Big fish rule at the jetties

Chris Lane
Big bull reds entertained lots of kids and adults during spring break. Most were

With a flood of runoff from our weekend deluge of rain, you can bet the farm that fishing is going to be affected, from inland rivers to the coastal bays. But one fishing option not likely to slow down can be found at the Sabine, Galveston and Calcasieu jetties. It involves catching bull reds and big black drum. Regardless of how muddy the water is at the jetties, red and black drum will be feeding in big-time numbers.

“We’ve been catching lots of bull reds on soft plastics bumped on bottom,” says Capt. Buddy Oakes with the Hackberry Rod and Gun Club. “A Berkley copper penny Gulp is hard to beat for reds. The black drum typically feed by scent, like a catfish. That’s why most of them are being caught on fresh cracked blue crabs, or hunks of fresh, dead mullet fished on bottom.”

The drum run should be going strong for the next couple of weeks. Right now the water temperature along the upper Texas coast is holding in the mid to upper 60s.

The hot trout bite on the upper end of Sabine Lake will more than likely be shut down with all the fresh water moving down the Sabine and Neches rivers. When this happens, reds and trout will be pushed to the lower end of the lake on the deep-water reef near the causeway.

The white bass run on the Sabine River above Toledo Bend will definitely slow down with high and muddy water. In that situation, the best catches will be up the feeder creeks on live crawfish and shiners.

Sabine River bass tourney nets angler $100,000

Chris Lane left the boat ramp Sunday morning with a clear game plan in mind. He was going to make a lengthy run up the Sabine River to the grassy canals and ditches where he had caught the majority of his fish during the first three days of the Bassmaster Elite Series fishing tournament held last weekend in Orange. But if the fish were no longer biting due to the heavy rains, he was going back downriver to win or lose the tourney.

He stuck to the plan, bailing on the suddenly unproductive areas upriver around noon, and traveling back down river to finish a five-bass limit that weighed 10 pounds, 6 ounces. The weight gave him a four-day mark of 50 pounds, earning him $100,000 and the win.

“I just kept wondering if the water was clear up there where I had been catching them,” Lane said. “I ran all the way up there, and all I caught were two keepers and a bunch of short fish. I finally just decided that I couldn’t make those fish bite, and I wasn’t going to lose the tournament right there.”

The run back downriver produced three bass that helped Lane fill his five-fish limit and one more that allowed him to cull for added weight.

He targeted shallow spawning fish most of the week and caught most of them on a new plastic bait called a Live-Motion Drop Dead Craw from Luck-E-Strike. It’s so new, in fact, that he only had about 25 to last the entire week.

Lane’s closest competition came from Mike McClelland. The Arkansas pro, who started Sunday in fourth place, caught 13 pounds and finished second.

McClelland says he caught his bass by making a 228-mile boat run, round-trip, to Galveston Bay and back each day. He burned 80 gallons of gas per day and arrived back at the Orange boat ramp on Saturday with only four seconds to spare.

“The fastest I could make the run was two hours,” said McClelland. “On Saturday when it was so rough, it took me two hours, 47 minutes. It was absolutely brutal. That was the day I made it back with four seconds to spare after running 114 miles.”

Many of the anglers in this tourney were targeting shallow spawning fish in narrow, grass-lined ditches and canals.

The big bass of the tourney weighed 6-10. Jasper’s Todd Faircloth was the only Texas angler in the tourney on the final day. He finished ninth with a last-day catch of a single bass weighing 3-12.

Turkey hunting prospects look good

With a good mixture of mature gobblers and fearless young toms to challenge hunters, this year’s spring turkey season holds plenty of promise, according to Steve Lightfoot with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

The general season in the South Zone runs March 21-May 3 and ends with a youth-only weekend May 9-10. In the 101 counties in the North Zone, the youth-only weekend seasons are March 28-29 and May 23-24. The North Zone general season opens April 4 and runs through May 17. A special one-gobbler limit season runs April 1-30 in Bastrop, Caldwell, Colorado, Fayette, Jackson, Lavaca, Lee and Milam counties.

Last season, hunters saw good numbers of two-year-old gobblers throughout most of the state’s Rio Grande turkey range. With good carryover of those birds, prospects are bright for calling in some big boss toms this season, says TPWD turkey program leader Jason Hardin.

“Rio hunters should do well this spring,” Hardin predicts. “There will be a good distribution of age classes on gobblers across the Rio Grande turkey range this season. A few jakes were observed across the Rio range last year, so there should be a good number of less wary birds out there.”

As for eastern turkey prospects, Hardin says there are growing populations north of U.S. Highway 82 along the Red River from Grayson to Bowie County.

“Reports out of the Pineywoods have been mixed, and I expect we will see a bump in harvest, but nothing substantial,” he says. “Landowners, managers and hunters who observed eastern turkeys last year will be seeing them again this year.”

Eastern spring turkey hunting in the 28 counties having an open season is April 15 – May 14. All eastern turkeys must be reported to TPWD within 24 hours of harvest. A list of check stations can be found online at In addition to physical check stations, hunters have the option of reporting harvests online at or on the new My Texas Hunt Harvest app. The app is now available for download for Android devices at Google Play and will be available soon for iOS devices at the App Store. Hunters who use the electronic reporting options will be issued a confirmation number upon completion of the registration process. Hunters still have to tag harvested birds.

“This will be the final hunting season that physical check stations will be open as TPWD is transitioning from physical check stations for mandatory eastern turkey harvest reporting to electronic reporting in spring 2016,” says Lightfoot.

The new harvest reporting app can also be used as a tool for voluntarily reporting and tracking harvests of other resident game species, including Rio Grande turkey. With My Texas Hunt Harvest, hunters can log harvested game animals and view harvest history, including dates and locations of every hunt.

Deer poachers get jail time

A La Salle County game warden set up on a back road near Los Angeles, Texas, where poaching activity was known to take place. Within a short time, a slow-moving truck made its way past the warden while shining a bright light. Once pulled over, the two people in the vehicle had a loaded rifle lying across their laps. A set of fresh deer antlers was also discovered in the bed of the truck. The two occupants were taken to jail for several Class A violations. A few days later, a deer carcass was discovered on a nearby ranch. The deer antlers from the truck bed matched perfectly. It was also discovered that one man was a convicted felon. 

Man jumps out of boat to escape game warden

Two game wardens recently spotted a skiff oystering in closed waters. As they moved in, one of the occupants threw the oyster dredge overboard, along with himself. When the warden was able to get the man back in the boat, both men were arrested.