October 28, 2016
On the fourth leg of my annual migration from Colorado to Florida for the winter, I decide to stop at one of my favorite places in Texas, Sea Rim State Park near Port Arthur, to hunt some redfish and speckled sea trout in the backcountry marshes. The contrast between this working port–lots of oil and gas refining, barges, etc–and the beautiful saltwater marshes where I like to explore is stunning. But the redfish and trout do not seem to mind. Lots of people fish the coastal surf at the park, but I head the other way into the solitude of the backcountry. After fighting off mosquitos and fire ants at the quiet little Breezy Oaks RV Park where my mobile fish camp is ensconced just up the the road from Sea Rim (So good to be back to the South!), I drop my $3 entry fee in the box near the launch. Soon I’m heading down the long canal to Fence Lake just before sunrise, a cool, gentle breeze helping to push me down the mile-long access channel.
In about 1/2 hour, I emerge into Fence Lake, one of the shallow lakes that dot the marshes. I concentrate on the channels that link Fence, Salt, and other lakes where the fish like to hang out, picking bait off like mullet and pinfish as the tidal currents push them one way then the other. I am using three light weight 6 1/2 foot Shimano light spinning rods, Okuma 2500 reels, spooled with 20 pound test lines and 15 pound test flourocarbon leaders. At the mouth of the channel from Fence to Salt Lake, I hook a couple of good speckled sea trout both on a 4-inch Texas
Roach-colored paddletail mounted on a 1/8 ounce red jighead. The tide is coming in so the fishing hasn’t picked up yet, a lot of the bait up in the marshes at this point, so I head onward to the channel between Salt Lake and Salt Bayou. I hit a school of 12-inch trout just outside the entry to the channel over a hard bottom, this time on a white curly tail Gulp mullet and catch four quick fish. After that bite cools, I pedal up the twisty-turny channel, focusing on the shallow side and sand bars at the inside of the bends where I have caught some big reds in the past. This time I catch a 18-inch red on the paddletail , then a big 20-inch trout that puts up a good battle, then several smaller ones.
Instead of retracing my route, I decide to take the long loop back through Salt Bayou to what I call Goofy Lake, because of its uncanny resemblance on a map to the famous Disney character. Despite fishing hard over good-looking stretches of shoreline, I dial up a big zero for the next two hours. The presence of a couple of good-sized gators keeps things interesting till I emerge into Goofy Lake. Now the wind is really kicking up–15-20 mph from the southeast. The water around the island in Goofy Lake where I caught some 20-inch plus reds on a prior trip is churning, so I head to the south shoreline of the lake for a little respite from the wind. I fish around the newly built, tent-camping platform anchored in the water, then start working the shallows along the grass line with a white curly tail. I am just about to call it a day and start down the channel back to the launch when something big nails the white curlytail. He spins the kayak around in circles while stripping off line. My reel screams as the line peels off, and the rod bends at a dangerous angle as I try to pedal faster and catch up. Finally, I get the fish to the surface and see it’s a good red, by far the biggest of the day. The fight continues for another five minutes until the red tires and comes to the boat. He’s a 24-inch, stout beauty. A quick pix and he’s swimming back to his feeding grounds.
With the sun sinking, I take that big red to be a sign it’s time to head back to the put-in after almost 12 hours on the water. The weather has been sunny and beautiful all day, albeit windy, and I’ve had the place mostly to myself–not counting the aforementioned gators who spied on me, their beady little eyes and snouts peeking just above the surface. I am tuckered out, but relaxed and rejuvenated. The Sea Rim Park backcountry is a great hideaway for kayakers from all the powerboat madness on Keith Lake and other local waters. And the fish are definitely hungry! Now it’s on the road again, Florida or bust!!