So far this year, for most local fishermen, Sabine lake has been a gracious host. In fact, she has been for the most part, down right cooperative. In the past few weeks things went from really good to miserable for most saltwater anglers. Yes, we have had a few decent days, a handful of really nice trout and good redfish have been caught by persistent wade fishermen on occasion, but no real method to the madness. Putting together a couple of good trips in a row has been harder to do than sell Enron stock. Most folks who frequent Sabine lake are in a holding pattern right now, just waiting for someone to let the word out that the fish are on the big reef at the Causeway or the jetties have cranked up. There are still others that are heading north to do some fishing at either Toledo Bend or Sam Rayburn. There is also another group of fishermen who are taking this time to learn more about Sabine lake in order to make themselves better fishermen.

The bad fishing conditions are the perfect time to go out and really do some homework on the lake. We have all heard about how the freshwater folks are always scrambling up to the lake when the water is low so they can take pictures or video for later reference. Saltwater folks can learn from this type of intense study. Now is the perfect time, because the fishing is slow and you can fully concentrate on searching the lake for those hidden hot spots.

The first step to learning more about where you fish is to get the right tools. A quality map is perhaps your most important piece of epuipment. A detailed topograhic map is best. These maps show differences in water depth that can help you plan searches in a more efficient manner. Aerial photos are another great help, but not a neccessity. The internet has tons of sites that feature aerial photos and coordinates just for the asking. Check your map and photos for places you have caught fish in the past or know where fish have been caught in the past. Pick one of these areas and head for the water.

When you decide you are going on a “search and learn” mission there are a couple of things you want to bring along. A long piece of either PVC pipe or metal coduit for probing the bottom. Also, a long piece of rope with some chain tied to the end for dragging the bottom. Both of these tools will help you locate structure on the bottom like shell reefs or oyster pads. Consider yourself a treasure hunter as you probe the bottom because if you find a reef that nobody knows about that spot can be as good as gold later in the year. Open water pieces of structure like reefs and shell piles attract fish like there is no tomorrow. When you find one, be sure to mark it some way, preferably with GPS coordinates or some other way of triangulation. If all else fails you can put some sort of buoy or other marker down for a temporary mark. If at all possible, get it on GPS so you won’t lose it or have to share it if you don’t want to.

By spending some time on the water during this slow period, you can become a more educated fishermen which in turn, should also make you more successful. Finding the little hidden gems beneath the waters surface can make all the difference in the world when the lake gets crowded or the fishing gets slow. The confidence you will have in knowing where to go will be invaluable. By doing your homework now, you will surely pass the test later in the year.