Red Sky at Night with JB Cornwell | The Fishing Hole at The Hideout
When we bought The Hideout in 1990 one of the features that mattered to me was a good sized stock tank of about 2 acres and another small one of about ¾ acre.
The tank was pretty silty because it drained about 80 acres of eroded land next door. I took an inflatable out to the center and found about 6’ of water.
We stocked it with channel cat, bass, bluegills and fathead minnows. I fed them every day for a couple of years. Then I tried the fishing and started catching nice pan sized cats, but no bass, no bluegills. I did catch small green sunfish, but nothing over 5-6”.
Then I caught a 6lb channel cat. It turns out that the tank already had some big cats, which explains why none of the fingerling bass or bluegills we stocked survived.
Several grandbuddies caught their first fish there and we had some grand times, though I continued to dream of fly rod bass and bluegills.
I moved about a dozen small cats over to the small tank, and added a few pounds of fatheads. They thrived until an extended drought dried the small tank up and killed them all.
That arrangement lasted about 14 years but the fishing declined as the larger tank silted up until there was only about 3’ of water when it was full.
In 2005 came a big change. Petro-explorers found the Barnett Shale deep below The Hideout and a big chunk of N. Texas. Gas drilling activities demand a lot of water to fracture the shale and release the natural gas. Water for this purpose is stored in “frac” pits and obtained mostly from wells drilled into the same aquafirs used by residents.
A well drilling operation leased mineral rights and a few acres for a frac pit from us. They didn’t do any gas drilling on The Hideout and the two attempts to drill water wells here failed. They drilled wells elsewhere and piped it about a mile to our frac pit.
Their water well caused a local uproar as it was sucking 10 gallons a minute out of the same aquafir that serves about 50 households, threatening the viability of that aquafir.
I sold them the water out of the large tank. It went dry pretty quick. Then I proposed to them that I would sell them water if they would clean the silt out and triple or quadruple the capacity. They agreed.
A contractor showed up with a dozer and a trackhoe. I told them that was inadequate. There was 20’ of silt and they would definitely need a dragline.
Well, of course they knew that know-it-all Ph.Ds don’t understand heavy machinery or earthmoving. They went ahead. They cut through the dam in two places and turned the place into a moonscape. The dozer was stuck most of the time and the trackhoe was digging itself out most of the time. After about a month of one disaster after another they packed up and abandoned the project.
A year passed. The driller company suggested leveling the site and forgetting about it. JB did not find that an acceptable solution.
After going around with DNR over several alternate sites for ponds we were left with only one alternative: rehab and grandfather the original pond. No new ponds would be allowed.
So I had them build a new dam 50’ downhill from the remains of the old one and 6’ higher in elevation. That created a pool of about 5 acres and uneven depth. When the pond filled it turned out to hold 60,000 barrels of water which made the driller happy and, at $.10 a barrel, made JB happy, too.
Now, two years later, the gas drillers are moving on to other fields and removing the frac pit. The big pond clears fairly quickly after a downpour. I have just put 100 bass, 100 coppernose bluegill and 5# of fathead minnows in there and they are thriving.
Meanwhile I kept the little tank full by pumping water to it from the big pond and I have a small stock of yearling bass and hybrid bluegills ready to catch and move over to the big pond. It is designated the nursery pond.
I expect good fishing by the spring of 2012 and will add some channel cat at that time.
(JB Cornwell writes from “The Hideout” in Whitt, TX, and is also an expert moderator, instructor, and fountain-of-knowledge in the iboats.com Boating Forums, where he may occasionally share a yarn of his own.)