Cold mud warmer than cold water
I knew before we ever shoved the boat off the trailer and I mean literally shoved the boat off the trailer that we should have postponed the last minute outing while we were still warm and dry. Even as we eased away from the launch, it was already obvious that neither Kyle nor I could scale the dock due to the missing water.
Spurred on by pictures of an impressive catch of trout from the day before compliments of his best friend, he felt compelled to invite me along in hopes of duplicating the feat. When he called just before noon, the wind was screaming out of the north and the only launch that was a possibility was the public ramp on Simmon’s Drive.
“I know it’s blowing,” he yelled into his cell phone obviously calling from somewhere outdoors. “I can’t even launch where Tim launched yesterday, but I figured you had a spot even with the water this low.”
Thirty minutes later, his 22-foot Pathfinder was buried up to the trim unit in four inches of water and a foot of cold mud. We were just far enough out into the lake to wish that we were not in the lake at all. Because we had intended to drift fish a protected flat, there were no waders available in the boat.
I felt reasonably good about our chances of getting the boat back in deeper water, but I also knew there would be a price to be paid. I was already peeling off one layer of clothing when Kyle revved the big engine and mumbled something about the water never being this low. Low, at that point, did not bother me as much as cold. The surface temperature was reading 51 degrees!
It was our good fortune that there was a hard bottom under the boggy layer of silt and mud. Once we got the rig turned around, a thirty-minute job that felt like a three-hour task, we had very little trouble sledding it back to deeper water. It was more bearable than I would have expected thanks in part to a thick coating of warmer mud, but we cooled off rapidly once we were back in the boat.
Thank God for Frogg Toggs and a dry Under Armour shirt. I am equally thankful for Curtis Ray Willis. As we idled back into the landing, it was apparent from a significant distance that retrieving the truck meant one of us would have to climb the algae covered ramp.
Mr. Willis not only volunteered to retrieve Kyle’s truck and back the trailer down, but also pulled us out and offered us a toast as well. He probably assumed that anyone trying to fish those conditions had already been drinking anyway. It wasn’t until he asked for a ride that either of us realized or cared that he was on foot.
The photo responsible for our misery included the best two trout of seventeen caught in less than two hours the prior evening. Both of the trout topped the seven- pound mark and only one of the remaining fifteen fish caught and released weighed less than five pounds. Every trout fell victim to black-chartreuse Corkies fished on a slow retrieve over scattered clamshell in three and a half feet of water. The wind had hindered their efforts all day and had just swung around to the northeast when the feeding spree took place. They had all but called it quits when, according to Kyle’s friend,“All hell broke loose.” They had not caught a fish all day long prior to the trout going on the unexpected binge. Over the next two hours, they stood in waist deep water amidst slicks and fleeing mullet catching one big trout after another. Amazingly enough, while it has been a matter of insulated overalls one day and short pants the next, the bite has remained consistent on Sabine thus far. Not everyone is committed to probing very small areas in hopes of a double digit trout, but they too are catching fish. The gulls are still working over the last of the small shrimp being chased to the surface by both trout and redfish. Those anglers willing to make more casts for fewer bites with larger lures are taking the larger trout. Catch 2000’s, Catch V’s, Corkies, and most suspending hard baits are fooling some very nice trout during the afternoon hours on the shallow flats. Longer plastics like the Assassin, Sand eel, and Texas Trout Killer rigged on 1/16th ounce heads have been good choices as well. The best numbers, however, are being taken by anglers fishing shorter plastic tails like the Sea Shad, Traps, or swim baits like the Spoiler Shad under the gulls. Most of the reds this past week were in the slot and the trout were very solid fish. Winter fishing is typically a tough grind, but can be rewarding when you find yourself in the right place at the right time. Do not forget, however, that any mistake is magnified in cold weather. Every trip should include a change of dry clothes, extra food, a thermos of hot chocolate or coffee, and a set of Frogg Toggs to break the wind and keep you dry. Last, but not least, always let someone at home know where you plan to fish and when to expect your return!