Fishing & Boating News

Pssssst, "The Morone Chrysops are running! Sandbar Fever '99"

"Somewhere" on the Texas, Louisiana border waters of the Sa'Bine River, North of Lake Toledo Bend.

by: Ed Snyder, Ed Snyder Outdoors

(Thursday, February 04,1999 - Texas, Louisiana border) Light, and almost undetectable at first, the hesitant tug seemed more like my Roadrunner had just thumped over a root or rock, "but, upon lifting my rod tip to clear the snag, that subtlety quickly "activated" into a rod bending, drag screeching "free for all". After yelling "Fish on" to my partner at the back of the boat, my rod "stretched" to the waterline, causing my fishing instinct to further yell, "Sandy, and a good one too. As the classic reaction of it turning sideways against the current was the telling mark of this small, but pugnacious relative of the Bass family, the battling, silver sided critter would definitely give a good account of its fighting ability.

Freshwater fishing tackle records list the White Bass as reaching weights up to the 6 lb-13 oz class, which doesn't really sound all that big to some, "but", to those of us who've had fun with these feisty critters of the "fish-fry" circuit, a 6 lb-13 oz White Bass is most definitely a "BIG" fish.

"Such as this one that's giving me "heck"as it zips across into the deeper waters of the river channel, where it commences to stress test my ultra-lite. As the hard fighting fish burns my drag to the max, my choice of using ultra-lite tackle with 4 lb mono begins to question my sanity, making me wish that I had opted for the heavier gear. But as the rod action and drag system does its job, a nice chunk of a White Bass finally comes to the net. "Nice one, stated my partner, as he hands me the netted prize safely tucked inside. "Yeah, I answer with a big grin, "a nice buck of about 2 & 1/2 pounds. A good sandy for anyones catch, but as we were searching for the larger females, I flipped the silvery fighter back into the river as we troll-motored our way to the mouth of a riverbend slough, where we hoped to find the larger 3 to 4 lb sows.

"We were fishing a section of the Sa'Bine River which is located about 16 miles up-river from the Hwy 84 bridge which spans the river between the city limits of Joaquin TX, and Logansport LA. Its mid-january, as unusually warm 70 degree weather "mis-fits" the time of season, feeling more like Spring rather than Winter. "But it is Wintertime, (or early Spring by East Texas standards) and the White Bass populace of Lake Toledo Bend are motivating their spawning instincts as they swim to the upper reaches of Toledo Bend for a little "sandbar fever" as they reproduce the next generation of White Bass.

Its at this time of year when the largest of these fish can be caught in great numbers, as hundreds of thousands of male and female Whites concentrate their spawning efforts in these waters. Although some will travel greater distances upriver, the majority of spawn laden fish will hold to within an 18 to 20 mile section of the river, which is located just north of the Hwy 84 bridge.

Boat launches are conveniently located on either side of the bridge, with the Joaquin ramp situated at a riverside park on the Texas side of the bridge, with the Logansport ramp located just slightly north of the bridge at the City Park. Fishing tackle can be varied as you'll be able to fish with whatever you feel comfortable with, but medium/heavy tackle is recommended for live bait fanciers, as bottom fishing invites snag-ups and busted lines. River-rigs with 1/2 oz to 1 oz sinkers are used with double hook rigs set at least 6" and 12" above the weights. Live minnows are good choices, but small live crawfish are a better choice as baitshops in the area should have them in stock. Light tackle fanciers, who enjoy ultra-lite action with small jigs or spinners, will "trip-out" on this adventurous fishery, as small spinning reels spooled with 4 lb to 8 lb mono, attached to "whippy" ultra-lite rods of 5'-to-6' lengths will provide all the action you could possibly want. Artificial baits in 1/16 oz to 1/4 oz weights are good for panfish jigs, Rattle-Traps, Roadrunner's, Rinky Dink's, or Mr. Blitz tailrunners. Bass casting gear will also do well if kept to light to medium light action, which is highly recommended when fishing fastwater current's.

High-water river situations will find the whites holding in the back of sloughs, or feeder-creek areas, and low-water (low & green as we call it) situations will find the whites concentrated within the inside river-bends of the eddy's, sandbars, or sandbanks ("hence"-sandy or sandbass). "Obviously, the low and green stages are the absolute best times to fish these spawning whites, but "too" low of a water level will cause the fish to pull back and start heading back to the deeper channels of the river or lake system.

Major fishing times, for heading up-river, is usually set betwixt the month of February and March, but weather and water conditions will always dictate the spawning instincts, which can extend the spawning time to mid-April, or shorten the spawn to just February.

For the best river reports, which are up-dated weekly, contact Lakecaster guides, Shane McFadden at (903)-622-4902 -or- Greg Crafts at (409)-368-7151 -or - read your "online" pages of the Lake Livingston- Lake Sam Rayburn-Lake Toledo Bend Lakecaster for updated fishing reports and fishing articles.

"Special Caution" is warranted here folks as Texas/Louisiana gamefish regulations "differ" as to size and creel limits, so be advised to know those "differs" before heading out, or "you will" be targeted for the legalities by the Fish & Game Wardens. "Also, be advised to use a guide for your first trip out, to get a feel of the river before traversing its "unknowns". River-runner type boats are recommended, but I've seen everything from 20' bass boats, to 24' pontoon's and deckboats runnin' the river (but they live there and know the river well) so please be forewarned.

But, regardless of your choice, your lifetime merits at least one "Sandbar Fever" experience, as it will provide a memory for a lifetime of story telling. "Besides, White Bass are great fun to catch and provide excellent filets for those family fish fry get-togethers.

"As my fishin' partner helps me to land "yet" another chunky White Bass, a female of about 3 lbs, we decide to call it a day and head home, especially since the sun was beginning to drift beyond the safe light phase for "river-runnin".

"We had just spent a full day on the Sa'Bine (pronounced Sah-bean- if your from Texas, and Say-bean if your from Louisiana-which means "River of Cypress") as we enjoyed an excellent day catching at least 150 fish between us, but keeping only the larger dozen, or so, for a fishermen's supper of crispy fried filet's, country style taters, sawmill hush-puppies, and "Cajun Tea".

As we settle down for the 12 mile run back to the Hwy 84 boatramp, I lean over to yell above the noise of the outboard, "Pard, it just don't get no better than this, "does it?" A robust "high-five" answers my outstretched hand, and as we round a bend, heading into the reflective colors of the setting sun, we both suddenly realized just how lucky we really were.

"Sandbar Fever '99", is now in full "epidemic" and the only cure is to make the run. "Go gettum"!

Editors Notes; The Sa'bine River above, and below Lake Toledo Bend have recently experienced extreme flooding conditions during the first week of February- please be advised - to check with local city chambers, guides, or the Sabine River Authorities for conditions prior to making plans for your fishing trip.. "White Bass, alias "Sandy, "Sandbass, "Barfish, "Striper, or "Morone Chrysops", of a biologist's scientific nomenclature, are a popular gamefish species which can be found in most mid-western and south-eastern freshwater systems that have major streams, creeks, or rivers that feed into them.