I can’t imagine anyone receiving this newspaper each week not taking a deep breath when Isaac swung around the Florida coast and started tracking a little more westward Sunday morning.

Isaac, not even officially a hurricane at this point, looks to have the New Orleans area in its head lights, but it seems like only yesterday that Ike buried Bridge City and parts of Orange in saltwater and mud. I hope this week’s edition lands in your driveway or front yard high and dry and our only concern by Friday night is high school football across the area.

Unlike much of the state, we have already had plenty of rain this year, so I won’t even be too disappointed if it’s a little soggy and I have to wear my Frogg Toggs to the game!

From a fishing standpoint, at the very least we are going to have to deal with an influx of saltier water and significantly higher tides for the short term. More often than not this only helps the saltwater fishermen, but it can really throw a kink in the bass fishing.

Over the years our marsh bass and bass native to this end of the Sabine have learned to adapt to the brackish water conditions, but the smaller bait fish like bream and goggle-eye don’t do well in the saltier water. I have no idea what they do or where they go to ride out these periods of high salinity, but these bass are “junk yard dog” tough and manage to rebound every time.

Trey Smith and I discussed the possibility several years back, however, that the Florida bass stocked on the Sabine were not nearly as resilient. Prior to the last three hurricanes the stocking program was thriving and five pound bass were no longer show stoppers. In fact, Smith had caught bass up to nine pounds as far south as Conway’s’ Bayou. Today a five pound bass is once again considered to be a big bass on the river adding fuel to the suspicion that the salt water really hurt the Floridas. The daily north winds ahead of the storm have not posed a problem for the lake fishermen so far and the redfish, trout and flounder were still doing their thing in spite of all of the rain at the end of last week. Even with the decent action in the lake, most of the local fishermen have turned to the bayous and ICW to get it done and the bonus has been that they are catching a better variety of fish without having to drastically change tactics.

The live bait fishermen are doing very well and the bait of choice has been small finger mullet rather than shad. While it may well be an inconvenience that you welcome, the sand trout and some very solid croaker will not give the “big three” time to get to a shad fished on a Carolina rig. The key has been using enough weight to compensate for the current and keeping your bait on bottom in 12 to 18 feet of water. The redfish, flounder and even some trout up to four pounds are holding at the same depths, but they are apparently much more interested in a lively mullet. You will have to fish your way through a lot of rat reds, but limits of slot reds have been easy to come by and most of the flounder holding in the deeper water have been 16 to 20 inch fish.

Thus far, the runoff has not had much effect on the catching. The gulls and terns are still working over schools of shad and some very healthy shrimp. We spent too much time running between flocks of birds in the hope that the fish would be larger before finally figuring out a much more productive program last week. We basically drifted the same five to seven foot flats totally disregarding the gulls and caught far more keeper fish two days in a row. We fished tails under a Kwik Cork and topwaters and the better fish were there even though they were not tearing up the surface.

I think the absence of boat traffic had a lot to do with the heavier trout and redfish hunting in areas where the bait wasn’t continuously getting scattered by prop wash. For the most part, when fishing a topwater under the gulls I swap out the treble hooks for Mustad 2/0 live bait hooks. I can’t tell that the hook up ratio is compromised at all and it makes the lure much quicker and safer to remove from the toothy jaws of an irate fish.

If you would like to give this a try, before investing in the more expensive hooks, simply cut two of the barbs off each of the stock trebles on your lure. They work better if you will leave the one remaining barb on the front hook pointing forward and the one on the rear hook pointing in the opposite direction. I wasn’t smart enough to figure that out, but an innovative client recently made that quick alteration to his Skitterwalk and it worked just as well!