Forgotten Water

Forgotten Water
As pretty as a shallow water flat can be, there are other options not to be forgotten.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and take for granted that at one time or another we have all been scrolling through the channels on the TV and come across one of the more popular sci-fi movies where the plot involves a main character who figures out a way to see his surroundings for what they really are instead of how the villains want them to be seen. Movies like the ones in “The Matrix” series come to mind where our hero discovers there is another way or another world that he hasn’t been told about. Well, consider this your “saltwater plot twist” and come into the light with me as we discover that there actually is another way.

It’s no secret that Texas Saltwater Fishing Magazine is the premier publication for coastal fishing in Texas and there really isn’t even a close second. I realize my opinion is obviously biased on this subject but it truly is hard to argue against. Now to be fair and completely honest I do have to point out something about our magazine that is also hard to argue against and that is the fact that the overwhelming majority of the articles are catered to wade fishermen and shallow water. I realize that there are plenty of lower and middle coast venues that have miles and miles of two-foot deep or less so that’s how they have to fish, but believe it or not there are other options.

If you took the Texas coast and divided it around Matagorda Bay you would have a fairly good idea where the “shallow water line” starts. From the Matagorda complex headed up the coast towards Sabine and Calcasieu is where Texas anglers enter a different world from those of their lower coast brothers and sisters. Average water depth in the bay systems gets deeper and the need to learn to fish a different method than wading is a must unless you want to just completely exclude an astronomical amount of prime water. Contrary to the scores of articles dedicated to probing the shallow flats, there is another world out there to conquer and you can’t reach it on foot.

For as long as I can remember the bread and butter pattern on Sabine Lake has been long drifts along variations in bottom structure such as scattered shell, streaks or water color changes, and near concentrations of active bait as often as possible. Other options have always been defined depth changes near the mouths of small bayous or other marsh drains along with natural points that ran out into deeper water such as the Sabine or Neches rivers. These variations take time and effort to find and pinpoint which is why so many anglers choose to fish differently and pursue an easier method. Those that are willing to explore and take time to really scour the deeper water are often rewarded with some hidden gems that can be great producers.  

For many years I had a lengthy list of small areas on both Sabine and Calcasieu that were proven fish magnets. I knew fish held to these different structures and all I had to do was figure out how they were relating to them. The biggest variable was water movement such as tide or wind-generated currents and positioning your boat is the single greatest key to success, similar to the way offshore anglers fish a wreck or other structure. On more than a few occasions I have seen other anglers pull up to one of these spots because they either had seen someone there earlier or had the GPS numbers, only to set up on the location incorrectly for the conditions at the time. It was always funny to watch them motor off for another spot while you moved in to the same area from a little different angle and immediately begin catching fish.

The months of April and May are tailor made for probing structure in these deeper bodies of water as long as you have a few simple tools of the trade. A basic drift sock or sea anchor is a necessity that helps control speed and direction of your drifts. We all know that the wind will be our biggest challenge for at least another month or so and being able to slow your drift will be a huge help. Another useful tool is a small anchor that you can keep handy and drop over the side quickly once you get that first bite. Many folks have either a Power Pole, Talon or similar shallow anchoring device on their boats nowadays and these work well under certain conditions. They are however limited in their ability to contact and hold bottom in depths greater than about six feet, especially when it gets choppy. This is where the small anchor becomes an indispensable tool.

I was first schooled on using the anchor while drifting on Calcasieu one fantastic April day years ago. I had several clients on the boat and we were drifting in water that averaged seven feet and catching some incredible trout on topwaters. Every person in the boat, including myself, caught a personal best fish that day so it’s a very vivid memory for me. We were making really long drifts over the same piece of structure over and over when another boat finally pulled up near us and set out their anchor. On the second or third pass by the other boat I heard one of the old Cajuns say, “Man, that’s a nice boat. You must have spent all your money on it because it looks like you can’t afford an anchor.” All I could do was laugh.

Fishing deeper water takes a little more effort and may not be as glamorous as some in the fishing community would have you believe, but it works. Fishing deeper water also affords a few things that the shallow water guys don’t get, and that’s peace and quiet on high-traffic days. The crowds that will ruin a pristine flat along the shoreline just to see what you are doing will rarely pay any attention when you are drifting in the middle of the bay. Once you get a few hundred yards off the shoreline you will have a whole new world almost completely to yourself and void of pressure. It’s amazing. Throw in a few pieces of structure and the right water conditions and you have a combination that’s tough to beat.

Turning your back on the deep stuff simply because of all the attention that’s paid to shallow water patterns would be a huge mistake. Take advantage of the forgotten water!