Based on 35 years of keeping fishing logs, it is official now. The next time a distraught angler looks toward the tops of the nearest trees and says, “I can’t ever remember the wind blowing so hard for so long,” he or she is correct!

We have also endured a few major freezes over the years and I cannot find another year when consistently cold weather kept local folks in jackets well into May. The past four years, the wind was a problem throughout April, but not once did it blow nearly every day all the way through May.

And, it has only recently shown any signs of slowing down. The very best you can hope for is a short break at the beginning or end of the day. The good news, at least for local anglers, is that the lake is clearing up in spite of the gale force breezes and the trout bite is improving as well.

Last week marked the first time this spring that I have seen the birds ferreting out schools of trout and reds. It remains a hit or miss program depending on the size of the whitecaps, but the entire lake is much clearer and we are starting to see shrimp skipping across the surface. On the south end of the lake we have even seen a few ribbon fish running for their life and that usually indicates the presence of larger trout.

The action was very brief, but we found small groups of birds working two days last week and the fish under them were all big. The first day we caught eight trout up to seven pounds and two days later we caught nine trout up to six pounds before the wind blew the bite out. Even though the water on the north end has improved drastically, the best action under the gulls has taken place on the south end of the lake.

Rick Robison tried the offshore bite Saturday, but returned to fish the ship channel when his group could not get anything going. Later in the day, however, they did a number on 20 to 23-inch trout on the gulf side of the east jetties. Some of the largest trout of the year had been showing up in the back end of the LNG terminals, but they could not get those fish going either.

I don’t know that there is a more difficult program to fish than drifting shallow flats with the wind while making long casts in the direction of the drift. It is especially hard for folks that just do not get out very often and clients generally struggle when forced to fish this way. The problem is that it will often produce fish when nothing else will and we are currently living and dying with it.

The single biggest problem, outside of developing confidence that the fish are even there, is maintaining depth control with your lure. If you are using a topwater or crankbait it is somewhat easier, but swimming a soft plastic tail requires practice. The key is to maintain contact with the lure even though you are drifting towards it while retrieving it just fast enough to keep it at the desired depth.

Using braided line will help you detect the most subtle strike, but the tempo of your retrieve is even more important. This technique does not lend itself to one size fits all when selecting the length of plastic you are going to fish or the weight of the jig head. If the fish will eat it, I prefer a 5-inch Assassin or Mirrolure tail for this technique, but in some instances they want a shorter bait.
I also find it much easier, remember you are casting with the wind, to maintain depth control with a lighter 1/16th-  or 1/8th-ounce jig head. They sink much slower and you do not have to reel as fast to maintain contact. The object is to keep the lure in front of the fish while making it easy for them to chase it down!
Because of the difficulty in fishing this technique, more often than not, I arm clients that do not get to fish a lot with a tail rigged on a 24-inch leader under a Kwik Cork. The cork not only keeps the lure in the strike zone, but attracts fish from even greater distances with the added noise when popped.

The greatest benefit of drifting these flats is that it enables you to cover a lot of territory. The biggest mistake most folks make is that they do not try to stop as soon as they hook up with a fish and just continue to drift right though a group of fish. Immediately planting a power pole or Stake out stick will solve that problem.

The STAR tournament kicks off this weekend and because it coincides with the trout spawn, the winning fish is usually caught within the first two to three weeks. It is easily the most anticipated and biggest saltwater tournament of the year with a ton of money and scholarships up for grabs.

It is a CCA sponsored event, but even as a member you still have to sign up and pay a modest entry fee. Sign up early as the tie-breaker in each category is the first fish weighed in. Do not forget to sign the kids up as well as one fish could earn them a college scholarship and the tournament lasts all summer.

The SALT club will also host a two-day tournament the 29th-30h on the Sabine. The club caters to the family and their tournaments are fun to fish. This event will be even more special in that the winner of the live flounder division will receive a replica flounder mount courtesy of the Flounder Revolution.