“Dredging the reef” proves to be the best game in town
“What are you doing” was the question I heard come from the front of the boat, “I am drifting this soft plastic over all this shell in hopes of catching some good trout” was my immediate response. As I turned I could see nothing but astonishment in my clients faces, they were totally amazed that someone would “drag” a bait off the back of the boat on purpose.
“That ain’t fishing, that’s dredging!” said one of the anglers to his partner, “these folks at Sabine are a different breed.” Those words echo in my ear every time someone even mentions fishing at “the reef.” You see those anglers who were in my boat were from Galveston and were also old school Troutmaster tournament anglers, these guys had never even contemplated fishing like this nor did they want to start. Springtime for these guys means wading and chunking plugs, not drifting plastics off the south end of a north bound boat. For some time now this technique we here on Sabine Lake use so often has been named “dredging” by the rest of the coastal fishing community. Call it what they will, it works and that is all that matters.
For those who have never gone down to the big reef near the Causeway bridge and tried out this technique it is really simple. You basically drift over a huge reef that is many acres in size and is comprised of both oyster and clam shells. While drifting with either the tide or the wind you can take a lead headed jig dressed with your favorite soft plastic and bump it along the bottom or just off of the bottom.
One of the best methods is to let your lure sink until you feel the bottom and then raise the lure up just to where it swims over the shell. This is very similar to how freshwater folks fish the grass with crankbaits or spinnerbaits, I believe the term used is “ticking.” Just “ticking” the shell every now and then, just enough to keep in contact with the bottom is preferred.
It may take some trial and error to get the right combination of drift speed and the weight of the jig head, be prepared to loose some jigs on the shell because you will get hung up from time to time. Once you get your combination figured out the fishing will make up for the frustration.
Another viable option for fishing the reef is to actually anchor in a particular spot instead of continually drifting over it. As you drift an area and you catch a couple of fish or get several bites don’t hesitate to put the anchor out and fish that area more thoroughly. Most of the time local anglers will just continue to drift and then try to go back to that spot on the next pass.
By anchoring up you may just sit down on top of a good concentration of fish that are stacked up on a particular piece of structure. This technique works really well and is not often used by many folks on Sabine. I have seen fishermen on other bays and lakes like Calcasieu and Galveston use this method with impressive results, it’s surely worth a try.
Fishing the reef in the spring is the equivalent of fishing the “chicken coop” at Toledo Bend when the crappie are biting, the boats will be lined up as far as you can see. The numbers of boats can be intimidating at times but don’t let that scare you, use common courtesy and good judgment at all times and the experience can be very enjoyable.
Many times anglers in other boats work together to help one another catch fish, valuable information like choice of color or water depth where the fish are can be found out just by asking. During the past few days the best colors have been red flash (red with silver glitter), LSU (purple with a chartreuse tail), and limetreuse (bright yellow) fished on a quarter ounce head in 10 to 12 feet of water. The speckled trout are holding over this big area of shell because that is where is the bait is, sand eels, small glass minnows, and shrimp seem to be the preferred food source.
One last important bit of information, always check the tide schedules. Moving water is a must when fishing the reef, slack tides make it really hard to catch fish on a consistent basis. Keep all these things in mind if you decide to go try the reef this spring, the fishing can be excellent and well worth the effort if it is done right.