are hundreds of scenarios we could draw up and have rules for. These three rules are very general, however they are very true and given to you through my own experience living here on the lake. Keep in mind that these rules of thumb can be applied to bass fishing on any “river” lake.
In November of 1994, when the BassMaster Tournament Trail came to this lake it was just after the major flood that we had in October. The lake had been flooded and had not recovered from the heavy rains. Rick Clunn summed up the lake evaluation during the tournament by saying, “What the rains have done is made a very large lake very, very small.” Meaning that all of the tournament fishermen were concentrated in the clear water pockets that were scattered up and down the lake.
During periods of rainfall, clear water with a dark emerald green color is the ticket. This lake is excellent for bass fishing all year long and Lake Livingston is great for practicing flipping, cranking, spinnerbaits, and topwater.