Double Up On Sabine lake

Be a good scout and be prepared when you set off to take both speckled trout and redfish at these Sabine Lake sites this month.

Dr. Kelly Rising of Beaumont caught the Sabine Lake record trout -- an 11-pound, 12-ounce monster -- by drift-fishing over a scattered shell bottom.
Photo by Robert Sloan

The water was still a tad chilly as Ken Chaumont and I slipped over the edge of the 22-foot Pathfinder boat on the south shoreline of Sabine Lake. The water was clear and loaded with mullet, the sun was shining, and things couldn't have been better.

"If we don't catch trout and reds here, it's time to call in the dogs and put out the fire," said Chaumont. "These are prime-time fishing conditions."

I had fished that same water two days prior to our trip, and had caught several nice trout and three reds to 9 pounds.

"We've got a good tide and plenty of mullet," I said. "That's the best one-two combination you can have on Sabine."

I tied on a clear Super Spook Jr., and Ken knotted a bone/chartreuse Stanley Wedge Tail to the end of his line. Both lures -- mullet imitations that are proven big-trout and redfish baits on this bay -- had been hot as a firecracker for several days on the lower end of Sabine Lake. During May, the shorelines of Sabine teem with mullet on which trophy-class trout feed avidly, so it's a classic match-the-hatch situation.

But you never know where the best bite is going to be! Some days it'll be on top; on others, it'll be along the bottom.

It didn't take us long to figure out what was going on. I could hardly make a cast without having the Super Spook Jr. hammered by a big red, and Chaumont was having no problem finding trout on the 3 1/2-inch Wedge Tail. But by day's end, we were using big topwater plugs over scattered shell to catch some pretty nice trout. It was the type of fishing that locals on Sabine Lake have come to expect during May.

Sabine Lake is widely recognized as a trophy-trout venue. One of the most successful anglers here is Dr. Kelly Rising. A Beaumont resident who grew up fishing Sabine Lake, this is the guy who caught the lake-record speckled trout, which weighed 11 pounds, 12 ounces.

When he caught the lake-record speck -- on a chartreuse-colored TopDog, by the way -- Rising was in his Pathfinder boat, drift-fishing over a big flat with scattered shell. That was toward the end of March. From about that time until the beginning of June, you'll see a whole lot of Sabine Lake pros fishing wide-open flats freckled with shell reefs. What was so unusual about Rising's catch is that he was fishing in muddy water, on a tide that was 2 feet high. But like many good trout fishermen, he was keying on two things: scattered shell and plenty of baitfish.

According to Rising, one very important thing to remember is that big trout are very spooky. His advice is to drift-fish from your boat once you're in an area of big trout; he'll even lay off using the trolling motor. He makes long casts, and will almost always be throwing some sort of a mullet-imitation plug.

A few of the most popular mullet-imitation topwater plugs on the lake would be the Heddon Super Spook, Super Spook Jr., She Dog and Top Dog. All of them big topwater plugs that can be cast a country mile, they make a considerable racket with built-in rattles as they waddle back and forth across the surface like some kind of big ol' mullet -- just the type of lure action that drives big trout crazy.

It's the same with redfish. Sabine Lake has one of the best redfish populations on the entire Texas Gulf Coast. They can be caught year 'round, but one of the best times to catch them on topwater plugs is during May.

What's so great about Sabine during May is that you can double up on big reds and trout on any given day. One of the best days of fishing I've ever experienced was on Sabine during May, just a few years back.

A buddy and I were fishing the mouth of Johnson's Bayou on an outgoing tide. There was a shallow flat on both sides of the bayou where it emptied into the lake. The baitfish were holding right along the flat where it dropped off into the bayou, and big reds and trout were really feasting on them.

When we got there about daylight, we immediately realized that it was going to be one of those days. My first cast with a bone-colored Super Spook got pounded by a big red weighing about 8 pounds; my very next cast got waxed by a trout in the 5- to 6-pound class. For about three hours, the two of us drifted that flat and caught reds and trout until our arms gave out. Truly a day to remember!

Tides are a big factor in success at Sabine. "The trick is to find an incoming tide over some sort of shell reef," said guide Jerry Norris. "I like to concentrate on small reefs during May for big trout. If I'm after reds, I'll use my trolling motor to work along any protected shoreline. You can pretty much use the same lures for both trout and reds, but I usually like to fish topwater plugs early and late. If I've got an overcast day, I'll stick with topwater plugs throughout the day, but if the sky is clear and the sun is high, you'll usually do best with some sort of soft-plastic lures."

Some of the soft plastics proven most reliable are Yum Samurai Shads, Croaker Curltails and Stanley Wedge Tails. This past fall the 5-inch Wedge Tails were deadly when used on big trout and reds at the Sabine Jetties -- one of my favorite areas to fish.

If the wind's howling (as it's been known to do during May), working the jetties represents a very smart option. You can usually find clear water on one side or the other at the jetties. The east jetty is usually the most productive, with the Louisiana side being the best area overall. The key: Fish the green water along the rocks; the more current you have, the better.

I'll ease along the jetty wall and work soft plastics, silver spoons and crankbaits. The absolute best crankbait you can use along the jetties is a Swim'N Image in a trout or shad pattern. This particular crankbait has a very tight wobble and runs down to about 3 feet. It's death for both trout and reds along the rocks.

Speaking of rocks: The chunks of granite along the north and south revetment walls on the lake mark areas of great promise. My favorite is the north revetment wall. On the far north end of the wall is a shallow flat that attracts and holds lots of reds and trout. You can wade or drift it. Wade-fishing that extensive flat with topwater plugs can very well lead to taking some awfully big trout. Or you can ease along the rocks with a trolling motor and use soft plast

ics to catch both reds and trout.

The only way to fish the south revetment wall is from a boat. The water there is 4 to 6 feet deep, and the bottom is muddy. It's a great area for catching reds on jigs and a Swim'N Image.

On the far south end of the rock, there's a shallow, muddy flat. Best fished on a high tide when lots of mullet are working the surface, the site's been responsible for some big trout. The lures you want at the flat are topwater plugs -- and remember what Rising said about trout being spooky! Ease up to the area, cast the plugs to the bank and slowly work them back to the boat. On the right tide, this area has given up trout in the 8- to 10-pound class.

FOR YOUR INFORMATION

Don't forget that Sabine Lake is located on the Texas-Louisiana state line. If you venture inside the mouths of bayous or fish the east side of the east Sabine Jetty, you'll need a Louisiana saltwater license.

For guided fishing trips on Sabine Lake, call (409) 782-6796.

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