The year is drawing to a close and I must say it was unique in more than a few ways. While I doubt many would volunteer for another drought as we’ve experienced in 2023, in a rather strange way I believe it has been beneficial for our Sabine fisheries. Over the past several years the upper coast region has been plagued with an abundance of rain and fresh inflow from the rivers and reservoirs above us. My take on all this is that I have seen both extremes and, for the sake of our fisheries, I will gladly take the drought.
The dry days we encountered made for a very consistent bite all summer long. I have seen plenty of reports coming from anglers all across Sabine Lake who were catching limits of fish daily. Compared to the flood years when limits were non-existent or certainly hard to come by, I’ll take it. Also, with the lack of rain, the water clarity on Sabine Lake was beyond perfect. It was so clear that I spent a few days on the main lake shoreline sight-casting to redfish and sheepshead. If you have fished Sabine, you’re likely already aware that we don’t get many days where you can do this on our lake due to the usual murky inflow from the rivers.
By now though, we have had a little rain and a few cold fronts have moved through and it has set everything up for the wintertime bite. Fish are done gorging on the fall migration of shrimp and now focused on eating anything they can find. Combine this factor with the clearer water that we typically get during winter and it is a recipe for epic fishing. And, one more thing; don’t let the cold temperatures scare you, these can sometimes be the best days to be out there.
Fishing conditions during the colder months can be tough and I understand that it is not for everybody. However with some proper planning you can make a day out of it and it can be rewarding. The most important thing to remember while out there is to stay dry. Wet feet and hands will certainly ruin your trip quickly. A good pair of gloves and proper footwear are a must during this time of the year. Another article of clothing that is nice to have is a good set of bib pants. These will keep the wind off of your body and will keep you dry from any splashing or spray that might occur when driving your boat.
One of the best things about wintertime fishing is that more than likely there won’t be too many people on the water. There are days where you may be the only person at the launch and will have the entire lake to yourself. This creates less pressure on the fish and makes them easier to find and catch.
When it comes to sight-casting redfish during the colder months, I have found that you need a lure that can be presented on a slower retrieve. I have thrown crankbaits and other lures that require faster retrieve speeds and they tend not to attract as many strikes. They get the attention and a small reaction from the fish sometimes, but they usually won’t exert a large amount of energy to chase down a fast moving lure.
I tend to stick with a few basic lures and never venture far from them right now. One is a weightless Zoom Fluke on a 4/0 offset hook and the other is a 1/4 ounce weedless gold Johnson spoon. I really like the Fluke because it sinks slowly and you can keep it in the fish’s strike zone longer. With the spoon, I will get it in front of a fish and nearly stop reeling, giving it only a few short pops. This will cause the spoon to flutter and almost dance up and down in the face of a fish and they just can’t resist such an easy meal.
When looking back at past fishing trips, I have had many better days during the winter than during summer. I recall a very memorable trip I made a few years back that turned out to be one of the best I have ever experienced. I was working nights and stayed late until the day crew got there and one of the guys asked me why I was hanging around. I told him I was going fishing and his reply was… “In this?”
The temps were in the mid-30s but I knew the wind was going to be next to nothing and the sun was going to be shining. My buddy Chad and I proceeded to sight-cast well over 50 fish that morning, and the best part was we were off the water before noon. What an unreal day. Other trips have not produced that number of fish but I have enjoyed more than a few double-digit days. It might be cold but it is certainly fun!
With all of this being said, don’t let the cold deter you from getting out on the water. Just make sure to dress appropriately, stay dry, and always pay careful attention to the weather forecast. There are plenty of good weather days during these months and the fishing can be flat out fun. I hope that you are able to get out and catch a few fish with your family and friends. Stay warm and safe on the water!