Oil changes are for rainy days

Because I spend so much of my time trying to make a fish eat a piece of plastic with a hook in it, I am seldom if ever surprised by what the fish will or will not do on any given day. Last Friday, however, was one of those rare occasions.

For better or worse, these days usually take place only when I fish alone or have my grandson, Andrew, or Gene Locke in tow. Gene is retired and always on high standby regardless of the potential for catching and Andrew would fish everyday if it weren’t for menial commitments like school, any team sport involving a ball, and church on Sunday.

They are both willing to endure the boredom associated with scouting out new patterns as well as experimenting with new techniques and lures. Having guided for the better part of four decades, I can assure you that most clients rightfully assume that you have done your homework and have no intention of paying to experiment while hoping for the best!

Following a quick loop around the river and north end of the lake Thursday evening to assess the conditions following the rains, I postponed my group scheduled for the following day. The water was really muddy, the wind was howling, and even more wind was predicted for Friday. That meant I would scout alone Friday as Gene said he was taking his wife to Beaumont for lunch and an oil change and Andrew was in school.

I considered calling in the dogs early after catching only two reds on a windblown drift across Coffee Ground Cove, but decided that since I was already there I would run back and fish the shoreline all the way from the river end of East Pass to the mouth of the lake. The outgoing tide was steadily increasing in strength, but the wind was bucking it just enough to set up a perfect drift.

I was both surprised and pleased when a pair of slot reds slammed my 4-inch Flats Minnow in front of a small marsh drain. I was even more surprised, however, to catch and release several solid flounder by the time I reached the next cut. While the muddy water wasn’t exactly a confidence builder, it wasn’t the unexpected action that surprised me as much as the fact that so many flounder were still around this late in the game.

These weren’t early arrivals…they were resident fish that apparently never had any reason to leave. Since the tail I was using was not at the top of my list for targeting flounder, I swapped it for a quarter ounce spinner bait with a scented Trigger X paddle tail trailer before continuing my drift.

By the time I reached the gas rig at the mouth of East Pass, I had caught and released three more reds and sixteen very nice flounder that were fortunate flounder in deed. I readily release a large number of trout and reds throughout the year, but I have a thing for stuffed flounder. Had a friend not already saved me some fresh catfish fillets before I left the dock, there would have been two less flounder in the lake today!

The fact that the fish were jumping all over an artificial lure with consistency in such ugly water was not something altogether unexpected, but I cannot recall ever finding that many flounder this far north this time of the year. I initially wrote it off to the possibility that I am usually wading shallow water in January and just haven’t fished deeper water enough.

That possibility was laid to rest, however, when Adam pulled up to the dock with two limits of redfish and three more flounder that they picked up fishing over shallow shell in the lake. For that reason alone, I am thinking that even with the recent runoff it has to be the combination of higher salinity levels and unseasonably warm surface temperatures keeping them around.

I only made that one long pass so there were no definitive comparisons to be made between the bite in the first five hundred yards and the remainder of the drift, but for some reason the flounder I caught closer to the river were holding deeper than those located closer to the lake. I also don’t know if color was a factor as I only fished East beast and a chartreuse-white tail on the spinner bait.

We enjoyed a phenomenal flounder catching year in 2011, but it could be even better this year if the remainder of the winter remains mild. How good might it get when you are already catching flounder while waiting on the spring migration to even kick off?

Because both Andrew and Gene have both patiently weathered their fair share of water hauls over the years, I was disappointed that neither of them was with me to share in the positive surprise. Andrew had no choice as skipping school was not an acceptable option, but as for Gene……..I am thinking that you can always treat the wife to lunch and an oil change on a rainy day!