Big fish come in all sizes
I do not believe any other public fishing hole in Orange County consistently attracts more bank fishermen than the Entergy intake canal located at the foot of the Rainbow Bridge. The well worn banks of the ditches on either side of South Texas 87 draining into the canal have been packed tighter than the highway itself under the feet of thousands of fishermen and crabbers over the years.
While at least a handful of folks manning short throw lines for crabs are always scattered alongside the small bridges, there is little doubt when something bigger is going on. That something “big” can be anything from a consistent bite on croaker and small drum to an all out flounder run!
That is not to say that some very nice trout and redfish will not show up as well, but most of the folks taking advantage of the limited real estate are fishing for quantity rather than quality. For that reason, only a very few anglers are willing to take their chances with lures rather than the time tested fresh shrimp. They are looking for bites and everything, including crabs, will eat a shrimp soaking on the bottom.
Over the past few months, I have found it increasingly more difficult not to stop for at least a few minutes any time I see a larger than usual crowd of fishermen lining the banks. Last week was no exception as an afternoon group appeared to be a little more enthusiastic in their efforts.
Courtesy was reserved for future trips as the direction of the cast was all that mattered. Shoulder to shoulder, excited anglers hurled everything from globs of shrimp loaded on terminal rigs to one-ounce rusted spoons into the melee. To move for any reason meant losing your spot or enduring a cursing in a broad sampling of dialects should you try to reclaim your vantage point.
Acrobatic Skipjacks generated the faux feeding spree as they churned the surface hacking away at small shad and shrimp. Their leaping antics tossed hooks and sinkers in every direction as they earned their freedom and the resulting mass of tangled lines proved to be too much for the impatient majority. To observe the phenomenon from a safe distance was amusing, but at the same time, I appreciated their determination to catch even one keeper fish.
Most of the canal regulars had not only seen this kind of action from time to time, but were well aware of the more coveted fish usually accompanying the ravenous Skipjacks herding the schools of shad. It was an opportunity that occurs all too seldom for the regulars and mysteriously attracts a crowd that wasn’t even present when the first fish hit the surface!
By the time I left, several of the survivors had landed one or two 16 to 18-inch trout or a slot red or two. A larger percentage of those on hand had only a single keeper red or two tucked in a five gallon bucket with a few croaker, but they were obviously pleased with their catch.
Javier Ruiz had never caught a slot red and was overjoyed with his 21-inch redfish. Elvie Hebert told me that the Ruiz family fished most late evenings never catching anything larger than a hardhead catfish and that she usually gave them her fish and crabs. “They fish for their supper,” she pointed out, “but he is really excited about that redfish!”
Regardless of whether you only target big fish or simply fish for the enjoyment and the occasional fish fry, it is hard to deny the excitement that accompanies the thrill of winning a tug of war with a big fish. “Big” is a relative term, but the size of the fish is no less exciting at any level of angling.
Only last week, Jason Burch sent me a picture of his son, Taran, with a solid 19-inch trout that he caught in Sabine Lake while fishing with his Grandpa Charlie. Considering the fact that Taran spent most of his summer on a baseball diamond made his catch even more rewarding. It was the biggest trout he had ever caught and I know that Charlie was as proud of that speck as his Grandson was.
Several years ago, I confirmed my contention that a five-year-old youngster with his first croaker could be as proud of his fish as a dad with his first oversized redfish. A week or so after our trip, his dad sent an email that read: “Capt. Colburn….Brady and I really enjoyed the trip and were both equally proud of our big fish. Brady’s mom was the one that discovered his big fish when she washed our clothes that night. I thought he had put it back that morning, but he rode all the way home with his croaker in his pocket!”