Fishing & Boating News

"Trophy Specks"

by: Ed Snyder, Ed Snyder Outdoors

Trophy Specks
Photo by Ed Snyder
Our day was a dawning.
Photo by Ed Snyder
(Apr. 01, 2011 - Galveston Bay System, TX.) The smell of salt-air blending with the hushed grey mist of an early morning fog greeted us as we waded against the rip of an incoming tide. With visibility limited to only yards, we carefully shuffled our way into position along the channels edge to try our luck for speckled sea-trout. Within minutes we were hearing their staccato "pock" pock" sounds and whiffing the almost perfume like fragrance of speckled trout feeding drifting our way. The sun had yet to rise but our day was already dawning.

March and April has always been the prelude to the trout fishing season in and around the upper Texas Gulf Coast. With May and June holding promise for school trout action, the "Ides of March" imparts the "Tides of Prime" for anglers seeking an opportunity for catching a Texas trophy trout of 10 lbs or better. March and April are the months when female trout, heavily laden with roe, begin moving into their spawning areas in the bays and sloughs, which makes them most vulnerable to boaters, waders, and other trout anglers. Most trophy trout of 10 plus-lbs are caught during this prime fishing time.

Referred to as "Gator Trout" due to their rather large sizes large "gnashing" teeth, a speckled trout of ten pounds, or better, is a highly sought after trophy drawing admiring accolades from all who witness such incredible catches. So popular in fact that the Texas Parks & Wildlife Dept; moved to protect them with strict rules and regulations of 10 Speck daily creels with a 15 to 25 inch slot, with only one speck over 25 inches permitted to be kept as part of your daily limit. This important conservational move was established to protect and improve the speckled trout fishery.

Prime fishing areas for these early spring spawners are Trinity Bay, East Bay and other Galveston Bay systems. With prime spots being Rollover Pass, Rollover Bay, East Bay, the Galveston Jetties, and San Luis Pass. Take special interests in the Texas City Dike area and Dollar Reef, Moses Lake, Dickenson Bayou, and the Bacliff area shoreline from Eagle Point, HL&P spillway, to the Kemah and the Seabrook/ Clear Lake area flats. (I've caught and released several Gator-Specks in the 8 to 9 lb range from these areas with my best being a 28 & 3/4 inch, 10 & 1/4 lb sow trout.

Christmas Bay in the San Luis Pass area is also prime gator-trout water with its oyster reefed flats and potholed salt grass channels and islands. West Galveston Bay also harbors big trout along its spoil banks and numerous reefs, as does Chocolate Bayou.

Live shrimp, live finger mullet, or small live croaker are your best bait options for catching them on slip-rigs, popping corks, or free-line rigs, but artificial baits are just as enticing for the gator-specks when fished properly. Best artificial lures for the heavy trout are soft plastics such as Saltwater Assassins, MirrorLure soft plastics Berkley Gulps, Saltwater Touts (plastic shrimp tails), twister grubs, or hard baits such as Spoons, Spittin' Images, Zara Spooks, or Mirror Lures.

When speckled trout group up to feed on schools of baitfish or shrimp they'll actually work themselves into a frenzy of gnashing fury that will have them regurgitating their gullets in order to make room for more food. The regurgitated and masticated prey then releases an oily film on the waters surface called a slick. This oily slick emits a cucumber or watermelon like odor that can be whiffed or seen by wade anglers who quickly move in for the catch. The tighter the slick the more recent the feeding spree, with platter sized slicks attracting more fishing interests then the trash can sized slicks. Always fish up-tide from these slicks to find the trout as they're moving against the current. In rough water it can be difficult to see slicks, but the aroma of watermelons will always give them away.

Speckled trout are great game-fish and will definitely give you a good tussle for your sporting blood, but when you've hooked a mega-trout things can "go south" in a hurry. Trophy specks in the 8 to 10 lb class are infamous strong fighters and like any large fish will test your weak points to the max when it comes to your big fish fighting skills. The main thing to remember when hooking up to one is to keep your rod up high, your drag lite and let it run its course to tire itself out before reeling it in. The very moment that you put any undo tension on the fish it will either break your line or rip the hook from its jaw.

The Gator-Trout can be found hanging around oyster reefs for the first part of March, then, as waters warm, they'll begin moving to the back of sloughs or bayous for spawning. These "mega-specks" are loners and seldom school up at this time so you have to wade, or carefully slip your boat into the back waters to find them. Free-lining live croaker or finger mullet at this time is really hard to beat, but carefully working artificial baits along the oyster reefs or salt marsh grasses will also do very well. Most of my Gator-Specks were caught on twister grubs, including the 10 & ? lb speck on my wall. Fly casting for them is very productive as well but this method is for experienced fly rod anglers who know how to handle a fly rod and work a big fish to net.

Instead of having your trophy speck mounted for the trophy-wall, my suggestion would be to take a photo, measure its length and girth, and release the fish. Take the photo and measurements to a taxidermist to have a replica mount made. The trophy trout you release could put another million specks in the water for future fishing trips.

To wade-anglers the scent of watermelon is the signature of Speckled Trout on a feeding spree. Nothing excites a wader more than being in the right place at the right time when a school of specks start working up a feeding frenzy within casting distance of their baits and lures. The water is warming, the tide is right, and the time is now!

......... "Go Gettum!!"
Trout Slick.
Photo by Ed Snyder