No matter how hard lure manufacturers try they will never be able to create a 

lure that works better than real thing, period. The typical profile of the 

weekend angler is not that of the high end trophy trout hunter who chunks 

artificial lures for hours on end looking for one big fish, it’s the fisherman 

who takes a quart of live shrimp or a bucket of mud minnows and looks for 

anything that will bite. Much has been made of the big trout phenomenon and all 

the hoopla that surrounds that style of fishing; I personally have devoted 

plenty of articles to the subject as well as many days on the water. On the 

other hand I devoted plenty of time on the water fishing with live shad or 

mullet and I enjoy those trips just as much or maybe even more on occasion. 

There is something very calm and social about anchoring up in the mouth of a 

little bayou or in the river and peacefully anticipating the next bite for 

whatever species shows up next. Some of the best conversations I ever had with 

my son were on the back of boat as we sat fished live bait. The laid back mood 

associated with this style of fishing is a welcome change from the hectic world 

that we live in; it’s a shame that more anglers aren’t willing to participate 

for fear of their macho image being tarnished. I feel sorry for those folks 

because they don’t know what they are missing. 

 

Here in the Sabine area we are very fortunate to have such a great supply of 

free live bait, virtually anyone who can throw a cast net can catch enough bait 

to fish without spending a dime. Most anglers who live here locally have no idea 

about how much money weekend anglers on other bay systems spend on live bait, 

it’s crazy. Live shrimp by the quart ranges anywhere from 12 to 20 dollars a 

quart! Now if you plan on fishing all day you probably will buy at least 3 

quarts, that’s an extra of 40 to 60 dollars a trip on top of 3 dollar, a gallon 

gas prices. Anglers who fish with guides on places like Calcasieu or Galveston 

bay not only pay guide fees but they also are expected to pay for the live bait 

as well, that price gets steep in a hurry. I don’t know how many horror stories 

I have heard from anglers who went out with a guide and paid for live shrimp 

only to have the bait die half way through the trip due to a bad live well 

system or some other problem only to have to go back to the bait stand and by 

more shrimp. My wallet hurts just thinking about it all. 

 

The other high dollar live bait that we really don’t have in this area is 

croaker, the big trout bait of choice on the lower coast. Live croaker cost 

anywhere from 6 to 10 dollars a dozen on average and will usually last all day 

with minimal care. The live croaker as bait industry is a huge money making 

business, the numbers of live croaker sold on Saturday at the big bait camps are 

staggering. Many in the fishing community attribute the decline of the croaker 

to the emphasis on them as bait instead of a game fish. Live croaker are lethal 

on trout in the summer, while artificial only guides struggle to put together a 

decent box of fish many “croaker guides” limit out in 2 or 3 hours and get back 

to the dock well before lunch. There have been plenty of cleaning table 

altercations surrounding this practice but regardless what some may think using 

croaker for bait is perfectly legal. 

 

While we don’t really have a consistent supply of live shrimp or croaker in our 

area we do have live bait that is every bit as good if not better, live shad. 

The small pogies and menhaden that thrive in our waters are great baits for 

almost any and or all species of fish that can be caught in our area either 

fresh or salt. Besides being readily available for those who can throw a cast 

net the best thing about them is that they are 100% free. The summer months are 

tailor made for drifting shad under a cork or fished along the bottom on a 

Carolina rig; both are popular methods and each works well. If there is a draw 

back to fishing shad it’s their durability, shad are difficult to keep alive for 

long periods if you don’t pay attention. Most anglers try to put too many shad 

in their live well; this is a recipe for disaster. All the shad in the same 

small space produce waste and deplete the oxygen in the water which usually 

kills all the shad really quick. In order to make the most of your shad don’t 

put too many in your live well, change your live well water frequently, and keep 

the water in you live well cool by adding frozen water bottles or some other 

means. By taking a few extra precautions you can keep your bait fresh and lively 

for a really long time. 

 

Which ever method you prefer, live or artificial, the summer forecast is wide open on 

Sabine and Calcasieu. The saltwater content is marginal at best right now so you never 

what you may run into right now. Take precaution with 

the heat and keep an eye on the summer thunderstorms that will flare up in a

hurry, but most of all be sure to enjoy your time on the water.