Small windows and big fish
How many times have you had it happen to you? After hours of fishing, struggling, changing baits, and changing tactics it finally happens, the fish finally decide to cooperate and all is right with the world again. That brief period of euphoria wipes away all the memories of cold boring hours spent probing empty acres of water; it’s the opportunity we all search for yet only few find on a consistent basis. Those few fishermen who routinely find these brief periods where fish go on rampages that the average guy can only dream of rapidly reach mythic status in the fishing community. The “underground” of the fishing world buzzes with the stories of these fishermen, exploits surrounding sessions when every cast was met with a bone jarring strike circulate at the boat shows and each time the story is told the stringer always gets bigger. Every coastal angler dreams of fishing trips like these but most don’t understand what it takes to achieve these results.
If you ever get a chance to talk to the really good fishermen along the Texas coast you will find that most of them are very detail oriented and they keep some sort of records. The records consist of all the obvious things like tides, temps, weather along with bottom structure, available bait, and a few others. The records offer up valuable history that can help anglers find a consistent fish catching pattern. During the winter months those fish catching patterns don’t last very long during the day, all the factors tend to align themselves for a brief period of time and that’s when memories are made.
These small windows of opportunity are the key to being successful during the tough stretches in January and February because these windows are the smallest of the year. Many anglers fish all day in hopes of finding fish while others make shorter trips based on the patterns from past years. Nine times out of 10 the guy with the known pattern on his side will catch more and bigger fish.
On Sabine and Calcasieu the patterns hold the same much like they do farther down the coast, warmer water on incoming tides late in the day are a favorite of many. The combination of these factors can be extraordinary, especially when you know you can count on the bite being consistent. The afternoon incoming pattern works well and is probably the favorite but what happens when you don’t have these conditions? The outgoing tide can also provide some warm water onto productive flats provided you have some marsh areas nearby. Water from the back lakes and marshes heats up during the day and is usually protected so it holds heat for long periods of time. On the outgoing tide this warmer water rushes out onto the flats and bars carrying with it bait fish and other food that speckled trout, redfish, and flounder thrive on. These sudden temperature changes coupled with tidal movement will often kick start the fish into feeding mode and if you happen to be there at that time you may just be the subject of the next great fish story.
I have been on the fortunate end of career days using both the incoming and outgoing tides during the winter and these trips help erase the thoughts of the bad days which we all inevitably suffer through. All you can do as a fisherman is to put the most odds in your favor and put your time in on the water. As unpredictable as the winter can be it’s awful nice to know that there is the possibility of predicting when and where the fish will bite.
Looking at February the first thing that comes to mind is run off from the lakes to the north and what kind of effect it will have on Sabine and Calcasieu. As it stands right now all the water levels on the lakes are well below normal and that means stable conditions and saltier water for the spring. Any type of consistent pattern will be a welcome blessing for anglers testing Sabine or Calcasieu this spring, who knows what kind of great fishing awaits. The last time we had a pattern like what we have now was in the late ‘90s and that was when Sabine Lake really got to be household word in the world of big trout fishing. Also in February if we don’t get killed with run off the fishing in the Sabine River for striped bass should be excellent as well. The options are plenty as we as we get cooperation from the weather. I personally am looking forward to this month because it’s been a long time since we were in this good of shape.