Winter fishing turns magical on Sabine Lake
It is rare indeed in fishing circles when you can point to a specific
day as the exact day the fishing changed for better or worse. I am not
talking about anything as dramatic as killer freezes or trout stockings
at Claiborne West Park, but just an anticipated bite that suddenly gets
better or goes to pot without any explanation.
The most obvious example of this phenomenon each year easily takes
place within the flounder migrations. While the other two members of
the big three, trout and redfish, bite at least to some degree year
round, the flounder can disappear overnight only to return just as
quickly with the warmer temperatures of early spring.
While we annually spend a great deal of time fishing Calcasieu through
early March, it is generally for only two reasons. The runoff from the
lakes makes the trout fishing double tough on Sabine or we are
targeting only trophy trout. Shallow shell is a favorite haunt for
wintering sow trout and a significant portion of Calcasieu is lined
with the preferred bottom.
Having gone through the short list of reasons for baling out on Sabine,
Saturday marked one of those rare days when the trout showed back up in
both numbers and size for no obvious reason. We instantly vaulted from
an occasional decent day of grinding away for a few decent trout to
catching them like we actually knew what we were doing!
Believe me when I say that the network of guides and perhaps even more
proficient fishermen that I talk with daily have been questioning the
trout bite for well over a month now. All of that magically changed
while working a big group of folks from Madisonville with Capt. Johnny
and Capt. Adam Saturday morning.
I was still on the south end catching redfish in the white caps when
Johnny called to say that Adam had just caught some trout on a drift in
deeper water up on the north end. Johnny had spotted a slick or two
earlier in the morning and Adam was making the oily spots pay off. By
the time we ran back up to the north end, Johnny and Adam were sharing
their drift with a gathering crowd and for good reason.
I feel certain that everyone involved in the fish catching felt good
about their choice of lures, but I can promise you that a TTF Red
Killer in any lighter color pattern rigged on a quarter ounce head was
difficult to beat. We did better early bouncing the tail across the
bottom, but the fish seemed to move into the upper column of water
later in the day and we caught more fish with a quicker retrieve. By
the time we quit, Corkies and suspending lures were working just as
My folks had not done a great deal of trout fishing, but all of them
cast well and did much better fishing tails under a cork as it was
easier for them to keep their lure in the strike zone. We switched to
Assassin’s stinky pink Sea Shad at that point and while they scored
more often with the new color, I continued catching fish swimming a
roach colored Trout Killer.
While confidence in the color and style of tail you are fishing is
easily the most important factor, not excluding the fact that it helps
to have a few hungry fish in the area, fishing the most productive
depth is absolutely critical as well. For that reason alone, it is
necessary to not only include jig heads of different weights in your
arsenal, but understand what your choice of tails is designed to do.
No single style of tail has presented a greater learning curve for me
of late than TTF’s red killer. Until Tal Cowan pointed out that it was
not simply a beefed up version of the Flats Minnow and was far less
effective when fished on a fast retrieve, I left it in the box. When
bounced off the bottom and allowed to erratically fall back without
angler influence, however, it is deadly.
The five inch rat tail plastics like the Assassin Texas Shad and Trout
Killer can be effectively fished from top to bottom, but are the
easiest of the tails to swim on a faster retrieve. Aside from pace, the
key element is to take the time to thread the tail on your jig head
without any crooks or bends which cause it to spin.
Only time spent on the water will tell how this latest onslaught of
cold weather will affect the improved trout bite, but it makes it
easier to sleep at night knowing that they are back. I don’t know that
they ever left, but I was not doing a very good job of proving it
In the event that you are addicted enough to wrap up in several layers
of insulated clothing and your Frogg Toggs and endure some miserable
weather for a swing at a memorable trout, my first choice of lures
would still be a Corky or at least a suspending lure like the Catch V
or MirroDine XL. Plan B, however, is only as far away as the tails and
jig heads tucked away in the top pocket of my wading jacket!