Pushing Tin

Pushing Tin
Several years ago I made a couple of great life decisions concerning my family and my fishing. My son, Hunter, who will turn 20 this year, had just entered high school and was an aspiring baseball player with a ridiculously hectic summer schedule. Weekend baseball tournaments put an absolute dent in your schedule and really made guiding fishermen a challenge for me. My days on the water began to get whittled down but I had no problem with that because I enjoyed every minute watching my son play ball. Once I got a handle on how many days I could guide each year I decided if I was going to run a reduced schedule I would run the kind of trips I enjoyed the most and for me that's chasing redfish in the shallow marshes around Sabine and Calcasieu. My love for that style of fishing has grown exponentially over the years and it gets better every day I do it. Recently I saw a Bible verse that sums up how I feel every time I climb up on that poling platform, "God saw all that He had made, and behold it was very good." When I get the opportunity to climb atop the platform and survey the marsh surroundings, I think instantly to myself, "Yes, this truly is very good." There are not many places in the world I would rather be and if at all possible, I will continue to do this and catch a college baseball game as well.

The months of April and May can be downright maddening for sight-angling because you can go from the highest highs to the lowest lows in the blink of an eye. The weather becomes almost "Chamber of Commerce" perfect with increasing hours of daylight and everything is great–until the wind decides to howl for several days. All of a sudden that gin clear water becomes murky as a stale Yoo-hoo and it would seem every fish in the estuary has packed up and headed off in search of more friendly confines. Now the flip side to this is when it all just gets really, really right. Light wind, superb water clarity for days, and hungry, happy fish are what shallow water folks dream and pray for on a daily basis. Early in the year you can go from one scenario to the other faster than you can imagine so having a plan for both is a necessity. I have a couple of things I personally look for that have certainly helped me sift through the miles of marsh and locate more productive bodies of water.

On days when winds are light and you have good water clarity, it's obviously easy to really look things over. The first thing I start looking for is quality vegetation and/or grass. There are several different species of grass that grow in our marshes and each can be a magnet for fish. The abundance of grass in a pond or shallow water area contributes greatly to water clarity as it acts like a natural filter. Comparing water clarity from ponds with grass to those without is like comparing night and day. Now sometimes due to high rainfall or really big wind, even ponds with good grass will murk up and be nasty. But on most days it's a given that good grass equals good clarity. The abundance of vegetation also helps hold bait in the area like shrimp and smaller fin fish; shad, mullet, etc. Having a constant supply of food hanging around is like ringing the dinner bell every day for these redfish and you can bet they take advantage of the buffet. Another plus the vegetation provides is cover the redfish utilize for both ambush and safety. In the deeper ponds those fish will lay under the big mats of grass because the temperature will be much cooler there. June, July and August will drive the temperatures high in the shallow ponds so any relief from the heat is bonus to those fish.

Next on the list is the presence of either crabs or shrimp in the area you want to fish. After years of looking at stomach contents from redfish I am convinced that they eat far more crabs than anything and that's followed closely by shrimp. Now don't get me wrong, I know those redfish will eat their share of shad and mullet but those crabs are tops on their snack list. If you are fortunate to find perfect sized crabs, meaning 2- to 3 inches across the carapace points, you have found a gold mine. It's amazing to see that once you locate crabs like that it's not long before you start seeing fish.

Redfish have to root crabs from grass and other bottom clutter, and here comes another beauty of the tasty crustaceans, a redfish intent on having a crab for dinner will allow you some amazing opportunities to get into crazy close casting and photographic range. I know several excellent fishermen who "create" their own crab-attracting structure with pieces of wooden pallets and other materials in strategic locations. Habitat enhancement, if you will.

Now if you have water clarity, grass, and crabs in an area you have placed a ton of odds in your favor before you even start. It goes without saying a little tidal influence is always a welcome factor along with a tiny bit of wind. Those days when the water is slick calm will make it difficult at times to get close to those redfish because it's just so hard to keep from spooking them with either noise or pressure from an approaching boat. A light ripple on the water will do wonders to cover up any mistakes you make on your approach. It's well worth it to have the light breeze because it not only offers up some noise cover it helps out with your drift as well.

Now with all these factors aligned in your favor there is one more thing that is an absolute "must have" and we're talking eyewear here. I cannot even imagine leaving the dock without high-quality polarized fishing glasses. Several months ago I tried out the new offerings from Salt Life and I continue to be very happy with them. I really like how light they are and the Zeiss lenses rank second to none in my book. Perhaps one of the coolest things about the pair I wear is the fact they have very little rubber on them. In the past on some of the other brands I have worn I noticed that the rubber around the nose piece or on the frames would get almost gummy from sunscreen. The glasses would be fine but the rubber just got nasty and made it uncomfortable and very difficult to keep clean. The Salt Life glasses have been top notch for me and I would certainly tell anyone who is in the market to at least give them a look. I do not believe you will be disappointed.

The best months of the year are ahead and from what I have seen lately the quality of fish and also the fishing is very impressive. I am really looking forward to seeing just exactly what this season will hold for us. As long as I'm not at a baseball diamond you can bet I'll be somewhere in the marsh poling around my little aluminum skiff with a wide-eyed smile on my face.