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By George P. Hollenbeck

Nowadays when we hear “hybrid” we think of autos. But long before hybrid cars there were hybrid bass, and we caught a bunch of these last Monday. There is something about a fun fishing trip that begs for sharing.

Hybrid bass, as you “cognoscenti” know, are a genetic cross between white bass and striped bass. Female white bass/male stripers are called “sunshine bass;” you can also breed female stripers and male white bass, called “palmetto bass.” The two fish are pretty much the same, but nowadays our fish biologists breed sunshine bass because it is much easier to get breeder female white bass than it is female stripers. Why hybrids anyway? Because hybrid bass can survive in warmer temperatures like we have around here.

Enough of that … this is about a fishing trip, not about fish.

Can you catch hybrids around here? As it turns out, Lake Conroe is a terrific hybrid fishing lake. It takes a while to get there from here (an hour to an hour and a half to get from Livingston to “boat in the water,”) but it seems a lot closer if you are riding with somebody you like. Michael Richardson of Lake Livingston Adventures was my guide on Monday morning and we have been fishing together for about 10 years … ever since he started guiding.

We left about 7:30 but thanks to a very slow van between Coldspring and Willis, we didn’t get launched until 9:15. Temperature was 42 at the boat ramp, but sunshine and no wind. (I had on two pair of long johns and lined trousers, a fleece jacket and wool watch cap and wool fishing gloves I had used in Alaska.) A very chilly 10-minute boat ride, but after that the sun warmed us nicely.

We saw three other boats near where we wanted to go, but not on Michael’s spot. Michael found the fish and started drifting along gently and casting … water temp about 57F, 22 feet deep. Game on. I got the first bite but Michael got the first fish. We had our limit of big hybrids within an hour. Other boats drifted by, but we did not see another angler with a fish on. One boat seemed to be following us and I took some pleasure in our having a double on when he drifted by. Our spot slowed so we went to another, four fish, and then one more really hot spot before heading home. How many fish did we catch and release after we got our limits? Michael said about 40, I’d say 35. I am a two-hour angler so I was ready to go.

Everybody asks, “What did we use for bait?” One to two-ounce flutter spoons. Everybody who has fished for whites in Lake Livingston knows the drill. But these hybrids required a very special presentation. I’ll call it the “Richardson twitch.” It took me a minute to catch on to. I won’t pretend that I could match Michael bite for bite, but four to his six? Not bad for an old man who doesn’t do this every day.

How big are those fish? Five to seven pounds. These are three to three and a half-year-old fish. Hybrids don’t live 30-40 years like stripers. They are sterile, so they have been stocked by TPWD. How many were stocked? About 500,000 in the last three years. Where are the smaller fish, the one and two year classes? Michael replied, “You want small fish? I can find you plenty, but they don’t run with the big boys. They’ll get eaten.” Record hybrids have weighed up to 10 pounds or more somewhere. Ours were BIG fish.

Why don’t we have hybrids in Lake Livingston? When I called our TPWD biologists, Todd Driscoll and Dan Ashe, to check my facts. Dan told me that by chance, just that morning he and Todd were talking about that. They are planning 2024 for our first stocking. So what if it is 2027 when our fish are Lake Conroe size. I am booking Michael for a trip. Hopefully at age 89 I’ll still be “eating” (as the English say). If not, I’ll leave my spot in 2027 to you in my will.

If you have never caught a hybrid, try it, you’ll like it. They are wonderful fighters, but you gotta know what you are doing or have a guide like Michael who does, and the bonus is that they are absolutely delicious eating. One article described them as “delicious, white, firm and flaky meat.” Frequently, farm-raised hybrids are the fish you find in a restaurant labeled “striped bass.” And they are big. I brought my five fish home after Michael cleaned them and when I commented on how heavy they were, he replied, “It would take 25 white bass to be that heavy.”

This is not an ad for fishing with Michael (Lake Livingston Adventures 936-327-6930). There are other guides who know what they are doing, but it sure is a recommendation and Michael is great at taking care of old men as well as finding joy out of teaching kids to fish.

Hollenbeck is the former Head Hooker of Polk County Hookers, now called The Lake Livingston Fishing Club. For more information, email Mike Bischoff at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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