Always keep an eye on the birds

Always keep an eye on the birds

There has been much ado about the fall fishing in the inland saltwater lakes and bays. By November, there are huge schools of speckled trout showing up. Add to that the annual flounder run and the schools of beautiful bronze colored redfish, and you have fall fishing in Southeast Texas. That being as it may, and nature being what it is, the fall action, although still great, has not been what it usually is. Not bad, just different in some cases. I’ve made several trips into Lake Sabine lately, and fish catching was unusual.

On the latest excursion, as Vernon Stehle and I passed the Texas boat ramp, there were only three pick-ups with boat trailers present. As we crossed the Causeway into Louisiana where we were headed to launch, it was obvious that there were no more places to park. That meant that Johnson’s Bayou was our next stop.

With the main access bridge out, we took the detour down by the school. All of the marsh areas with ponds were loaded with ducks. They were mostly teal but there were also pintails, gadwall, shovelers and mottled ducks there. The sight of all the waterfowl made the detour well worth taking.

After we launched the boat at the public boat ramp on Johnson’s Bayou, we began our five-mile boat ride into Lake Sabine. The commercial crabbers were out checking their crab pots. 

When the pilings at the mouth of the bayou came into view, so did the feeding seagulls. There were no other anglers around and we immediately went to work casting into the water directly beneath the feeding birds.

We managed to take several specks and a couple really beautiful bronze-colored fall redfish before they disappeared. In fact, for several hours there were no seagulls visible in any direction. We decided to give the Louisiana shoreline flounder a try, with only limited success. The tidal flow had stopped, and that meant slow action until the movement began again. With a couple flat fish and a half dozen specks in the box, we decided to head out to the open lake just to see if we could locate some fish that were willing to do battle. What we found were small groups of gulls sitting on the water. They were scattered in wide areas from mid-lake on to the north and in the center of the lake.

With birds not working over the fish, we decided to just shut off the big engine and keep watch on the sitting gulls. In short order, one or more of them would get up and fly to a spot where there was a little disturbance on the surface. At times the small shrimp and ribbonfish would actually skip across the surface, thus attracting the hungry seagulls with fish beneath them.

Once the feeding routine was established, the object was to cast a lure to where the activity had occurred. Casting near to it seemed to accomplish little. Also, when the activity was first observed we could fire up the big engine and try to get to within casting range. This method seemed to only spook the birds and the fish. That’s when Stehle decided to rely on the electrical trolling motor.

With the little motor in the water, we could ease into the areas where we had last seen the fish surface. By doing this, they would eventually come up again. More times than not we could cast the lead-head plastic-tail lure to them. The fish continued to surface for a couple hours and we had scored well enough to have retained as many redfish and speckled trout as we wanted to clean.

If you are planning a fishing trip in the near future to Lake Sabine, I do recommend trying the flounder at daybreak.


Billy Halfin can be reached by e-mail at bhalfinoutdoors [at] aol [dot] com.