, Port Arthur, Texas

May 11, 2013

Chester Moore column: Sabine produces strange catches

Chester Moore
The Port Arthur News

PORT ARTHUR —   Fish identification can be tricky.

    There are some varieties of fish that look a lot like, others that are rarely season and there are even season appearance variations.

    The Sabine area in particular tends to produce catches that baffle anglers on a yearly basis.

    Take for example the strange silverfish fish with the orange bellies that have been caught over the last 8-10 years in the Sabine River and in drainage canals in Port Arthur.

    They look a lot like perch but they are pacu, a South American fish that are cousins in the piranha. Local catches are attributable to aquarium releases and apparently, there have been enough for the fish to breed. It has been a few years since I had to identify one but there could still be some lurking out there.

    Someone sent me a photo of a fish they thought might be in the infamous Asian snakehead.

    It turned out to be the common grinnel (bowfin, choupique) in the breeding phase when the male displays neon green coloration.

    Occasionally tarpon will show up around the Sabine Jetties and in Sabine Lake itself. I saw one in Old Rove destroying a school of mullet one hot August day in 1996 and we did a story somewhere around 2001 of an angler who caught a six-footer on the Louisiana side of the Sabine Jetties.

    Sabine Lake used to be a widely renowned tarpon fishery with tournaments taking place in Port Arthur but for some reason the “silver kings” as they are known ditched us and now rarely enter our inland waters.

    Mangrove snapper however started showing up here about a decade ago and are caught every summer.

     These hard-fighting fish also known as “gray snapper” show up everywhere from the jetties to Bessie Heights Marsh.

    A few years back I caught a small rock hind at the end of the Texas side of the Sabine Jetties while fishing for speckled trout. Rock hinds are a member of the grouper family and are red with black dots all over their body.

    Although not a truly unusual catch, many anglers are surprised to catch big jack crevalle in Sabine Lake. And some of those anglers have never seen this fish, which are caught more frequently in the surf and at the jetties.

    Every couple of years someone will call and tell me they caught a “yellowfin tuna” in Sabine Lake and I have to break it to them that is not a tuna, but a jack. They have similar coloration and are roughly the same shape.

    Luckily, for the anglers most of them either released the fish or called me before they at it.

    Yellowfin is one of the tastiest fish in the world and jack is one of the oiliest and nastiest.

    If you catch any unusual fish, please send photos to . We might run them in the next issue of Real Outdoors of Southeast Texas.

(To contact Chester Moore, e-mail him at . You can hear him Fridays from 6-7 p.m. on Newstalk AM 560 KLVI and watch his WebTV Series at . You can follow him @flexfishing on Twitter.)