Summer heat on coastal waters means topwater times are here for many anglers seeking hefty speckled trout and redfish.
Sure, you can take many smaller, schooling trout and rat reds under birds early and late in the day on plastics and live shrimp.
There’s nothing wrong with that at all, and some of the best eating trout are taken that way.
But if you’re looking for larger fish beginning at 18-inches or so, such can be a rarity when taking them under flapping feathers in the heat.
For certain, many anglers say that for the better fish – take that dog out and walk it.
Wade into dark waters
It takes some gumption, but Capt. Adam Jaynes of Orange, Texas, will step into the dark waters of Sabine Lake at 4 a.m. to get to large specks and reds feasting on schools of baitfish.
“Before daybreak, there’s more light on the water than people think,” the 29-year-old angler said. “The moonlight alone can cast good light, and there’s also the illumination and glare from the chemical plants bordering the lake.
“And there’s certainly a lot less pressure from other anglers when fishing.”
Jaynes still remains very cautious about any sort of light possibly spooking fish. He will allow his client anglers to use small headlights attached to their caps only when tying knots on lures or working a fish.
“These trout can be larger and older fish, and they are even more sensitive to sound and any type of sensation that they don’t normally encounter in their habitat,” he said.
“That’s also why we wade. There’s less movement and less noise because you can’t drift over the trout and bait and disturb them like you can in a boat. It’s also much cooler for the anglers at such an early time.”
What kind of trout does Jaynes target well before dawn?
“We have taken trout weighing 8 pounds, and more than just a few over 7,” he said. “There can be numerous 6-pounders and plenty weighing 3 and 4 pounds.
“And we release most of all the big fish.”
Jaynes emphasized strongly that catches like these in a single day are exceptional and not the norm on Sabine Lake – especially this year due to low salinities from past storms and rains.
“During your typical early morning bite on Sabine, you can catch trout ranging from 3 to 5 pounds with an occasional big fish weighing 6 pounds or better,” he said. “This lake certainly holds great trout in the summer, although most anglers will specifically focus on catching the smaller schooling trout under birds.”
As for his preferred topwater lures, Jaynes and anglers under his direction will cast 5-inch Heddon Super Spooks in black, pink/gold and clown colors very early.
“In the dark, the size of that lure presents a big profile on the water’s surface making it easier to see from the trout’s point of view,” Jaynes said. “At 8 a.m., I’ll then switch over to the smaller version, the 3 ½-inch Super Spook, Jr., to match the actual size of finger mullet and pogies.”
As the day progresses, he will also cast MirrOlure’s She Dogs.
“Baitfish activity is important, but slicks along with moving and jumping baitfish is by far the better indicator of good fish,” Jaynes said.
According to the angler, knowledge of how to fish these slicks is tantamount to catching trout.
“Remember, slicks will drift with the wind and with the current,” he said. “It is vital to position your boat or yourself when wading upwind and upcurrent to try and cast to where the slick first developed, not where it drifted.
“Make long casts and fish slowly until you are able to locate the fish. Sometimes there will just be one or two good fish, and at other times you will find a school under a slick that produces fish for several hours.
Jaynes dog-walks his topwaters on a 4-foot, Berkley Big Game mono leader attached to 30 pound FINS Windtamer braid. This setup is spooled to Team Lew’s Lite Speed Spool reels on Sarge Free Bird Custom rods.
For guide service information, visit his website at www.justfishsabine.com.
After the early bite
Aaron Hommel of Orange, Texas, is one of those anglers that will find quality fish in extreme circumstances.
“Many anglers get discouraged this time of the year,” the 39-year-old tournament competitor said. “You get that early bite at daylight, and then it turns off.”
Hommel has found through repeated experiences that even the hottest times of the day can be productive for larger fish.
“Even in extreme heat, mullet will raft up in schools,” Hommel said. “Big trout and redfish won’t be far away although they may not be particularly active.
“This has happened many times on windless days under a hot sun just steady beating down.”
According to Hommel, even the mullet cruise slowly and look lazy when moving in these rafting schools.
“Patience is the game that angler must play for a few good fish,” he said. “There just won’t be many bites.”
Hommel catches his trout and redfish by dog-walking clown and chrome/blue-back Heddon Super Spooks.
“On a midday wade in these conditions, we had one trout over 8 pounds and another at 6,” he said. “There was a handful of others in the 5-pound range taken as well.
“You can really catch some good fish staying close to the mullet and fishing along the ledges and drop-offs. Those big trout and redfish will also make brief, shallow excursions to get at those mullet.”
Another option that anglers should not pass up – although they usually do – is fishing with the ladyfish explained the angler.
“When it is really hot on the water and the ladyfish invade, some of the biggest fish can be caught on topwaters especially near slicks in the middle of the day,” he said.
“You just have to get on the outside of the ladyfish and work them like you do when fishing mullet.”
Hommel is quite adamant that the payoff is worth the extreme heat – and wading can be a cooler way to get to these fish.
“Those big trout and redfish will be opportunistic in the heat,” he said. “They will conserve energy, and they will look for something unusual. Sometimes it will be your Super Spook doing something different near the schools of mullet or ladyfish.
“Maybe the lure reminds them of a wounded baitfish, but it is certainly something unusual. And we’ve taken some really big fish on Super Spooks especially if there are also slicks in the area.”
“That new Warthog has been an outstanding tool for redfishing,” he said.
Watch Capt. Jaynes catch a good one
Below is a short video with Capt. Adam Jaynes dogwalking a Clown Super Spook resulting in his taking of a very good Calcasieu Lake speckled trout.