Sabine Lake: Chasing red fish in the wind
The only way the FBC wild game dinner could have gone any better Saturday afternoon would have been for the wind to have blown the empty Styrofoam plate out of my hands and across the pasture. That, however, did not happen and the great food and even better company were not enough to keep me from constantly eyeing the tree tops surrounding the pavilion.
For the first time in a month they were not doubled over and it had been that way all day long. If you were on the water, fish or no fish, you had no reason to complain. Apparently, Mother Nature only took a day off to catch her breath because she was right back at it Sunday and the remainder of the week looks to be more of the same!
The Xtreme Redfish Trail Circuit will host a tournament Saturday, April 9 out of Port Neches Park and a number of the teams already signed up are scouting the bayous and river as back up plans. I think most of them know that the jetties and the lake are the place to be if the wind isn’t too bad, but a stiff southwest wind is in the forecast and that makes for a long wet boat ride.
If the wind does eliminate most of the lake, at least a portion of the field will try to get it done in the marsh or the protected bayous. Tide changes can become an even more important factor for teams looking to fish the shallow marsh lakes in 22-foot bay Boats. The grass isn’t too bad in the lakes we have toured recently, but many of them aren’t as deep as they once were prior to Ike’s arrival.
The other problem of late has been the size of the redfish that we have found in that type of water. The numbers have been surprisingly good, but the larger fish have only been in the 25 to 26-inch class. Two slot fish are better than none, but when you are basically fishing for first place money only, your two keepers better be pushing the 28-inch mark.
The ICW, the bayous and both rivers could well be viable back-ups and afford a legitimate shot at the winning fish, but there are a lot of variables involved that make it difficult to hang your hat on that game plan. The good news is that at least to some degree you can take the wind and the navigation problems associated with a low tide out of the equation.
The bigger issue in fishing the more protected water is bait movement and water clarity. I haven’t fished the Neches at all, but it doesn’t take long for the redfish to make a move on the Sabine.
On back to back trips a week ago, we caught some very solid reds as deep as fifteen feet on Swim Baits and Hoginars. I was cruising the deep points and breaks off the main channel looking for schools of bait on the depth finder and fishing them vertically. Only about one out of every five stops produced, but when you found them they were upper end slot fish.
The following night a little storm roared through the area and it completely changed the bite the following day. We still found some bait hanging off the deeper breaks, but the fish just weren’t there. Rather than waste the morning, we decided to bass fish a little while.
Much to our surprise, the redfish were up in the shallow water and we caught three very nice reds mixed in with the small river bass. We caught some smaller reds as well, but all three of the better fish were 27 to 29-inch fish. We caught them on everything from a spinnerbait to a Whacky worm before taking an early quit.
While the fish are definitely there, the dilemma for a tournament fisherman is determining whether or not the redfish are feeding in two feet or fifteen feet of water. If you guess wrong, you have wasted a lot of time and we could find no obvious reason for the fish to make that move in one night.
Should a minor miracle occur and the wind lay down for that tournament, there is no telling how much weight it will take to win. The jetty fishermen will have to cull their way through a lot of oversized fish, but that can be a good problem to have.
The birds very well may work over huge schools of reds chasing both shrimp and ribbon fish on the south end of the lake like they were two weeks ago. The submerged grass on the east side of the lake could also get hot and both revetment walls always hold at least a few upper end reds. That is probably just wishful thinking, but it could happen!
If you like eating and talking about bay fishing, Robert’s Steak House is the place to be next week. The Orange CCA Chapter will meet there at 6:30 on April 11 and the Triangle Tail Chasers Club will meet at the same time on April 14 to discuss plans for their upcoming tournament. It’s okay to order fried fish!