Fishing & Boating News

Paddling Strokes – Travel Log and Popping Corks

by: Michael Banks, DDS,

Dr. Banks
Photo by courtesy Michael Banks,D.D.S.
Landing the catch
Photo by Michael Banks, DDS
(Dec 17, 2015 - )

There are many reasons for you to go fishing but that is another story.  I go fishing on Keith Lake because I can catch fish there.

I’ve been going to Keith Lake several times a year for many years.  I found it by accident. I was looking for the closest place from home to catch redfish from a kayak and I saw this “supposed to be a marina” on a map at Keith Lake off the Port Arthur ship channel.

When I got to Keith Lake, there was no marina.  It looked good so I put in my kayak and started fishing.  Within in 30 minutes I caught a keeper size redfish on a topwater “walk the dog” shrimp lure and I have been going back ever since.

I’ve learn to fish with live shrimp and a popping cork; I’m not a purist.  I do use artificial lures.  I have caught redfish on artificial flies and fly rod.  It’s just I’m out to catch fish and I use the best, legal method which happens to be live shrimp on Keith.

Gulp, an artificial lure company, makes several types of soft plastic baits which look and taste like shrimp.  We call it a “rubber ribeye” – I’d rather use the real thing but Gulps work well when “trash” fish are stealing your real shrimp.

A popping cork simulates the sound of shrimp breaking the surface of the water.  It is a cork with a small metal rod down the middle with weights and beads attached to upright the cork and make the sound when jerked.  I’ve had fish strike the cork thinking it was shrimp.  Not all popping corks are the same.

The reason I go back to Keith is I can always catch fish; that’s the reason I fish.  Lake Fork in East Texas is the primer largemouth bass fishing lake in the United States.  In the past several years I have fish Fork with four guides and I have never caught more than four pounds of fish per trip.  I average over 40 pounds of fish per trip going to Keith, fishing without the expense of a guide.  Lake Fork is a two hour drive from home; Keith is three hours. It’s an easy decision to go to Keith.

The trip to Lake Keith is an easy one. I can make it in three hours, non-stop. Take Hwy. 69 from “tha’ Ville” straight to Port Arthur; take a right on Hwy. 87 and in ten miles you are at Keith Lake.  A half-way landmark is crossing the majestic Neches River at Rockland.  Going through Beaumont, I usually allow for a seafood meal at Floyd’s.

With experience I have found a short cut by the bait shop and the motel.  The bait shop is named “Luck in a Bucket” and the motel is the Three Rivers Inn which is the closest motel to Keith and they have a fisherman’s discount.

Since I have been going to Keith and writing about it, people want to know how they can go.  I’ve posted pics on Facebook and told where it is – just go.

Keith Lake is a shallow lake and will not accommodate large boats but I have gone with my fishing partner and his bass boat.  One just has to be careful; a boat can’t go everywhere on the lake – it averages only about 6 feet deep and there are channels through the lake.  We have watched where other boats go and that is where we go.

My fishing partner and I were going this past fall and there was a local fisherman dying to find out about Keith.   He was going to be in that area when we were fishing so he got an invitation to fish with us an afternoon on Keith – three of us in a two-man bass boat.

We launched and went straight to the “cut” which is about half mile.  The cut is a channel which connects Keith Lake with the Port Arthur ship channel which connects to Sabine Lake.  Sabine Lake is a saltwater estuary at the junction of the Neches River and the Sabine River.  Sabine Lake then empties into the Gulf of Mexico at Sabine Pass just a few miles south of Keith Lake.

We dropped anchor and started fishing.  My partner and I have our positons in the boat; he is in the front and I am in the back so we put the other guy in the middle.  My partner and I were using Paradise Popping corks (picture attached) with live shrimp.  The new guy was using some kind of a Walmart type popping cork.

My partner and I starting catching fish right off the bat.  Since the new guy was in the middle, it was convenient for him to net our fish for us.  Between netting our fish and his using an “off brand” cork, he didn’t have a chance to catch many fish.  He couldn’t figure out why we were catching fish and he wasn’t.  He did finally catch a keeper redfish (over 20 inches) using a rubber ribeye.

When we got off the lake we finally told him about Paradise Popping corks and my partner gave him a couple.  They do make a difference; I have been fishing right next to other boats that are not using them; I am catching fish and they aren’t.   I have purchased Paradise Popping corks (pictured) at Academy in Port Arthur and have ordered them on line.  I will fish with nothing else; the unique sound they make is the difference; color doesn’t seem to matter.

You’d think cork fishing is boring but it isn’t.  Sporadically pop the cork; this sound attracts the fish and “bam”!  Set the hook, the fight is on, the tug drug is released and you’re hooked!

The next morning I caught my two largest fish from Keith Lake.  Using the popping cork-live shrimp method, I caught a twenty pound black drum (picture attached).  Then using a free swimming “piggy perch” on a loose extra rod, I caught a thirty pound alligator gar (picture attached).  Since Keith Lake is brackish water, some fresh water fish like the gar have adapted to that environment.  On Keith you never know what you might catch.  It’s exciting.

Someday I’ll return to the reason why you should fish, but for now the reason I fish is to catch fish!

Until we put in again,