Summer fishing in full swing

I have come to the realization that there is no cool or “Gucci” way to throw a Carolina rigged live bait so a standard “grip and rip it” approach usually does the job. The unceremonious splash when the rig hit’s the water sounds like 2nd graders throwing crawfish mounds into a park pond. Regardless of the judges scores for splash-less entry and aesthetics the whole contraption does one thing and one thing well, it flat out catches fish. The idea of being able to let a live bait entice a fish into biting while the fisherman expends little or no effort is appealing to say the least for many folks along the gulf coast and beyond. Sabine Lake is certainly  no stranger to this technique and for good reason, the close proximity to deep protected water makes the technique a favorite among local anglers. Also the abundance of live bait in the area that can be had with a few quick tosses of a castnet adds to the popularity as well. The Sabine and Calcasieu ecosystems get chock full of perfect sized shad, pogey, and finger mullet throughout most of the summer. This readily available supply of bait certainly helps out the old pocket book, especially when you compare fresh to what a quart of live shrimp will run you at the bait house. Those shrimp may as well be stamped 14K and come with a certificate of authenticity.

Now more than likely a bunch of anglers just blew by this article due to the fact that the magic words “live bait” were mentioned. If so that’s their loss, live bait fishing in itself is another technique that requires a certain set of skills that not everyone can master. Contrary to popular belief you can’t just take a live bait and sling it out anywhere and just start reeling in fish. Many of the folks who routinely turn their noses up at the idea of fishing any other way than “grinding or plugging with arties only” are usually the ones pointing the finger and screaming the loudest at those who choose to fish live bait. “#$%^ Potlickers” is a favorite phrase used by those so far advanced that they would dare not stoop to the level of “chunking meat” at their target. I just shake my head at the notion, I enjoy both styles and routinely employ them in my day to day trips. I get just as big of a rush catching fish with artificials as I do with live bait and that’s the honest to goodness truth. Insert boy scout salute here.

Figuring out fish is the name of the game is it not? Finding and patterning fish on a day to day basis is what makes us tick, it’s why we do what we do.  If I am capable enough to find structure or an area and understand how fish are relating to it at a certain period of time then it doesn’t matter if I throw a top water or a phone book, I found them and now it’s my choice as to how I catch them. To hear a fisherman discredit another fellow fisherman by saying “yeah but he was throwing live bait” is just a shame and a down right disrespectful. Just because you chose a different method don’t hold that against another fisherman. I never heard a hunter say “yeah he got a limit of ducks but he was using brand X decoys and we were using handmade”, makes a lot of sense doesn’t it.

For the next several weeks there will be a really nice pattern that unfolds for the folks who decide for whatever reason to not take advantage of the calmer weather that will make everything from the marsh to off shore accessible. The summer months historically will dry and the run off from up north will be minimal at best. These conditions will quickly allow both the Sabine River and Neches River to get extremely salty and bring all sorts of different fish inland. Besides the speckled trout, redfish and flounder there will be a whole host of other players including sand trout, whiting, jacks, and of course sharks. Many of these fish show up and catch unsuspecting anglers by surprise, especially those jacks.

Several years ago I had a run in with a huge jack about 8 miles up the Sabine River. My clients and I had staked out a great looking flat in the river that had some nice structure and deep water close by. Our morning had been very good for both speckled trout and redfish as` well as a couple of big flounder. We were all throwing live shad on a Carolina rig and enjoying the laid back atmosphere and fellowship that style of fishing provides. That very distinct thump of a good fish crushing a shad and swimming off was all I needed to be prompted into setting the hook. The fish swam off the flat without any fanfare, no surface struggles, no line stripping run, just a steady pull that I could not slow down. The initial run had me believing that a big black drum or perhaps a striper had decided to make an appearance, boy was I wrong. Once the fish got off the flat and got into deeper water the whole complexion of the fight changed, whatever had taken the bait had shifted gears and was now in full blown “run off with all your line” mode. Fortunately enough just as we had pulled the anchor and were about to chase the mystery fish it began to make a big circle which enabled me to make up some much needed line. The next half hour was a classic tug of war that ended with a broken rod and 30 pound jack in hand. Easily one of the best and most bizarre catches I have ever had fishing so far up the river. In the summer time you just never know what’s going to show up.

The other summer time scenario that presents itself when we have very little fresh water entering the area is the half eaten trout, courtesy of the shark. Anglers that stay on the jetty system or in the gulf deal with these eating machines more often than folks who stay in the lake. The lake fishermen invariably are the poor souls who lose really good fish to these gray missiles, good trout severed in half behind the gills like a butcher with a sharp knife. I’m not sure how they do it but the sharks almost always seem to leave marginal trout alone in favor of a solid 3 pounder with an 8 dollar lure pinned to it’s lip. I don’t know what’s worse losing the fish or the tackle.

Speaking of sharks the summer will also present us many opportunities to see just how insignificant we really are when we get in the water. The ever popular Bull shark, the top shelf predator with a bad attitude will be out in full force so by all means pay attention. Our part of the world that has a great deal of fresh water is an excellent place to find these creatures. Every year it seems like there are some crazy stories of really close encounters with big bull sharks here on Sabine. Most any fisherman who calls this are home has at least one good story share about bumping into a bull shark. These ill tempered critters can get rather large and certainly present a danger to those who are careless. Waders are often reminded to use longer stringers and watch for bleeding fish on those stringers. Another good idea is to not tie off the stringer to your belt, keep it just tucked inside in case a shark does try to make off with your fish you don’t get dragged around.

The summer ahead will almost surely be one to remember, just make sure it’s for the right reasons. Please be safe on the water, courteous to your neighbor, and by all means enjoy every minute of every trip.