Deep water bite steadily improving
We were about two hours into a trout bite that just seemed like it would never end when Elby Wesson’s light spinning rod bowed under the weight of a fish much heavier than anything we had previously caught. As the 20-pound braid slowly peeled off his reel, Elby casually hung on with one hand and pulled his rain jacket hood a little tighter with the other.
Because it was already raining when we left the launch, we decided to fish closer to home until we had some feel for the severity of any approaching storms. An occasional downpour can be safely dealt with, but lightning is a show stopper and we elected to take our chances in the river rather than the lake.
We found the trout stacked up on the side of a washout in 24 feet of water and it was simply a matter of flipping the bail on the spinning reel and lowering a jig to the bottom. At best, one of every six or seven fish was a keeper, but the non-stop bite was addicting on a miserable weather day.
We had also boated several slot reds that had given a good account of themselves in the strong incoming tide, but Elby’s fish was pulling too hard to be another red. Ten minutes after he set the hook, which is an eternity when your average tug-of-war lasts no longer than a minute or two, we managed to run the fish down for the third time with the troll motor.
Had the long determined runs been a little quicker I would have guessed bull red or jack crevalle, but I was putting my money on a black drum or alligator gar before the big fish finally headed to the surface to check us out. As soon as I saw the mammoth head and long whiskers I knew two things.
Elby Wesson was attached to the largest blue cat I had ever had anyone hook while fishing with me and my net was going to be of little use!
Had we been able to keep the big cat on the surface I think that we could have possibly won the wrestling match, but after seeing us, the fish immediately sounded and powered away until Elby was left with an empty spool. I had one brief opportunity to stab the end of my bow rope through the partially opened mouth and gills, but Elby had already given up on landing his prize and was trying to snap a picture with his phone while hanging onto the rod!
I have seen a number of big catfish this year, but none to match that fish. The little quarter ounce jig hanging in the corner of her mouth looked like a love bug on the grill of an 18-wheeler.
The live bait bite has been good in the river for the past two months, but this is very early for the trout to start stacking up in deep water and whacking artificials. We usually need two or three modest cold fronts to ignite that action, but I think the high salinity level has jump-started that program.
There are any number of good places to fish this pattern that are very obvious on the Sabine all the way from Middle Pass to the I-10 bridge, but many of them attract far too much attention to yield big numbers. The DuPont Outfall is a good example of this type of structure as are the mouths of the cuts and bayous emptying into the river.
The pipeline crew wiped out a significant number of more discreet spots that I had fished for years, but while it was frustrating it has also been fun locating new spots that they inadvertently created. If this kind of fishing appeals to you now is the time to do your homework and locate your own milk run of honey holes.
What I look for are short stretches of depth change that provide a current break in the deeper water. Over the years I have had no more than a couple of great spots that were in less than 15 feet of water and they never held as many fish as the deeper structure. At the same time, I seldom do well in water deeper than 27 feet.
Regardless of what your depth finder shows, no spot is of any value until it yields a few fish. Fish them with both live bait and artificials and fish them on both an incoming and outgoing tide before writing them off. I have very few deep structure holes that are equally good on both tide changes.
The hunting is as much fun as the catching when fishing this technique and it is rewarding when the fish are holding tight on a strong tide change. Take the time to find a few of these fish magnets on the river and ICW and you will lose very few days to the wind this fall!