(Mar 10, 2016 - )
After busting through a jungle of trees, briers, and buck-brush, my buddy Tom yipped, “Boy we got it whupped now! As we pulled, pushed, and clawed our way through the flooded entanglement, dodging tree-limbs, and "barbed-wire" brush, he further stated that the hidden lake should be just around the next creek-bend fer-sure! Then, the heavily brushed thicket finally opened up into a small slough surrounded by majestic cedar draped with clumps of southern moss... "Welcome to Sandbar Fever Folks!!"
It's mid-march with the Sabine River above Lake Toledo Bend at full winter flood stage now as it winds its way through the riverside towns of Logansport LA, and Joaguin TX.
Nestled within those rampaging river currents are our fishing quest for the day, White Bass, "MILLIONS" of them, as they're slowly migrating their way up-river to their ancestral spawning grounds.
A phone call alerted me to the March white bass run, or as we call it, “the sandbar fever run" when white bass make their annual spawning run from Toledo Bend to the hidden Sabine river sand bars located north of the lake. We were attempting to locate a favorite "secret" fishing hole that was well hidden by the flooding of the Sabine River.
Launching from the Logansport LA, boat-ramp we began heading into the river, zipping full throttle against the 20 miles of currents and rips upriver towards a flooded creek hidden by brush and timber.
After breaking out into the open we moved to the north shoreline to work our way to its southern banks, and hopefully slightly warmer waters. The plan was to fish both sides of the slough until we located the white bass. The water temp was a lot colder now then last year when it was in the upper 50's, but now only a chilly 42 degrees. Blaming it on the chilly runoffs and arctic north winds, we began searching for the whites by slowing our fishing retrieves down while casting the shoreline with road-runners and rattle traps.
We were fishing 1/4 oz chrome/blue Rat-L-Traps and Roadrunners in red/white and chartreuse color patterns. "The Rat-L-Traps and Roadrunners are the top baits for this type of river fishing.
As we concentrated on the flooding edges of the sloughs buck-brush, "Where I took my (2 lb) class World Record a few years ago. But after 2 hours of searching the entire hidden lake area we only found zero results. Although the water temp did warm up a bit from the natural warmth of the sun, we still couldn't find anything above the 45 degree mark. So the decision was to head back into the river and go south to "hopefully" find some warmer depths to locate our fish. Reluctantly leaving our "Shangri-La" hole, we "just" as reluctantly began clawing our way back through the jungle of en-tangled vines and tree-top limbs, "Where, after coming eye-ball to eye-ball with some "panicky" squirrels, we finally emerged back into the main river channel.
Meandering our way south, betwixt the common border waters of Texas and Louisiana, we were treated to some incredible wildlife scenes of wintering Bald Eagles, Red Tailed Hawks, Osprey, Egrets, and "other critters" which were in the bush eyeballing our unexpected passing.
Checking several of the nook and cranny fishing sites from previous "sandbar fever" trips, we still came up with zero catches from our favorite waters of the "Hall of Fame Hole", "Last Chance Sandbar", and "Desperation Cove" recorded only 44 degree waters and more zero white bass activity. So, we just kept heading further south in our search for warming waters, and some hopefully actively feeding white bass.
"Not long ago, I reminisced about the years of yore, as we floated downriver, we managed to catch over 500 big whites in only a half day of fishing, keeping only a few for eating and releasing the rest. "NOW" folks, this is no wreck-less fisherman’s boast as I have personally seen catches of up to 800 white bass from some of these "sandbar fever" trips. But with the new Texas fishing limits enforced, those days of "slaughter" are over for good -(thank God)- replacing the numbers of yore with the now "improved" quality of fishing with some white bass reaching weights of 5 lbs, or better. Excellent table fare, the whites provide not only some incredible fishing action, but also some delicious fish fries for those family get-to-gathers.
"The water temp here is 48 degrees, I alerted as we eased into a wide, protected cove about 20 miles downriver from "Shangri-La". "Great, my buddy reacted by grabbing casting gear and leaping to the rear casting deck."They are here fer-sure, I continued to advise as the electronics imaged some fish holding around submerged brush over a sandbar. "But, before I could make my first cast in the direction of the possibilities, a sudden yell "fish on" erupted from my buddy as his rod quickly bent to our first action of the day -(figures!!)- "It's "A BIG FEMALE" I responded after netting the fish which was around 4 lbs. Grabbing for my rod I hoped to get in on some fish catching action myself.
With the "rumble" of heavy trucks passing over the Hwy 84 bridge just behind us, we bracketed the fishing area -(which is now forever known as the "Last Chance Flats" where we managed to catch a dozen, or more nice, white bass.
"Some of the more hardier white bass will swim as far as 100 miles upriver, "But most of them will spawn within a 25 mile section which is located north of Logansport LA, and Carthage TX. The Magic spawning water temp is around 50 degrees.
Also known as sand bass, the white bass provides some incredible fishing action during summer in the lake where they’ll show up in huge surface schools feeding on whatever is thrown to them. As some people who’ve witnessed this surface action say. WOW they look like huge schools of Piranha feeding on everything put in front of them.
And when the whites are upriver in Winter they will provide “TONS” of fun for anglers who want to break from winters doldrums for some excellent fishing action. When the Sabine is on a “low and green” pattern the white bass offer some of the wildest action of the year. Winter is also when you catch the trophy white bass of 4 to 5 lbs. This writer /angler set a line class world record on the Sabine River during one such winter run with a 5 weight fly rod. The record was for 2-lb test tippet for a 3-3 and a 3-6 lb white bass which are listed in the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame. -OR- you can see the fish mount of these World Record Line Class fish at “The Stump Restaurant” over at Lake Sam Rayburn, TX.
After taking a few more nice 3 to 4 lb whites we decided to call it a day and head for the boat ramp, which is only 100 yards behind us where we first started this morning -(FIGURES!!)- Making quick work of unloading and loading our gear from the boat to my Suburban, I paused for a bit to reflect on what might have been if the "River of Cypress" had just been a little more cooperative, "Well, maybe next time I dream after stowing our evenings meal for the long trip home.
Special Note: When the river is at flood stage the spawning white bass (which takes place between March and April) Will go to the flooded creeks and sloughs to spawn. When the river is normal, or low and green, the whites will concentrate in the river spawning over underwater sandbars, which are usually found on the bends of the river, Come May the whites will mostly be back into the lake where they will surface feed in the mornings and evenings.