“Is that an alligator over there?” asked Marlin Keyes as he pointed toward a cypress lined point in the bayou. We were still at the boat dock when he spotted the head of the modest sized gator just above the surface.

When his suspicion was confirmed by his two fishing partners for the day, he headed back to their SUV with his wading gear in hand. Having lost the war with the wind for most of the week, we had decided the night before that we would wade a protected shoreline rather than drift fish. The unexpected gator sighting nipped those plans in the bud.

“I really don’t like to wade fish anyway,” announced Keyes as he opened the tail gate and tossed his wading belt into the back seat with conviction. “Two years ago, I got stuck in the side of the ankle by a ray in Matagorda. Last summer a shark grabbed my stringer while wading in Galveston and I had to pull my shorts off to get loose. I am not going to get eaten by a gator on Sabine!”

The irony of the pre-dawn change in strategy is that we wound up catching trout in an area that I had no intention of fishing. His buddies initially balked and verbally abused him all day long, but they too were thankful for the change in plans. The fact that they rode over here in Keyes’ Tahoe had eliminated any possibility of voting on the matter.

The wind did us no favors, but rather than fight the whitecaps in the open lake, we concentrated our efforts on the narrow flats bordering the ICW. We fished flats all the way from Middle Pass to the coke dock across from Pleasure Island and never caught more than two or three fish in any one spot. We finished the day with a very decent catch, but it required a jillion casts!

We never caught a fish over five pounds, but the fact that we had finally found trout that would bite was very encouraging. We undoubtedly spent too much time in one small area after catching our first few fish, but it took a little while to snap to what was going on.

We were fishing a very weak incoming tide which made the bite even tougher, but the same wind keeping us out of the open lake proved to be the key to exploiting our new program. The wind was blowing the water around the tips of the islands creating an artificial current and the trout were waiting on the bait in two to three feet of water. We were able to catch one or two fish per stop and return an hour or so later and catch another fish or two.

When the fish were not there, we would fish plastics closer to the ICW in six to eight feet of water. We really caught a variety of fish at that depth that included rat reds, flounder, specks, croaker, and the occasional gafftop. We also discovered that the north side of the ICW was more productive with the wind blowing schools of juvenile shad up into the shallows.

The following day we were once again forced to fish a weak incoming tide, but we caught a break with the wind. We fished the exact same program and did well until the wind died. At that point we anchored up on one of the spots that had yielded a few fish to soft plastics and fished live bait on a Carolina rig. It was slow, but we caught a few keeper trout before yielding to the heat.

I have no doubt that the better bite is in the open lake right now and the water is in great shape, but you just cannot find the schools of surfacing shad in the whitecaps. When you cannot see the bait and the gulls aren’t helping you out, it’s like hunting a needle in the haystack.

Both the river and the bayous are alive with massive schools of small shad parading down the shoreline at first light. Small bass and rat reds are all over them until they move deeper later in the morning, but thus far, the speckled trout are leaving them alone. The flounder fishing has been a little slow of late, but it usually picks up as soon as the shad start hatching out.

If the non-stop winds have done nothing else this year they have forced us to search out new patterns and techniques that we never knew existed when the fishing was easy. It will get easy again once the wind backs off, but until that happens, either save your gas money or think outside the box to catch fish!