Higher salinity levels alter saltwater scene
While we spent most of last week either holding up in the river or running the bayous to avoid thunderstorms crisscrossing Sabine Lake, the salinity level has not yet shown the effects of the added infusion of freshwater. There were still plenty of unwanted gafftop catfish all the way up the river to I-10, the redfish bite is as good from the Port of Orange as it is on the south end of the lake, and more and more small specks are showing up in those same areas every day.
There were three events this week lending even more credence to the high salinity theory. Ironically enough, and it may have to do with the amount of water that flows through that area, all three events took place within several hundred yards of Middle Pass. While it is significantly shallower than it was years ago, that is the final destination of the Sabine River bed as it finally loses its defined banks and is consumed by the bay.
Jeff Langley and his brother-in-law, Aaron, were cast netting the north tip of Rabbit Island last week after running out of bait hoping to catch a few more finger mullet. Jeff said that he knew something was wrong when Aaron jumped back when he emptied the net rather than hustling in to capture the small mullet.
“We had some mullet,” said Langley, “but we also had two small sting rays in the net. We fish, wade, and swim on that point all the time so it was a little scary learning that we had been sharing it with sting rays.”
I have seen only a handful of rays on the north end of the lake over the past forty years, but they usually showed up in drought conditions. Langley said that his Dad has shrimped this area for years and he said that he had never caught the first one in his trawl!
We have seen an occasional porpoise working the ship channel around the south end of Stewt’s Island this summer, but very few sharks. As a rule, the only time we notice the sharks is when they hunt in very shallow water or unexpectedly explode on a topwater lure. Regardless of the size of the shark, I am always amazed at their speed and incredible power.
Thursday afternoon, while fishing in the rain, we had not one, but three sharks bite trout in half that we were reeling back to the boat. It may well have been the same shark as the three attacks took place over the course of an hour, but the sharks were back nonetheless.
That unwanted action took place on a line from the gas rig at the mouth of East pass to the southern tip of Rabbit Island. The one shark that we actually saw hit the trout was very close to the boat and probably about four feet long. At the moment that attack occurred, I would probably have guessed the shark to be twice that long, but shock and awe can lead to gross exaggerations!
We made a short run Saturday afternoon in an effort to substantiate a report of some solid trout in Coffee Ground, but never found them. Len did have a huge blowup on a Super Spook and fought the fish for at least five minutes before it broke off. By the time that happened, we had drifted across the pipe line and were once again almost in Middle Pass.
Based solely on the fact that we had dealt with the sharks earlier and his fish was not a redfish, I wrote it off as another shark and we called it a day after another hour or so. That night I got home and found that I had a call on my answering machine from Dean Burnett.
He had caught a 43-inch jack crevalle that weighed 29-pounds the afternoon before while fishing in, you guessed it, Middle Pass. His big fish hit a live shad and Dean said it was a long drawn out fight. I never even considered the possibility of Len’s fish being a jack, but that makes more sense than a shark as they usually gnaw their way to freedom pretty quickly.
Aside from any encounter with a ray, regardless of the size, or dealing with a shark while in the water rather than the boat, these are nothing more than rare occurrences on the north end of the lake that indicate a higher than usual salinity level. They are also very dependable indicators that area anglers are in line for some super fishing on this end of the lake this fall!