If you found that new rod or reel under the tree Christmas morning, (I can’t imagine Mrs. Claus springing for both at today’s prices) this weather is not doing you any favors. Before you curse the foul weather, however, consider the fact that the mid to lower coast is still suffering from drought conditions and their fisheries continue to suffer greatly. They will tell you that any source of additional fresh water is a good thing for the saltwater fisherman!

I talked with Everett Johnson, owner and publisher of Texas Saltwater Fishing Magazine last week and he said the only good fishing reports he received from his guide/writers last month came from the upper coast.“It is still bone dry down here and our bays have really suffered,” he stated while adding that even the drum fishermen have now run into problems they have never experienced with the texture of the meat.

As a rule, the average bay fisherman does not appreciate how critical freshwater is to the health of their fragile ecosystem. Surrounding marshes and swamps are not only breeding grounds for everything from small finfish to shrimp, but provide vital nurseries that support several species of game fish until they mature as well.

Excessive rain and minor flooding changes the catching game for local fishermen virtually every winter, but they are the lifeblood of our very unique fishery. Covet every drop of water that arrives via the Neches and Sabine rivers and consider local rains to be a welcome inconvenience.

Thus far, we have had neither too much rain nor too much cold to alter the bite on Sabine Lake to any extent. The fish have changed their patterns of late due to a change of diet, but the bite is still above average for this time of the year.

Two years ago, and it may have had something to do with our own min-drought, the redfish just covered us up and it was difficult to locate any numbers of big sow trout. That has not been the case this year, however, as local die-hard winter fishermen are not only still limiting on reds with ease, but catching good numbers of five-pound plus trout as well.

The surface temperature on some of the shallow flats was as high as 60 degrees this weekend and there is nothing in your winter arsenal that won’t work when the water is that warm. I talked with two Houston anglers Saturday night that caught 12 to 15 trout up to six pounds wading the north end of the lake on two very cold days early last week.

They started their wades after lunch and caught most of their fish just before dark on Corky Fat Boys. They returned to wade the same flat Saturday evening and caught 16 trout up to nine pounds four ounces on top waters. The same water was eight to ten degrees warmer. I realize that it doesn’t serve as much help to the average fishermen, but they caught their four largest trout after dark!

While all of that was going on we continued to catch our trout and most of our reds much deeper. The trout weren’t as large, we did have a few in the five pound class, but the numbers were certainly there. We were crawling Maniac Mullets and Corky Devils or five-inch paddle tails across the bottom in 12 to 16 feet of water.

If you just wanted to target redfish, all you had to do was tie on a crank bait or Swim bait and spend more time fishing 4 to 8 feet of water. We have done very well with a River 2 Sea Biggie that dives 3 to 5 feet and an H&H Usual Suspect Swim Bait. Not surprisingly, the crank bait bite was better in water north of the ICW.

For those of you that may not have noticed, the Maniac Mullet comes in a fast sink and a slow sink model. If you no longer have the package, the ones with the gold eyes are slow sink and the fast sinks have red eyes. If you haven’t developed any confidence in the Corky Devil over the years, however, you probably are not going to like the Maniac Mullet until it catches a fish in spite of you. Just ask Eric Roning the next time you are in Daley’s!

It is still just a little bit early to find many double digit bass staging on Rayburn or Toledo Bend, but the spoon and drop shot fishermen have been absolutely hammering a mixed bag of yellow, white and an occasional black bass as well as crappie and catfish. They are locating the fish with their electronics and fishing them vertically.

The most consistent bite this past week was anywhere from 22 to 30 feet deep over even deeper water. Tree lines and bends in the main river channel have been holding good concentrations of shad and fish. I received two decent reports on white perch in the Chicken Coop area above Pendleton, but the better bite on that end of the lake right now is apparently still in the major creeks.