2009 was one for the books
It is hard to believe that we are about to close the book on what has been just an incredible year of fishing on Sabine Lake. The unforgettable run on big trout started about this same time last year and was still going strong in May.
I have had better summers on trout in the lake, but knowing that a limit of redfish was all but a guarantee each day left us little to complain about. The trout bite in the ship channel all the way to the jetties was consistently good for anglers willing to bypass the lake. We were forced to join that crowd several times at the end of the summer and did very well on trout up to seven pounds with both topwaters and Swim Baits.
I wish that I had never even heard the name “Ike”, but for all of the damage that it did in this area, it also provided some of the easiest fishing that Sabine Lake anglers have ever seen. The tidal surge ripped up huge sections of Louisiana marsh and deposited it well out into the lake creating acres of new hiding places for both bait fish and shrimp.
It has finally started to rot and thin out a little, but all year long the grass and massive clumps of roots and grass supported huge numbers of trout and redfish. It took us a little while to figure out how to best extract them from their shallow hideouts, but the fish were there every day and a poor day simply meant that you broke off more fish than you caught.
As a result of not having to deal with another hurricane or tropical depression this fall, we enjoyed one of the best years of fishing under the birds that I can recall. Even the recent floods that filled Toledo Bend and drove the Sabine River out of its banks had little or no affect on that user-friendly bite.
I recently waded my way back through several years of logs and the last time I recorded anything remotely close to the phenomenal redfish bite we are still enjoying was in the early 80”s prior to the unforgettable freeze that hit the area. I had forgotten that both size and creel limits were far more liberal back then, but it was comparable nonetheless.
Even with most of the hard core winter fishermen now targeting only trophy trout, the redfish are still crashing the party and will continue to do so if we can avoid any prolonged stretches of freezing weather. The pipeline work wiped out the striper fishing last year, but they have shown back up this year and that bite has rebounded as well this month.
Perhaps the biggest surprise in 2009 was the flounder bite. I do believe that the flounder population is in trouble and I can only hope that the reduced limit will help. I still contend, however, that forcing anglers to only keep the females is detrimental to restoring their numbers, but I can assure you that whether it is or not, there was a significant increase in the number of big female flounders caught this year.
We never exclusively fished for flounder all year, but the ratio of 15-inch fish and over to non-keepers that were incidental catch improved dramatically. I can’t even venture a guess as to why that happened, but every fisherman I talked with reported the same thing. We caught more flounder over four-pounds while fishing only for reds or trout than I had caught in the previous five years!
The only bite that fell off for me in 2009 was the big trout bite in the river and the ICW north of the lake. A number of dependable spots were uprooted or completely destroyed by crew boat traffic and the driving and removal of pilings on the Louisiana shoreline altered several miles of prime fishing water. We also had a wet month at just the wrong time that did not affect the lake fishing, but muddied up the river pretty badly.
As of right now, both the river and the lake are in good shape and the redfish are still doing their thing even when nothing else will bite. Surprisingly enough, there is still some bird activity and the largest trout of the year are starting to ease up on the shallow flats and hunt in the afternoon hours.
As we embark on a new decade of fishing I believe that the fishing will only improve in spite of a growing number of more efficient anglers armed with improved equipment. While the average fisherman rightfully looks forward to an occasional fish fry, we have all become infinitely more aware of conservation measures that will ensure the future of fishing.
For too many years, netting was the elephant in the room as was gigging to some degree as neither means of capturing fish required that they feed. That issue was resolved several years back and the fishing has continued to improve. A growing number of recreational anglers practicing catch and release and restocking programs have proven to be beneficial as well.
At least from my own experiences, I believe it is next to impossible for anyone that has to rely on catching fish with a rod and reel to negatively impact the fishing on any open body of water. There are far too many days lost to weather alone and being in the right place at the right time is the ultimate challenge that keeps us coming back.
I am looking forward to answering that challenge and even better fishing in 2010!