The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Association rolled out the red carpet Friday night for the 201 teams entered in last weekend’s Cops Helping Kids Tournament. Mother Nature wasn’t nearly as hospitable the following day, but the Captain’s Banquet was a huge success enjoyed by a record number of teams and guests.

“While the number of teams that paid entry fees exceeded the 240 mark,” reported Tony Viator, “we actually fished 201 teams, which was an increase of 60 teams over last year. The live auction at the banquet generated $38,000 alone and when all is said and done we will have grossed between $80,000 and $100,000, which will be split among area children’s charities!”

An unfriendly wind that switched from due west to northwest made the fishing tough on the huge field on Saturday. Only 71 teams weighed in a fish and only 204 fish were brought to the scales. In spite of the overall low numbers the winning weights were excellent.

The largest trout weighed 6.99 pounds, the largest red weighed 9.33 pounds and the heaviest flounder weighed in at 3.85 pounds. The heaviest slam (two trout, two reds, two flounder) weighed 27.98 pounds. Once again the live bait fishermen had the upper hand.

A large number of those same fishermen will be back on the water this weekend competing in the 26th annual OCARC Tournament hosted out of Orange. The biggest speck, redfish, flounder and bass are worth $250 each with $2700 in prize money up for grabs in 11 different categories. An additional $250 will be awarded to the angler that catches the winning Appaloosa Red….the red with the most spots.

This year’s weigh-in site will be at the City of Orange Boat ramp located on Simmons Drive. The tournament kicks off at 5:00 pm on Aug. 2 with the final weigh-in set for the following day at 6 p.m. The entry fee is only $25. For more information you can drop by the center located at 905 W. Park or call them at 409-886-1363.

The catching on Sabine Lake continues to be a challenge even for the most seasoned local anglers. The wind is the major obstacle as it is difficult to experiment when you are limited by white caps on the open lake almost daily. Rather than simply curse the wind and speculate, I recently went back through 9 years of logs before I found anything even remotely close to this much wind in the month of July!

The unusually slow redfish bite is a little easier to figure out than what is going on with the trout. One reasonably stealthy pass through one of the marsh lakes bordering the east side of the lake will provide lots of answers. The grass is in good shape, the water is clear and high, the bait is in there in abundance and the redfish have no reason at all to abandon this seventh heaven. We have found a few schooling reds in the afternoon hours in the lake, but certainly nothing like we are used to seeing in the middle of the summer.

And, before you take the easier route and write the trout bite off to fewer trout or too much fishing pressure you would do well to talk with the better live bait fishermen. They are not catching fish every day, but they have been much more consistent on trout up to six pounds than have the folks trying to feed the fish an artificial lure. Even at that, for some reason other than good tide changes, the afternoon hours have been much more productive.

Live croaker are expensive and even harder to catch in any numbers with a cast net, but they have been as productive as advertised over the past few weeks. Even when they haven’t duped particularly large trout they have still fooled keeper fish when nothing else would. Even finger mullet and live shad have been a better option of late than artificial lures.

When the wind has occasionally provided us a small window in which to cruise the open lake we have been finding some gull activity as well as trout up to four pounds blowing up rafts of small shad on the surface. We have caught better numbers fishing a tail or VuDu shrimp under a cork, but the gafftop will not leave the fake shrimp alone. For that one reason, we are fishing smaller topwaters like the She Dog or Spook,Jr. in an effort to attract more trout than catfish.

We have also found some good trout in both the Sabine and Neches Rivers fishing shallow running crankbaits and Swim Baits like the 3-inch Usual Suspect, but the bite has not been very consistent. The best news is that the water is in great shape and the bait is everywhere.

Easily the most overlooked fish have been the flounder and that bite has been above average both in the river and in the major bayous in the Game Reserve. The live bait fishermen are catching their fair share, but the folks fishing GULP shrimp or swimming mullets rigged on a quarter ounce jig head have really done well. It is far easier to hit more spots and cover more territory fishing the scented bait.

Hopefully the wind will give us a break in the very near future and we will once again do more catching than fishing. Support the folks at the OCARC and fish their tournament this weekend!

Just getting started on another nice red!