Big Trout Require Different Mindset
Big Trout Require Different Mindset
There is a misconception among some Texas coastal anglers that the "big trout" season ends with winter's last gasp of cool air. For fishermen who can ignore their own temptation to pursue long strings of shorter fish, heavyweight speckled trout are available all year.
Coastal fishing guides have their own lingo as regards the size of the trout they and their customers catch.
"We got a limit," one Galveston-based guide told me recently, "but they were just 'fish.' "
That nondescript reference is to trout that are legal keepers by an inch or two or three — "fish" that go 16-19 inches or so. They're solid keepers but nothing exceptional.
The next level is "good fish," which includes trout to 4 pounds, maybe 5 in some boats and bay systems. Then come "really nice fish," a designation for which entry level is 6 pounds. By professional guides' standards, the average Texas angler never has caught a really nice trout. At 8-plus pounds, the words "monster" and "giant" may enter the conversation.
The reason so few people catch monsters, or even nice trout, is because they spend most of their time chasing "fish." Anyone might make a lucky cast and hook a quality speckled trout almost by accident, but super-sized specks rarely are duped.
Measured to scale
Within the species, fish of roughly equal size tend to move and feed together. That is never more evident than when casting into schools of trout feeding beneath diving gulls. Catch three throwbacks in succession from an East Galveston Bay school, and you can bet safely that the next will be no more than an inch shorter or longer.
Better fish do the same on Louisiana's Lake Calcasieu. I have worked many schools of good trout and even a few of really nice trout on springtime and fall days there. Ditto Sabine Lake, when conditions are right.
My career day, 11 years past but vividly recalled, was an epic two hours in Baffin Bay during which all of more than two dozen trout Cliff Webb and I caught on topwaters weighed 8-plus pounds. Those fish were not on that flat to eat popcorn shrimp.
Catch a 7-pound trout from a school of mostly dinks, and you might find one or more of those shorter trout in that larger one's stomach. A speck Webb caught just days before our trip, from the same area, had eaten a 14-inch trout.
At the Silver King Adventures Team Trout Tournament this past weekend, entrants indicated high confidence in topwaters or suspending plugs painted in "baby trout" color schemes. That is not coincidence.
The contest crew dragged in several exceptional fish, the biggest of which Sunday was Roland Hubenek's 7.81-pound trout. Others nearly as large found their way to the weigh station as well, despite absolutely miserable conditions. Anglers who were more interested in stringers of "fish" that day mostly stayed home.
Hold your ground
Consensus among big-trout experts is that poor water clarity and chop are not cause to abandon a traditional "big trout" area. Specks of that class are hardened creatures, big enough and bold enough to handle themselves in times of adversity. If they can function naturally through extended periods of brown tide and hypersalinity in Baffin Bay, they certainly can tolerate whatever solids and sediments the wind can suspend in Galveston Bay or Sabine Lake.
More so than any lure or rod and reel, or even watertight waders, the greatest ally of any angler hoping to catch a huge trout is patience. Once a potentially productive area is located — keys include moving water, structure and baitfish — success depends on how long a person can stand in that one spot and cast. And cast. And cast, either until something happens or the sun sets (and even that doesn't stop some fishermen).
Most of the competitors who picked up big checks in that tournament talked of spending the entire day in a specific area and getting only four or five strikes. They did not race willy-nilly around the bay. They didn't change lures every 15 or 20 minutes. They fished.
Most of them waded. When trying to slip within casting range of a trout that has seen its share of boats and probably of lures, there is marked advantage in exiting the boat and bringing the game down to water level.
A single hull slap or clumsy misstep might send whatever few giants are nearby racing for the exits, and no amount of patience will bring them back that day.
I have caught my share of fine speckled trout from boats, especially in Louisiana and Florida, but "rolling out" is far more productive when conditions permit (the only time wading is not a good idea is when water is too deep). It took them a while, but even Calcasieu's big-trout specialists concede now that wading — the Texas way — improves their numbers of larger specks.
With truly world-class trout, of course, that number might be only two fish in a long day. But when each of them weighs 7 or 8 pounds, maybe more, it doesn't take so many to justify whatever effort was invested in catching them.