Striped bass bring special opportunity to Sabine anglers
There are very few places along the gulf coast that can boast such a diverse variety of fish like Sabine lake can. Fresh or salt and everything in between for the most part can be caught in the Sabine lake area. One fish that has developed a growing legion of fans at this border body of water is the striped bass. For many years anglers who braved the coldest and nastiest days in search of redfish would occasionally do battle with one of these line stretching bullies only to chalk up the encounter as time lost searching for redfish. The encounters were few and far between for even the most hard core of angler who braved the worst weather. Over the last five years the population of striped bass has seen an increase and fisherman have seen the change first hand. In what seems to be a weird twist of fate the stripers actually have been more prevalent since Texas Parks and Wildlife quit their stocking program several years back.
For a couple of years TPWD stocked stripers in the Sabine river above the lake. These stocked fish have a wire implant placed in their head that is detectable when x-rayed. The purpose of the wire was to let TPWD know if the fish was native or stocked. In the past several years TPWD has found a a decent population of native fish to go along with those that were stocked. Several theories exist about how the stripers got there in the first place. The most widely accepted version is that these fish came down the Sabine river from Toledo Bend and have made the deep water around the area their home. Because stripers can survive in both fresh and salt water environments it would seem like Sabine is just a tailor made area for them. If the numbers of stripers caught in the last two or three years are any indicator it would sure seem that these fish are doing better than anyone thought.
As mentioned before most stripers are caught by anglers seeking redfish, live bait as well as artificials will work nicely. Being that the main diet of these voracious fish is shad it is easy to understand why shad would be the number one producer bait. Coming in at a strong second is mullet, followed closely by live crawfish. Mullet are probably the best bet because they are much easier to find in the winter months when compared to shad or crawfish.
Artificial lures like Rat-l-traps, Hoginar’s, and soft plastics catch their fair share of stripers as well. Best methods seem to be working drop off’s or ledges near deep water or at the mouth of a marsh drain or tributary. Flyfishermen also do very well on Deceivers in sizes No. 1 and No. 2, white or chartreuse Clouser Minnows and Sea-ducers. The subtle presentation of the fly will get strikes much more often when compared to other artificials, the only problem is getting to the fish. Most of the time these fish are relatively deep and that makes getting a fly to them a challenge. If you can find these fish actively feeding or suspended close to the top of the water you can really do a number on them with a fly.
As winter gets closer and the weather gets cooler and uglier by the day you can expect the striper fishing to do nothing but get better. The over cast and misty raining days of late fall and winter seem to be the best times to tackle these hefty fish. The largest fish to date that we know of from this area weighed in at a monstrous 36 pounds! There have been many 20 plus pounders taken from the river as well. While the average fish is somewhere between 4 and 8 pounds you can never be sure of the size because they all fight hard and pull like truck.
Next time it looks too bad or nasty to fish remember the striper and give him a chance, I promise you won’t be disappointed.