If I went down to most marina's in Southeast Louisiana and asked 50 anglers if they would rather catch 100 trout or 1 10lb trout, I feel pretty confident that the vast majority would rather the rod bending action of filling a cooler vice grinding it out for 1 bite - albeit a monster. On the other hand, if I performed the same action along the Texas coast, I feel that the vast majority would prefer 1 10lb trout instead an ice chest full of "dinks."
So why is that?
I have a few theories that may explain why, but I believe it centers around these two points.
In TX, if you have a 30" trout in your repertoire you are considered a good angler. I equate this to High School athletics...congrats, you just made Varsity. Keeping that in mind, the mindset in Louisiana that dictates your angling ability is how many you caught in the least amount of time possible. For example it's not uncommon to hear, "we smoked 'em up today, we got our limit of a 100 trout in about an hour."
Neither mindset is bad, and I've been lucky enough to be on both sides of the spectrum. However, if anglers have any aspirations to catch a trophy trout, which I highly recommend, you have to start thinking outside the box. Often times this means leaving the limits alone and proactively search for water with big fish potential. Very rarely, if ever do you see a Monster Trout (8lbs or More) come from a spot, where you've been "pickin'" at a limit of 13-15" fish.
So why is this?
Many of my friends who are avid deer hunters, relate targeting trophy trout to killing that Boone and Crockett deer...."its a whole separate species." To some extent that's true.
In line with that thought, I also believe that most Louisiana anglers aren't convinced they can catch a trophy fish on any given outing. To that I simply disagree, but its not due to lack of trophy fish in the estuary. I do think that there are generally more trophy trout in Texas waters, but there is also an exponential increase in the number of anglers too. Last year (2013) Capt Jack Payne in the middle of winter caught one of the biggest trout I've seen caught in years in LA out of an interior bay within the Delacroix basin. Capt Jack says in the article that I thought I had another redfish, since that was his desired target with his clients." Or so he thought...(See Article Here)
Capt Jack may or may not know (but I'm sure he does) that February in TX is the peak of the trophy trout run. Guides just like him from Sabine to Port Mansfield are usually booked solid through February and March, mainly because they feel that they can put clients on a fish of a lifetime. This past February my dad and I were fortunate to be in that number searching for "Specklasaurus". Despite not connecting with a double digit fish, the knowledge I witnessed first hand totally flipped my world about what I thought big trout did in the wintertime.
The setting was unique, this particular morning it was the calmest day I think I've ever seen in the month of February. A huge front had just come thru and as high pressure set across the lower coast, ice graced the banks all the way to Brownsville. As we huddled behind the console to stay warm, our wonder steered us to the edge of the skiff. What we saw was large schools of mullet flipping happily as if to say "Hi, Welcome to Texas." After some positive head nods and a grin by our guide, we then saw big Trout lumbering across the flat in less than knee deep water. What I failed to mention thus far was that the water temp hovered just above 45 degrees.
So back to Capt Jack's story, do I think it was by chance that he caught that fish in 2' of water in the middle of a bay system? No because why would TX trout differ from LA trout? They don't...its the anglers that pursue them. In Louisiana, most trout anglers shut it down after Christmas till late March early April, when TX anglers are putting on two base layers, donning their waders and slipping over the sides of $50,000 boats, looking for literally 1 bite.
I can confirm this theory because when I started targeting big trout exclusively, 95% of my big fish came during the months of December and March. I focused on wadefishing ledges, shell/rock flats and other man-made structure primarily at night. I steered away from conventional trout tackle and started throwing big jigs and suspend style baits (Mirrodine's, Catch 2000's and Fat Boys). Looking back through my log, what I founds was that not once did I limit out, and 70% of my total trips, I left without ever getting a bite. It was hard fishing, but it required a lot of practice and an insane amount of confidence.
So why put yourself through that when you can catch a boat load of trout?
I'll use my dad to highlight my point. In the adventure I referred to earlier, we got to fish alongside a Texas Troutmaster in Capt Mike "McTrout" McBride down in the Lower Laguna Madre. During our 2 and a half days, we waded 12 miles (exaggerating, but it felt like it) caught 40 plus redfish each and 2 dozen trout ranging from 16" to 7 1/2 lbs. Great trip, right? However, their was a problem not one of those trout was caught by my dad. Except on the last day in the waning stages of our last wade.
Reflecting back, the setting was perfect. A slanting sun off to the west gave a great silhouette of my dad's rod doubled over. With glaring focus, I couldn't tell what he had, but his non verbals told me it was another "stupid redfish". All was status quo until the silverly black shimmer surfaced feet from his waist. On top of that, a vicious headshake confirmed his pursuit. To put this in context, up until this point my dad has never caught a trout over 5 1/2lbs, but has caught probably 30,000 trout in his lifetime (no exaggeration). So, when this wallowing 7lb trout tried to shake free he became a nervous wreck. It wasn't until Mike slipped the net under his fish and rested her nicely in the bottom of his 24' Haynie Cat, that my dad breathed a sigh of relief. In addition, he let an exuberant yell, then hugged me and Capt Mike, who kept calling him "Paw-Paw" - which I though was funny. On a serious note, digging deeper into the situation, I realized it wasn't just a 7lb trout laying there. Instead, it was a representation of all the casts...all the steps...all the knots and all the fishing trips throughout his life resting there on the bottom of his boat. Simple tasks like taking a picture or releasing her safely became chores due to his joyful giddyness and breathless admiration of such a beautiful fish. That experience brought my dad back to earlier time, no longer was he a 67 year old man but a 12 year old boy, excited because of the newness of the situation. In short, he was so excited - a lifelong quest for a 7lb trout was finally complete.
Never once, did I see him get that excited after catching all those trout during all those years.
So, as we're riding back to the launch, a sense of relief surrounded the boat, earmarked in memory by the hum of 250 Mercury and the ruggedness of the south Texas horizon. In a quick and subtle question, I ask, "Was it worth waiting all those years for that 1 bite?"
Pausing for a moment, he smiles and looks up and says, "Absolutely, I'll take that over 100 trout any day."