Cooler Temps & Cooler Heads Lead to Better Fishing

Cooler Temps & Cooler Heads Lead to Better Fishing
Jared Smith from Idaho had his hands full with this 45-inch 20-pounder that was running with schooling trout under the gulls.

The sun has just broken the horizon to reveal a relatively smooth lake, the temperatures are mild and the forecast is in the angler’s favor. A short boat ride into the expanse of Sabine Lake is halted so one of the anglers can glass the area ahead with binoculars in hope of finding a flock of working birds. The glassing pays off and the boat of hopeful anglers speed off in the direction of the birds with visions of speckled trout busting shrimp racing through their minds.

The boat driver pulls back on the throttle, kills the motor and steps to the bow to drop the trolling motor so the boat can be better positioned and everyone aboard can reach the fish. Just as our anglers gain the perfect distance from the flock, it happens. Familiar roars grow louder from several directions and the perfect scenario is about to go wrong in a big way. Within minutes our anglers are surrounded by boats on all sides, filled with zealous anglers.

Wakes from the boats rushing to the scene turn the calm surface into a rolling, unstable affair. The birds and fish are now surrounded by an armada of lure chunking, boat banging, would-be fisherman who cannot understand why the fish and the birds suddenly disappear. This scenario will play out over and over again as the overly anxious anglers refuse to learn from their mistakes, turning what could have been a memorable day into one full of frustration and very few fish.

Now, if the truth were to be told, most anglers have been on both sides of that example – we’ve likely all been both victim and villain at one time or another. It’s tough for the average fisherman to have the patience to come into a situation like the one described and not get antsy or in a hurry. All it takes is one boat to start crowding the school or moving too fast, and before you know it the whole herd is in stampede mode.

“That guy isn’t going to beat me to the fish,” or “If we don’t get there we won’t get a shot at the fish,” are common remarks and mistakes that many fisherman make. But truth be known, that’s not the case at all. If anglers would come off plane earlier, use more trolling motor, approach from the upwind side, and work with other boats instead of against them, everybody would catch more fish.

If you ever want to see the look of surprise on somebody’s face, just watch another angler when you ease up to a school with birds hovering and ask if it’s alright to fish near them. Most people are floored that anyone would even offer to do that. I promise you if you ask politely and use common sense, on the next bunch of birds you encounter, that same angler you spoke to earlier will do the same for you. Courtesy is contagious.

As good as the fishing is right now you can certainly expect increased traffic
on the lake from both local and out-of-town anglers. The last thing you ever
want to have happen is to become involved in a confrontation with someone while you are on the water. I have witnessed some very heated moments on Sabine. There have even been some that led to altercations later at the boat ramp, if you can believe that. Simply put, there is no fish worth that kind of behavior.

Please remember a few simple rules while chasing the birds this fall – approach slowly, be mindful of your wake, be courteous, do everything possible to find your own school of fish, work with other fishermen, and by all means keep your cool. Follow these simple rules and you will be well on your way to a memorable day.

If for some reason the idea of chasing birds isn’t your cup of tea there are plenty of other options available right now and none of them are bad. The folks pursuing big trout will be on the prowl along the shallow flats near the Intracoastal Waterway and the many drains that dot the Louisiana shoreline. It’s a safe bet to say that some of the biggest fish of the year will be caught this month, and I for one would love to see some quality trout make an appearance after several very disappointing years.

The flounder run will be in full swing as well but those fish will be catch and release only starting November 1 and remaining that way until December 14, so be mindful of the regulations. For those who have chosen to try and take advantage of the so-called Louisiana loophole, where they launch on the Louisiana side of Sabine for a shot at more liberal limits, especially flounder, you will again be out of luck as Louisiana will also close their flounder season during the same time period. It never ceases to amaze me the lengths some folks will go to in order to circumvent the law or take advantage of a situation.

As always the redfish will be prowling everywhere and eating everything that doesn’t eat them, and that will be a constant pattern right on through winter. So far this year we have been absolutely inundated with oversized redfish and they show no sign of leaving any time soon. In years past the sight of a 40” redfish inside the lake boundary, not the jetty, was a big deal. But so far this year that has not been the case as these big fish continue be more common.

If you are fortunate enough to run up on a school of oversize reds engaged in a feeding frenzy, it’s truly a sight to behold and can only be described as mass carnage. Don’t be surprised at all if some of these bigger fish don’t show up in the middle of a school of trout because they will not only be chasing the same bait that the trout are chasing, they will also readily eat smaller specks and sand trout. The redfish is easily the most predictable and accessible fish going during this time of year, so take advantage of them when you get the opportunity.

With all the various patterns available and a definite change in the weather, it’s no secret that this is probably my favorite time of the year. For months we have endured a ridiculous amount of high southwest wind that rendered most of Sabine un-fishable. A huge high-pressure system just sat in the middle of the country and wouldn’t budge, so the weather report seemed to be the exact same every day for what seemed like eternity. That pressure ridge protected us during the hurricane season from tropical storms entering the gulf, but unfortunately it also produced severe drought conditions.

Coastal prairies went dry and muddy bottoms cracked open, forcing many folks, especially waterfowlers, to scramble in order to save their seasons. The lack of rain also produced some of the most gorgeous water we have ever seen on Sabine as freshwater runoff from up north was virtually non-existent. I can honestly say in my almost 40 years on Sabine I have never seen the water look this good for this long, it’s been amazing. The prospects for the coming weeks are outstanding and I genuinely look forward to what’s ahead.

On a personal note, I have to say as much as I look forward to this time of the year I am also reminded that this month marks two years since we lost our great friend, Capt. Dickie Colburn. There are very few days I am not reminded of him or something he said or did, especially when I’m on the water.

Dickie was a very important figure in my life, both personally and professionally, and to say I miss him greatly would be a huge understatement. I would love to hear his thoughts on the current state of Sabine Lake because he was the utmost authority on the subject, hands down. It’s hard to believe it’s been two years already, time sure flies. As Dickie always said…”Enjoy your time on the water and be sure to take a kid fishing.”