Christmas is upon us! From Santa and colder weather, to presents and lights, you can’t turn your head without a reminder that the season of giving is here. It’s a joyous time of year when families get together with friends to celebrate the birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ, and my family is no exception. Tomorrow we will be leaving for New Orleans to enjoy a 9-day visit with my parents, as well as my visiting sister and her family. I assure you that it will be a high energy environment with no shortage of squeals and giggles by the 5 kids running around the house. In short, it’s going to be a lot of fun and we can’t wait. However, over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been reminded by Mariah Carey and other Christmas novelty songs about what “I want for Christmas.” According to Mariah, all she wants for Christmas is “You”, however, Spike Jones and his City Slickers only want their “two front teeth.” Me, on the other hand - All I want for Christmas is a 12lb trout.
“Wow, Chris…that’s pretty silly, a 12lb trout!?!?” you might say with bewilderment.
Yes, a 12lb trout…here’s why. This past April, a 30.5”, 11lb trout with a 17” girth ate a Top Dog I presented on a rainy, windy day down in Corpus Christi, and it was the most magical event that has ever happened to me in my angling career. From the hit to the events that followed, the details that surround landing that trout remain vivid in my mind, and continue to be the driving force in hopes if replicating such an accomplishment. My bud Sam Davis, who writes for Mississippi and Louisiana Sportsman, published the story in the Jun copy of the magazine, and although he did a remarkable job of capturing the accomplishment, his 800-words afforded by the editor didn’t capture everything. So, during the holiday, a holiday of reflection, I’d like to reflect back on that trout and in my best Paul Harvey voice provide, “The rest of the story.”
When I found out we were leaving Biloxi for San Antonio, I wasn’t thrilled about the move. Biloxi, over the course of 4 years, had become home for my family. After all, not many military families can say that their children were born in the same place, let alone the same room of the same hospital. Additionally, both my military career, as well as my angling career, we’re both going really well. Professionally, I was made second-in-charge of a squadron of about 200 people and off-duty, my charter business, was seeing an increase of booked trips. However, like all those I serve with, it boils down to sacrifice and this move was no different. I shut down my charter business, told our friends goodbye and relocated to Randolph Air Force base, TX. The first month and a half in San Antonio was incredibly rough, to say the least. We lived in a 2 bedroom hotel suite for almost 2 months while we waited for on-base housing to “open up”, and the shortage of space, free-time and the unknown of a new city/job/life weighed heavy on my family. In short, I almost lost it all in those two months, but I thank God everyday that my wife was courageous enough to stick it out. Fast forward 2 months, and we were so excited to move into our house on-base, that before we signed for the house, while it was vacant, we use to bring the kids and just lay on the hardwood floors and listen to the kids chase each other around. It was awesome to hear them happy again and now our life can get “back to normal.”
So, now that we’re settled in San Antonio and comfortable with my job, it was time to start thinking about some trips to the coast. I fished 5-times from Oct – Jan and with some tips from a friend that just moved from the area, I was able to reunite with those silver wonders. My first 3 trips, I stuck to Kyle’s suggestions and put fish in the freezer, but none of those notable Monster TX trout. So my next 2 trips, I started studying the estuary on Google Earth, and made 2 more trips, one in Dec and one in Jan and didn’t get a bite. During those ventures, I came across two really nice looking areas that I felt had big fish potential, but needed to learn more, and in February I got an education on TX trout fishing by none other than Capt Mike McBride. As I’ve written in previous blog post, Capt Mike flipped the script in my approach to catching big trout. I learned about water conditions and depth and what Big trout prefer in the harsh winter months. In 2-days I soaked as much knowledge as I could from Mike and was eager to get back to Corpus and experiment on my own.
Corpus is a two and a half hour drive from my house. Most of the time, I’ll stay at the Navy lodge on Corpus Naval Air Station, and make two days out of it, but on April 17, 2014 I was going for an out and back. When I woke up that morning I almost cancelled my trip because the wind was blowing so hard, however an approaching front had me intrigued enough to go…after all, I needed some “saltwater therapy.” When I got to my first spot, a spot that consistently produces numbers of fish, I noticed that the hard East wind was playing to my advantage of making long cast and keeping a tight line, but more importantly had the water level higher than I remembered from my trips that previous fall. As a result, I quickly caught a limit of quality trout and played a little catch and release until it started to rain.
By this point, it’s only 0930, and there was no way I was heading home, so soon. So I decided to clean my quarry and go “explore” the spots I found in January, especially with the high water. When I got out of my truck at my other spot, it was raining sideways, but like the other spot, a hard east wind meant long cast and a tight line, after all I caught my limit already so anything extra is lagniappe. When I made my way onto my flat, I noticed the water was very milky, and what was shin to knee deep in January was Knee to thigh deep, a situation Capt Mike referred to as the “money zone.” Now with confidence in my spot and my Chicken of the “C” Down South Lure I had wreaked havoc with all morning, I waded into my angling apex. It started the same as in Jan, with nothing to show for my hour and a half worth of effort. So wanting to cover more area, I decided to throw a MirrOlure Top Dog. As I was walking down my flat I remember the waves cresting over my Top Dog and for periods of time would take it from view. After about a half hour, I made a long cast…twitch…..twitch….twitch….boom!!! As I looked in amazement I saw a wall of water swirl on my bait, and I felt the tension and gave my CastAway Skeleton wader’s special everything she had. About two or three cranks into the fight, she gave me a glimpse, and I wasn’t disappointed. She shook her head 3 or 4 times so violently and her gills flared so wide, that I would
compare it to taking a tin coffee can and shaking it as hard as you can while half submerged. As she did, she tried to jump, but couldn’t and instead fell backwards like she was a pig wallowing in mud. From that moment on, she stripped a few small sets of drag, but cruised across the flat, as if to say, “this is my home and I’m comfortable staying right where I am.” My heart at this point is beating so hard, the adrenaline rush of the moment, seemed to slow everything down and I remember telling myself to focus on “keeping a high rod tip with tension at all times.” I made my way to the bank to beach her and she was content following me until the last 5 yards or so. When I had her back out the water she made one more bee-line for open water, but I calmly/clumsily followed her…and at that point gave me her life. “I did it!” The biggest trout I had ever caught was lying on the beach. “I thanked God!” as I reached down to put my hand under her gill plate, and I remember saying “this fish is 10lbs!” In excitement, I ran as fast as I could to my truck to instantly get her weight on my boga. After almost tripping a half dozen times on my way to the truck, I layed her in the bed and snapped a few pictures with my phone, and sent them to my buddy’s and said, “This is what I just caught.” At this point, I’m overcome with excitement and sleep deprivation and still didn’t have a weight on her, so I got my Boga grip and watched as the line teetered in and out at 11lbs. At this point, my phone is getting responses saying, “Nice trout” and “Good job.” After cautiously knocking on a car window to get another picture, I shot the picture and another text, saying “11lbs!!!” My phone started ringing like it was insurance call center. I couldn’t believe it, I knew these fish existed, but they were more appropriate for magazines with high glossed pages and fictitious places, but not in my hands and visible with my own two eyes. After spending 10 minutes trying to revive her, she was gone, but she gave me new life as an angler to always pursue the impossible and “never give up”.
The 2 and half hour drive back to San Antonio felt like a trip around the block, and my phone had no shortage of texts and phone calls which helped in that respect. After I got her home and shared the excitement with my wife and kids, I took some more measurements for a replica mount. Now I decided to clean her, and while doing so, found out that she had a 15” trout half-digested in her belly. This was truly a remarkable discovery in such a remarkable fish!
In the days and weeks after the catch, I still couldn’t believe what had happened. People and friends continued to be happy and supportive. I was obviously happy because it’s the reason we all fish…for lifelong memories. So as we all get ready to open gifts, remember that the only pricesless gifts are the memories you make in life. So next time I’m in line at the mall for a picture with Santa, and he asks what “I want for Christmas?” You can bet my answer won’t be for any present or gift, but instead for the lifelong memories associated with a 12lb trout.
Tight Lines, God Bless and Merry Christmas…He is the reason for the season!