At least portions of the past eight to ten days have presented area anglers with ideal fishing conditions on Sabine Lake. With the exception of the weekend, the wind has not been a factor, the tides have been favorable, and the fishing has been very good.

The only inconvenience has been the occasional unscheduled dash for cover due to the lightning accompanying these storms. No lightning should be ignored when outdoors, but even the most hard-core anglers were quick to seek cover this week!

We have enjoyed a very consistent run on trout in the 4 to 5 pound class of late and those are good fish on any bay. Most of them are full of eggs, but these are big- bodied trout as well. The increased numbers are the result of more anglers taking advantage of optimum weather conditions in spite of the higher gas prices.

I was watching Bobby Blessing fillet a limit of very solid trout at The River Rat Thursday when a crew boat driver asked, “Did those big trout just start biting lately?” Blessing answered without ever looking up, “I wouldn’t know… the wind kept me off the lake for five months!”

We have indeed been catching some large trout, but you need to take a deep breath and slowly exhale before gassing up the boat with visions of nine-pound trout attacking the boat. There are definitely some fish in that weight class cruising the flats right now, but they are not suicidal.

We are still catching some of our largest fish each day on plastics.

We are making numerous casts in very small areas and have slowed our retrieve to a crawl. On most mornings, we are catching only 8 to 10 fish, but a number of them are in the 22 to 27 inch class. The live bait fishermen have enjoyed the easier bite, but those anglers drew a crowd this weekend.

That bite has been productive provided you are in the right place at the right time. You also have to be anchored in the right position casting in the right direction. I am not implying that fishing live bait is a complicated technique, but it does require some homework and patience.

You can take a slow boat ride most any day down the ICW from the mouth of Adam’s Bayou to Texaco Island and observe anglers anchored up drowning mullet and shad. Some of them are camped out on proven honey holes while others are just trying to get as close to the action as possible without getting cursed.

There are days when the trout and redfish will hit both live mullet and shad, but on most outings, they will hit one better than the other.

There are also days when they will even hit a fresh dead shad, but I consider that a poor option. This may be over simplifying it, but I believe live bait fishing is usually more effective when using bait that is alive!

Even when fishing proven areas, you will have to determine where the fish are holding or your live bait is of little value. I try to anchor in a position that allows me to fish both a deep break and the
shallows as well.

Remember that when the trout are feeding, they are following a food source and are willing to abandon water that is more comfortable in order to easily secure their next meal. One day the best bite will be in three feet of water and the next day twelve feet will be the magic depth. It is not unusual to have them move deeper or shallower several times in the same day.

I know that most folks have a very limited amount of time to find fish on the weekend, but joining the crowd is not the solution. At best, only one or two boats in the group will be anchored properly and everyone else becomes a jealous spectator. Rather than seeking out a specific spot, ask the person that told you about the great bite how deep they were fishing and find a similar location.

On the toughest day that I fished last week, we caught trout in an area that I had not fished in two weeks. Because the artificial lure bite was blown out, we netted a little bait and picked a spot with the same depth of water that had been productive. We did not just kill them, but we boxed six trout up to four pounds and missed three or four more good fish while lots of other folks called in the dogs early. When fishing live bait in the summer I struggle from time to time like everyone else, but I remain convinced that the best spots on the ICW still have never been fished and all I have to do is find them. Every year I discover one or two and, more often than not, they are spots I have ridden by thousands of times. Continue to shop around with a positive attitude when you find someone fishing a spot you intended to fish.

Make an effort to keep your bait alive, pay close attention to the effect a tide change has on the area you are fishing, fish both shallow and deep with different weight sizes, and be patient. I very seldom catch fish on some of my very best holes right after motoring in and setting the anchor, so give things time to settle down.

I hate fishing live bait, but there are those days when it is the only game in town and I hate not catching fish even worse!