Dredging the Reef

M arch is a very special month in the hearts of anglers up and down the Gulf Coast. It is without a doubt the month with all the potential.

Even those who continue plugging away all winter long, catching some of the biggest trout of the year are not exempt from the feelings of excitement and hope that accompany March. Some of the most memorable days we’ve spent on the waters of Sabine Lake have come during this month.

From flounder to speckled trout to redfish, when the stars line up just right the fishing can be better than good. Although Mother Nature sometimes has difficulty deciding what season it is, you can bet there will be days when everything seems to come together.

Light winds, warm temperatures, good tides, and plentiful bait fish usually amount to some serious rod bending action on Sabine. Get lucky enough to have the right barometric pressure and moon phase thrown into the mix and you’ve got all the ingredients for some of the best fishing days of your life.

The giant oyster reef that blankets the entire south end of the bay is beginning to come alive. With the bull tides and increasing water temperature come bait fish. Sand eels, shrimp, shad, and crab will invade the reef and be followed closely by hungry trout, reds, and flounders.

The reef is one of the first stops for big numbers of bait fish as the water slowly begins to warm. Therefore, it has always been one of our main go to spots in early, early spring.

One of the best techniques is to drag a soft plastic rigged on a heavy lead head over the oyster reef with the drift. We call this “dredging” down here in these parts.

The key is to keep your bait on the shell, but not in it. While dragging across the reef, lift your rod tip occasionally to help prevent your lead head from getting wedged in the shell. Hang ups, however, are inevitable when dredging the reef. Be prepared to go through some tackle.

When you are hung up, the best thing to do is lift your rod tip and apply steady, solid pressure. Most times it will pull through and you won’t have to waste time retying.

Be aware of the wind direction and what the tide is doing to help determine where to start your drift. Tidal movement is crucial, either incoming or outgoing. We seem to have more success fishing strong incoming tides. It is a good sign when the crab trap balls are about halfway sunk.

Use your drift sock to slow the drift down and your trolling motor to keep the boat sideways. Drifting too fast will keep your bait too high in the water column. Check your sonar often to mark bait and check depths as it fluctuates between four and 15 feet. If possible, make a mental note of the depth every time you get bit. Also, keep a bouy handy because when you hit them, you definitely want to get back on the same drift.

When it is good, it is really good, which is obvious by the excessive number of boats. Even with the great number of boats, it works well because everyone is drifting the same direction at about the same speed. We do have to keep an eye out for the occasional anchored boat. My boat always seems to be on a collision course with one.

The numbers of solid limits we’ve caught over the years dredging the reef on Sabine Lake is one of the reasons March is a very special month in the hearts of upper coast anglers.






Location: North Levy Road (Pleasure Island)

Species: Flounder, trout, redfish

Baits/Lures: Finger mullet, shad, live shrimp

Best Times: Moving tide


Email Eddie Hernandez at ContactUs@fishgame.com

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