Filling up at Falcon Lake

Falcon Lake

The bass are biting well on this day. Using spinnerbaits, crankbaits and soft plastics, we catch more than 30.

But Texan Debra Hengst is more pleased by what she sees than by what we bring to the boat.

Once shriveled to about 20,000 acres by drought and illegal withdrawals from the Mexican side, Falcon Lake has been reborn. Heavy, persistent rains have raised the water level by 30 feet in just a year and what the guide and tournament angler sees are thousands of acres of newly flooded shoreline cover on this lower Rio Grande impoundment.

"This used to be an awesome lake, and I'm so glad to see it coming back," says Hengst, who admits that Falcon probably is her favorite among South Texas fisheries.

In nearby Zapata, Larry Bridgeman also is happy. The owner of Falcon Lake Tackle has long been Falcon's most vocal advocate.

"We have lots of flooded cover, and the ramps are useable again," he says. "Nothing has been done, though, to solve the problems. Mother Nature has intervened, and you can't take that to the bank."

Among other things, Bridgeman would like to see a renegotiated water treaty with Mexico to better protect Falcon's water supply and heightened law enforcement to lessen illegal netting. "When the volume was down to 11 percent, the netters took out many of the big bass," he says.

Greedy anglers also took their share, says Hengst. "I can't tell you how many 7- to 9-pound bass I saw being filleted," she remembers.

Still, with the lake now at more than 60,000 acres, the future looks bright for Falcon, at least for awhile. Complementing two good spawns in the higher water, Texas Parks & Wildlife stocked 663,000 Florida strain fingerlings this past summer, along with 174,000 young northern largemouth bass.

Fertile water and mild climate should help them grow quickly, and abundant shoreline cover should protect them from larger predators.

In addition, anglers should catch plenty of quality bass out of that same cover, mostly with spinnerbaits and soft plastics.

Hengst, however, says that fishermen shouldn't overlook the flooded timber around creek channels, as well as the rocks, ledges and points at the lake's lower end, which often is ignored by visiting anglers.

Inside Falcon Lake

The scenery surrounding Falcon Lake is West Texas at its most glorious. Gently rolling hills are covered by mesquite, huisache, wild olive, ebony, cactus and native grasses. The area is very popular with bird watchers. Varied and interesting bird life abounds, consisting of common resident birds, which range throughout the American Southwest, and many of the tropical species for which this is the northwesternmost outpost. Also, there are uncommon varieties such as the small green kingfisher and the varied bunting.

Trip check report

When to go:

Falcon is a year-round fishery, but fall into early winter often is best for both numbers and size.

Lures to pack:

Firetiger crankbaits, white/chartreuse spinnerbaits, and soft jerkbaits and lizards in water­melon shades are favored lures. Chrome and gold lipless crankbaits also will catch Falcon bass.

More Information:

Guide Debra Hengst 210-492-0116, www.debrahengst.com. Falcon Lake Tackle 956-765-4866, www.falconlaketackle.com

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