The daily weather forecast for Sabine Lake and surrounding waters is getting to be a tad redundant. “Southeast winds 15 to 20 knots. Seas 3 to 5 feet. Coastal lakes and bays light chop. A slight chance of showers and thunderstorms.” Three to five foot waves and a light chop do not belong in the same sentence! I am finally convinced that there is no longer any need to check the weather forecasts for the next month or two, nor has there been for the past four months, but I have tried to remain optimistic since mid-January. The wind direction may change occasionally, but not the velocity. Even if we were talking about miles per hour rather than knots, there is very little protected water when the numbers read 15 to 20.

I am also convinced that the weatherman responsible for posting daily forecasts has never actually seen the open lake with the wind blowing that hard. “Light chop” does not adequately describe the waves crashing against the north revetment wall or Stewt’s Island in 20-knot winds! The gale force wind that howled all week long and is still blowing has been especially disappointing in that we thought we had finally turned the corner the last week of May. Most of the lake cleared up, the winds slowed to 10 to 15, and we caught a number of very nice trout from Blue Buck to East Pass.

That much wind still creates problems, but it does not automatically eliminate half of the lake. As a rule, the jetty fishermen can still fish one side of the jetties or the other, half of the shoreline bordering the ship channel, and most of the open lake even in moderate winds. The highlight of that brief window of opportunity was the size of the average trout. At least one ten-pound trout was caught and released by an Oberto Redfish Cup angler and local anglers boated several trout in the seven to nine-pound range.

I spoke with a young man walking the rocks on the revetment wall that was convinced that he was going to put a nine-pound trout on the CCA S.T.A.R. tournament board by the end of that week. There was good reason for his optimism. The morning I met him, he released a trout without so much as a second look that was easily over seven-pounds. He said that they had been catching a few big trout off both revetment walls for the past two months with either live shrimp or DOA shrimp fished under a Mauler, but had since switched to topwaters and suspending crankbaits. He preferred fishing the last hour of daylight, but had also done well on an incoming tide at dawn.

I also talked with two wade fishermen from Tomball that same week that caught several trout over 25-inches, the largest over 28-inches, fishing slicks on the north side of Blue Buck with chartreuse Skitterwalks and bone-chrome She Dogs. The bite was tide related, but surprisingly enough, the fish were still in two to three feet of water right in the middle of the day and it was hot.
Huge incoming tides bolstered by the stiff south wind also laid a very good live bait bite in both the river and intracoastal to waste. The wind churned the lake into a dingy brown color and the tide ushered that dirty water well upriver. The trout had been hanging right on the break with the best bite coming anywhere from 3 to 12 feet deep depending on the time of day.

Catching both shad and finger mullet had not been a problem as they are all over the bayous and ganged up at the DuPont outfall at times. Most of the shad are still a little on the small side, but plenty large enough to use for flounder, trout, and redfish. I think that bite will be the first to rebound as the salinity levels are still high and the deeper water affords cooler temperatures throughout the day.

I have canceled more trips than I have worked this year due to the wind, so I understand your frustration with losing days to the weather. If the wind never dies down, so be it, but no fishing trip is worth taking a chance on the water. In the mean time, there is an alternative to battling the open lake.

The safest and most protected water on those windy days can be found in the Intracoastal and the ship channel. More often than not, it requires fishing on anchor with live bait, but beggars cannot be choosers. I enjoy fishing live shad or finger mullet as a change of pace and I will do whatever it takes to help clients catch fish.

The liability in this type of fishing lies in the fact that some of the most productive areas are adjacent to shipping lanes. Never underestimate the volume of water these ships are displacing as they near your boat. We saw one of the Redfish Cup boats all but capsize on a flat near the Neches after a loaded tanker produced a mini-Tsunami that they failed to notice before it was too late!

Many years ago, Noson Fontenot passed along a tip that has served me well over the years when fishing on anchor near the ship channel or intracoastal. It still requires a little common sense as to how soon to leave the area, but the technique could save your boat and possibly your life.

Once anchored in one of these areas, tie a milk jug or plastic bottle to the tag end of your rope and lay it in the bottom of the boat. When you see the ship approaching, simply untie the rope from the boat, throw the bottle attached to the tag end over the side, and idle away into deeper and safer water. The bottle needs to be empty and capped.

When the wave has subsided and it is safe to return, idle back over, retrieve your bottle attached to the rope, and retie your boat. You do not have to set your anchor again and you will be back on the exact same spot. Best of all…you and your gear will still be in one piece and dry!