Two Walmart shoppers waiting to check out were discussing the oil spill that occurred Saturday on the Sabine-Neches Ship Channel. “I just don’t see how that could possibly happen,” said one of them. “That channel is so wide and you wouldn’t think as slow as those boats move that they could poke a hole in the hull just bumping into something!”

My first thought was that it is a bit misleading to describe an 807-foot tanker as a boat. I own a 22-foot center console that I think of as a boat, but this was a fully loaded ocean going vessel forty times longer than the average fishing boat. Secondly, a vessel that size loaded or even empty does not just “bump” into things when underway.

Having spent many hours fishing the flats south of the intersection of the Neches and the ICW over the years, I have had the opportunity to watch countless tankers and tugs pushing loaded barges negotiate the final bend in the river channel without incident. It is a tedious maneuver at best and a stiff wind howling across the lake makes it no easier.

There is really very little room for error as turning just a little too widely could result in grounding one of these massive vessels in three feet of mud and shell. According to those in charge of the clean-up effort, because the spill occurred farther down the channel it has been a little easier to contain. Had it occurred at the mouth of the Neches it would have been next to impossible to keep out of surrounding wetlands.

Let’s hope that they are able to complete the cleanup and get traffic flowing again as quickly as possible. While we will just have to wait to see how much damage was done to the surrounding ecosystem, it could also have an even more profound effect on the economy in the Golden Triangle.

Very few folks living in this area are aware of the magnitude of maritime commerce taking place in their backyard. We are a major economic link to the rest of the world, not just the United States. A prolonged outage at the estimated cost of $55,000,000 a day could also impact lots of local folks as at least half of the jobs in Jefferson County alone are directly or indirectly linked to this industry.

On a brighter note, the recent warming trend has ignited an unusually good bite for this time of the year. In less than one week, surface temperatures climbed out of the low 40’s and into the mid 60’s and the fish have just gone nuts!

Because the water clarity is currently very good all over the lake, wind direction has been the only determining factor as to where most of the fishing pressure will take place on a given day. The eastern shoreline served up the most protected water last week and local fishermen did a number on reds and trout from East Pass all the way to Blue Buck Point.

At least over the past week, wade fishing did not prove to be much of an advantage as drift fishermen caught easy limits of reds working suspending lures and tails in 3 to 5 feet of water. The hottest colors in plastics were red shad, pumpkin or amber-chartreuse and limetreuse. The reds could care less, but the larger trout seemed to prefer longer plastics like the 5-inch Assassin rigged on a very light head.

Corkies, Catch V’s, and Mirrodine XL’s in electric chicken, pink, and glow chartreuse worked well for the waders and the drift fishermen. By the end of the week, folks weren’t even targeting areas with mullet activity as the reds were just all over the lake.

As a rule we do very well in the bayous in late January and February, but that bite has been poor of late. For a solid week the water in Black’s Bayou was the coldest water we found and that doesn’t help either. If that water continues to clear up and stay warm the bite could improve overnight.

The unexpected bonus of late has been a surprisingly decent flounder bite. The numbers haven’t been great, but the size has been good. Most of them are being taken by anglers drifting the flats with soft plastics or GULP pogies rigged on a quarter ounce head.