Martin Creek Lake: A Winter Break for Bass

Richard Thomas Bothel

The cold weeks of winter weather have lowered the water temperature of your favorite bass lake down into the low 50s—some water may be slipping into the 40-degree range. Bass fishing has slowed down to a crawl with seldom over a couple bass each day. Why not take a break and go to a power-plant reservoir?

I live in Southeast Texas and seldom see a reason to venture out of this area for great fishing of all types. That’s why I recommend giving Martin Creek Lake a try. It’s just a short trip into East Texas, just a short distance north east of Henderson or northwest of Carthage. Even if you live close to the Gulf Coast, you can fish Martin Creek with a long day trip.

I do want to be honest, though. Don’t completely believe those articles you read about warm-water reservoirs having shallow water fish jump into your boat year round. I think that articles that represent these reservoirs, as having monthly spawns throughout the winter and shoreline fishing techniques being the norm are simply not being representative of the year-round fishing in these lakes.

               Martin Creek Lake

Martin Creek Power Plant as seen from the main lake.

For example, you will always find warm water in Martin Creek. Late December this past year, there was a high of 40 degrees in the air during the day and 80-degree water was coming into the lake out of the discharge. Moving out of the discharge creek the water quickly moved to 70 degrees and by the time you reached the state park on the other end of the lake, water was down to the 59-degree mark.

But the fish were not in the shallow water around the shore throughout the lake. Traveling along the banks around the lake brought occasional small bass, but that was all. You could catch small bass directly in the hot water discharge and the immediate shoreline for not more than about 100 yards. The baitfish do flock to the hot water and the bass come in to feed. At times there will be large bass feeding, but most of the time this is an area of small bass only.

The water falls in the back are releasing 80+ degree water into the lake.


Water intake to the powerplant across from the State Park.

Finding the larger fish was easy, however. It was just a case of moving out from the creek bed leading up to the hot-water discharge and looking for the next well-defined secondary structure. The bass were there. Mostly 3-4 pounds, but there were plentiful and a few pushed the five pound mark. On this trip, I found I could work these secondary contact points throughout the lake and find bass. Martin Creek is filled with timber and loaded with high spots and drop offs. My recommendation is to find the bass off the points and then move to the structure at the same depth.

This is the pattern that I have found most frequently productive in these power-plant lakes during the winter months. Although you may have some spawning throughout December, January, and February, it is limited. The position of the sun during the winter has an impact and you will still find your major spawn in the spring. It does seem to be true that you will find bass in the shallows more frequently, but you cannot expect a strong shallow bite consistently throughout the winter.

The black speck in this old road by the park is a browsing deer. Even with the power generating activity, wildlife is seen throughout the park.

No it's not a speck on the picture; it is an eagle flying over the lake.

Caddoan Indians and Spanish explorers lived in and traveled through this area from 200 B.C. until the 18th century. Choctaw, Cherokee, and Kickapoo Indians later migrated here in response to the increasing influx of Anglo Americans. Visitors to the part can still see the old roadbed of Trammel's Trace, an Indian Trail that became a major route for settlers moving to Texas from Arkansas. In 1833, Daniel Martin settled with his family near the creek called Hogan's Bayou at the time thus the name, Martin Creek. One Civil War era building remains today converted into a storage shed. Traces of the old roads of what was called Harmony Hill can still be seen in the park and are part of the hiking trail.

Martin Creek Lake State Park consists of 286.9 acres in Rusk County, southeast of Longview. The Texas Utilities Generating Company gave the part to the state park service in 1976. The 5000-acre Martin Creek Lake was constructed to provide cooling water for a lignite-fired, electric power generation plant.


.Activities at the park include year-round fishing; camping; wildlife observation and photography; picnicking; boating; water skiing; unsupervised lake swimming; backpacking; hiking; and interpretive programs. The mailing address for the park is 9615 County Road 2181 D, Tatum, Tx, 75691. Telephone number is 1-903-836-4336