Lake Grapevine: Good fishing no rumor

Grapevine Lake is one of several underrated fishing lakes in the Dallas area. So underrated, in fact, that many of the major marinas don't have a fish-cleaning facility. From many fishing hot spots, you can see the high-rise hotel next to Bass Pro Shop. Grapevine is a scenic lake of just more than 7,000 acres and excellent side facilities.

Underrated lake often will surprise you with its sand bass scene


By RAY SASSER / The Dallas Morning News

GRAPEVINE – Low clouds the color of molten lead rolled above Grapevine Lake, pushed by a powerful south wind that churned the lake's green surface to a froth. Every few of minutes, another lumbering jumbo jet emerged from the clouds, making a southern descent into D/FW International Airport.

Until that windy morning, Grapevine Lake's sand bass had been just as predictable as the incoming jets. Splitting time between Grapevine and Lake Tawakoni, fishing guide Omar Cotter figures his customers have landed more than 1,500 sandies since April 1. Cotter is one of a growing cadre of Dallas-area fishing guides who refuse to specialize in one lake or one fish species.

His card should read "Have Boat, Will Travel." Cotter's card actually reads "Luck O' the Irish Fishing Guide Service." His partner is Tom Okelley, which sounds Irish enough, and Cotter certainly has the ruddy complexion of an Irishman, though his first name doesn't sound like a moniker that might be popular in a Dublin pub.

The name "Omar" is more Texas history than Irish heritage. Cotter's great grandmother was one of the first school teachers in the Texas Panhandle. There's a Cotter Street in Spearman named for her.

Cotter's great grandmother arrived in the Panhandle in a covered wagon, met such luminaries as Buffalo Bill Cody, once killed 45 crop-marauding hogs with a pistol and enjoyed the works of Persian poet Omar Khayyam. She may have been the Panhandle's only middle eastern poetry fan in the 1800s, but she liked the poems so well that she named one of her sons Omar.

The name trickled down to the modern-day Omar Cotter, who first honed his fishing skills in the Panhandle's Lake Meredith and held the state walleye record for about a year with a fish from that lake.

Now Cotter is a fishing guide who splits time on the water with working in a printing business. On the day we fished, the luck of the Irish was being battered by the fierce wind.

Grapevine Lake is one of several underrated fishing lakes in the Dallas area. So underrated, in fact, that the major marina where I met the fishing guide does not have a fish-cleaning facility. From Cotter's hot spot, we could see the high-rise hotel next to Bass Pro Shop. Grapevine is a scenic lake of just over 7,000 acres. It has excellent side facilities.

"People don't believe me when I tell them how good the sand bass fishing can be at Grapevine," Cotter said. "The lake gets pretty crowded with pleasure boats, especially on weekends. You can put a fishing boat in the water at daylight, though, catch 50 to 100 sandies by 9 a.m., and be gone before the lake ever gets crowded."

By 9 a.m. on our windy fishing morning, we'd caught maybe 10 sand bass, most of them well under the 10-inch minimum size limit for the popular game-fish species. Cotter said this is the first year in several that Grapevine sandies have been dominated by small fish.

The presence of so many small fish translates to excellent spawning success last spring. This year's wet conditions should result in a second consecutive spawning boom and even more fish.

We finally abandoned the south shore points that had been producing fish for Cotter and made a quick run to the dam, where the south wind was so strong it threatened to blow my cap off when I was looking north.

The city of Grapevine has installed an air pump near the dam. The pump breaks up stratification of the lake's water layers and enhances water quality for the city. Aerated bubbles rising from the bottom also draws bait fish and predatory sand bass.

Into the bubbles from the air pump, Cotter dropped a homemade tandem rig that features two chartruese tube jigs. I pitched an old sand bass favorite, a quarter-ounce Mann's Little George. Introduced in the 1970s, the Little George is essentially a teardrop-shaped chunk of lead with a tail spinner and a hook, but it's still one of the top fish-catching lures of all time.

We both got hookups almost instantly. Cotter's sonar showed a steady procession of fish below the boat. The Little George drew a strike on nearly every cast and Cotter's tandem rig accounted for several doubles.

Most of the fish were still small, but we caught several keeper-sized sandies up to about 13 inches. As a test, I tried casting in every direction and discovered that I couldn't cast anywhere without getting a bite.

Cotter specializes in sand bass, striped bass and hybrid stripers. The father of five children, he doesn't charge extra for parents who bring their kids fishing. He even gives a Luck O' The Irish Guide Service cap to new customers. He can be reached at 817-274-5489 or via the Internet at
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