The trout bite has steadily improved on Sabine Lake over the past month and none too soon. We continue to sweat out every storm north of us with the current lake level on Toledo Bend already bumping the 172 mark, but it is not wise to go looking for trouble.
I don’t know that we will ever again see the incredible numbers of big trout that we saw even five years ago for two reasons. The first being the increase in more skilled fishing pressure and the second being the massive flooding we have endured.
The veteran coastal anglers that had been duping their big trout for years discovered an untapped resource in Sabine Lake and literally taught us how to target these larger fish. The majority of them promoted catch and release and they basically left the trout population as healthy as they found it.
Local anglers, however, were not quite as conservation-minded. The majority of us had played the numbers game all of our lives and fished for meat. The new techniques simply meant that our limits would consist of heavier fish.
There is no doubt that the increased flooding that pretty much began with Hurricane Ike either relocated the big trout or at the very least, changed their habits. Unlike most of the guides, I spent far more time jigging the river than fishing the lake and caught and released countless numbers of seven-pound-plus trout. Over the past two years we have caught only three fish over that mark and even the numbers of smaller trout have dwindled!
There is every indication right now, however, that if our salinity and clarity will just hold its own, we could see a return to more consistent catching. The flounder fishing rates a B+ at the worst, the redfish are starting to follow the bait fish into the open lake and we are finding gulls working over small schools of trout when the wind allows.
While the jetties are not my cup of tea, they are easily producing the most consistent catches of 3- to 5-pound trout. There are those mornings when they will crush a She Dog or Skitter Walk, but the more dependable option has been bouncing a Usual Suspect, Lil’ John or Assassin down the rocks.
The ship channel, including Light House Cove, has been good as well, especially on outgoing tides in the afternoon. Lots of folks are fishing live bait, but the afore-mentioned lures are working as well.
I have yet to hit it right and find pods of schooling reds just north of the Causeway, but they are there. Most of them are oversized. The terns or small groups of gulls will usually rat them out before they ever actually break the surface.
The same program is starting to spread northward into the open lake. The birds are working from Blue Buck to Green’s most days. When you time the tide just right, the mouths of Johnson, Willow and Three Bayous can also be excellent for trout, reds and flounder. The gulls will work these areas off and on, but for the most part, catching is simply a matter of dodging the crab traps with a soft plastic.
Depending on wind direction, I truly believe that your best shot at a sure enough big trout will come off the north revetment wall or Neches flat just off the ICW. As a rule, the best bite will take place either tight to the rocks or a full cast off the shore. It all depends on the parading schools of mullet.
There is no doubt that live shrimp fished under a popping cork is the number one way to catch these trout, but cranking on a Heddon Swimming Image runs it a close second. Having said that, we usually start out casting to slicks with a clown or bone-silver Super Spook.
The Neches flat on the north end of the island can provide the best bite in the lake when conditions are right. There has to be some water movement whether it be a tide change, wind or simply the wake off a passing tanker.
The same lures will work fished over the isolated shell reefs in 3- to 5-feet of water. Once these fish start feeding on croaker, however, croaker is all they want!It is with a sigh of relief that I am finally able to report an improved trout bite. Take a youngster fishing this weekend!