New Keith Lake boat ramps provide off-the-grid fishing adventure

The new Keith Lake boat ramps allow anglers in just about all center console boa

The boat ramp problem on Keith Lake has finally been solved, thanks to a million-dollar project that allows boats of all sizes easy access to some of the best fishing in Southeast Texas. The new ramps are at the Keith Lake Fish Pass on Highway 87. This ramp is a Jefferson County public recreation site project. Funding assistance came from a portion of state sales tax on sporting goods through the local park grant program administered by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The state of Texas contributed $500,000, and the city, county and district paid $500,000. The ramp is first class, with plenty of parking.

Keith Lake and its chain of shallow saltwater lakes are located out of Port Arthur. Prior to the new boat ramps, launching anything other than a jon boat was a task. The only ramp was at Junior’s Landing. There is one other ramp at a Texas Parks and Wildlife facility near the McFaddin National Wildlife Refuge; however, it’s remote and built for airboat traffic on extremely shallow flats.

These lakes are backwater estuary areas that are big enough to get big-time lost in. From the new ramps, you can head west across Keith Lake, cut through Redfish Pass and continue into Johnson Lake. At that point, you have the option of heading north into Shell Lake, or going south into Mud Lake, Salt Lake and Fence Lake. Located between Mud and Fence Lakes is Salt Bayou, aka the Ten Mile Cut that’ll take you into the McFaddin National Wildlife Refuge.

That’s about 20 miles of estuary lakes, bayous and marsh. Redfish rule on this string of lakes, but over the past several weeks, catches of solid trout have been pretty good for waders working shell reefs and shorelines loaded with mullet.

And if you like catching and eating big blue crabs, this is the place to go. The deep-water cuts that connect these lakes are loaded with crabs throughout the summer months. If you hit the right spot, it’s not unusual to catch a few dozen crabs in no time flat. A piece of string, some chicken wings and a long-handled net can deliver a tasty crab boil.

Comparing catfishing to deer hunting

Biologists have found that catfish are gifted with an abundance of olfactory folds — a type of ultra-sensitive tissue used for scent detection that lines each of their two olfactory pits.

“What’s remarkable is that while a 2 1/2 pound channel catfish may have up to 140 such olfactory folds, a 7-pound largemouth bass has just 13. Moreover, both rainbow trout and Pacific salmon — each known for its remarkable ability to detect scent in water and even navigate hundreds of miles by it — possess just 18 olfactory folds at full maturity,” says catfish angler and writer Ted Pilgrim.

Consider that catfish possess a much greater abundance of taste buds and olfactory folds than almost any other species, and you suddenly realize the profound significance of scent in most all catfishing presentations.

“So what exactly is the right scent for catfish?” says Pilgrim. “Evidence suggests that the catfish’s olfactory system is highly tuned to sensing amino acids. Of interest to anglers (and big catfish) are the amino acids found in the blood and tissues of familiar baitfish. Oppositely, amino acids such as serine, which is contained in human skin, has been shown to be highly offensive to many fish species. The amount of serine in human skin apparently depends upon the gender, age and even race of the individual.”

Catfish tournament angler John Jamison has spent time experimenting with both scent additives and odor elimination products. He’s convinced that certain “unlucky” anglers may merely be the ones who contain the highest levels of serine in their skin.

Jamison and his tournament partners now frequently wash their hands with scent elimination solutions made specifically for anglers. Their preference is No Trace, an all-natural product that can be sprayed onto hands, and even clothing. Its water-like appearance and texture, Jamison says, knocks out odors such as gasoline, insect sprays, and tobacco, as well as neutralizing serine secretions in skin.