Summer on Sabine – So Many Variables

Summer on Sabine – So Many Variables
Dow Gene Anderson with a healthy redfish that couldn’t resist a ZMan plastic dangled below a 4-Horsemen rattling cork.

Easily one of the most alluring features of Sabine Lake area is the fact that you can catch so many different species of fish in a relatively small area. Brackish water often holds both fresh and saltwater fish in good numbers, as well as great quality. It’s never uncommon to see a stringer of fish include flounder, redfish, speckled trout, and occasionally a really nice largemouth bass. If you play your cards right you may even throw in some croaker, sand trout, and a few Kentucky spotted bass just for good measure. The potential for all these fish to be in the same body of water makes each strike that much more exciting because you never know what species might be providing the tug until you reel it in.

Speaking of not knowing who will show up, it’s really going to get interesting as the summer progresses and we continue to recover from the huge late spring and early summer rains that produced incredible runoff. The influx of fresh water put most typical patterns on hold for several months but that has begun to change for the better. The amount of bait coming from the marshes is cause for cautious celebration as loads of brown shrimp, shad, and small mullet have shown up in big numbers along with plenty of redfish and solid numbers of trout.

Our year thus far has been a stark contrast to years past when we have had dry spring seasons with little or no significant runoff from either Toledo Bend or Sam Rayburn. Under those dry conditions an entirely new group of fish such as jack crevalle, sharks, rays, and even tarpon make the trek up the channel and both rivers as the saltwater slowly creeps farther inland. These party crashers would show up and make their presence known in the form of screaming drags and great tales of the one that got away. Nothing gets your attention like the prospect of getting spooled and actually having to chase a fish down with the boat.

In areas where lots of local anglers congregate, it’s often an absolute circus when someone hooks up with a stud jack in the middle of an armada. The chase scene that ensues is like something from the Bourne Identity with boats weaving in and out while trying to avoid everything from anchor lines to fishing lines. Nothing beats the prospect of landing the big one… it’s why we fish. Hopefully as summer progresses and the water conditions continue to improve we will see those fish that normally hang out closer to the gulf make an appearance in the lake. Until that happens we will be perfectly happy with the growing numbers of redfish and trout that are already here.

While on the subject of big fish and areas where people congregate, you can bet there will be some great fish taken at the jetties this month. Only a few very dedicated anglers will take advantage of the ultra-early bite before the masses reach the rocks. Good tide changes a few hours before dawn and all the traffic is a winning recipe to help tangle with some big fish, especially trout. There are very few strikes that are as vicious and addictive as speckled trout at the jetties on topwater plugs in the dark. I used to wonder what those boats were doing heading back to the dock as the sun was just breaking the horizon…until I got a chance to try out the pattern myself. All I can say is the reward is certainly worth the effort.

Now if fishing in the dark is not your favorite, don’t worry because you can still be successful during daylight hours with a just a small variation to the approach. Topwater plugs worked in and around the rocks will still produce some fish when the sun comes up, but swimbaits will just flat wear those fish out. There are several styles of swimbaits you can use and they all work. The conventional soft plastic swimbait, such as the Mulletron from ZMan, or a Usual Suspect with a paddletail is a great option when it’s fished on a light jighead to allow for a slower fall and more subtle presentation.

Other baits that have definitely earned mention along the jetty rocks are the shallow-running crankbaits like the Swim’n Image from Heddon, Mann’s 1-Minus, or any number of the Rapala lures. These plugs are really user-friendly and allow fishermen the opportunity to dig around in and bounce off the rocks, triggering brutal strikes from hefty speckled trout and redfish. Perhaps the greatest attribute of swimbaits and crankbaits is that they allow you to cover lots and lots of water in a short period of time, making you all the more productive.

Going forward into the major part of summer we will continue to key in on the better tide changes and the presence of bait. As the shad get bigger and begin to group up in massive rafts out in the open lake, look for the surface feeding activity of trout and redfish along with flocks of birds that go with it. Both gulls and terns will be hustling a free meal as bait gets pushed to the surface by schooling game fish. Many times during the summer months these big schools of bait will also be harassed by ladyfish and most anglers won’t stick around very long to do much investigating, which is a huge mistake. I can’t tell you how many times a situation like this turned from a nuisance species like ladyfish to a big school of redfish in just a matter of minutes. Don’t be fooled – if bait is plentiful and active the more desirable species of predators are usually not very far away. Give that situation a fair chance and don’t run away from what could turn out be an amazing bite.

I know it’s almost unheard of nowadays to mention live bait, but it’s still certainly

something to consider. Here on Sabine we really don’t have a consistent supply of the higher profile live baits such as shrimp and croaker, so we generally have to catch our own with a cast net. Live shad is far and away the most popular live bait because it’s the easiest to locate and they definitely work. A frisky live shad dangled below a rattling cork around big schools of bait is a great way to get your string stretched and your drag tested. Often times you can get a school of fish to fire up and get active as soon as you catch a fish under a cork because it mimics the sound of feeding fish. I would not dare leave the dock without having a cast net and a few corks handy, especially during these warmer months.

Now that we are firmly headed into the summer months and a more stable weather pattern, many folks will be trying to make up for the fishing time they lost earlier in the year. With just a small amount of cooperation from the weatherman and Mother Nature we should be able to get back on track and fish more normal patterns. The summer months mean extreme heat and sharp weather swings so keep an eye out for thunderstorms that seem to appear out of nowhere. Please, never take a chance with lightning or excessive heat. Neither of these are anything to be messed with and each has its own serious repercussions.

If you are fortunate to take a kid or two fishing this summer, remember that the trip is about them. The worst thing you can do is keep them out too long or force them to stay and be miserable because they won’t come back next time, and no fish is worth losing a potential lifelong fishing partner.

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