This time of year is a great time to fish for speckled trout. These animals are usually very stocky this time of year and put up a great fight, if you can find them along the Texas coast. Now is the season for personal bests to be bested, when John Glenn’s taxidermy studio expects a seasonal wave of upper-class specks destined to decorate walls and mantels.
But the angling elites who target these elusive trout trophies are not pleased. Several anglers have told the press that they’re experiencing the worst early-winter trout fishing in recent memory. This contrasts greatly with a stellar spring and summer south of the JFK Causeway, when bait croaker produced full boxes of solid specks. You think there’s a connection?
The spring-summer trout harvest occurred despite a record drought and a considerable spike in pressure from an influx of fishing guides unhappy with fishing success in their home waters. There’s not much we can do to offset the negative effects of this situation short of killing fewer trout. I’m not necessarily advocating a tighter bag limit for trout, though I believe it’ coming. Altering your harvest could be a voluntary thing.
Biologists say the Upper Laguna Madre, which includes Baffin Bay, has a population of black drum that is five times greater than the trout population there. Think about this. In their twice annual gillnet surveys, state biologists snare five times more drum than they do trout, and very little flounder. Why, then, is the daily bag on drum five fish when the daily limit on trout is 10?
As mentioned before, black drum is an under utilized fishery, despite being easy and fun to catch and excellent table fare. This means we could kill a lot more drum and still maintain healthy stocks. OK, so they rarely take artificial lures. So what? By far, shrimp is the more popular bait in Texas.
If we were to replace some of those dead trout in ice chests with drum, then surely our trout population would be easier to maintain and healthier. And more trout would grow to trophy size.
Spawning habits may be among the reasons black drum are so prolific. In other parts of the country, drum generally spawn at age 5. But here they spawn at age 3. This could be a survival trait to compensate for harsh conditions found in the Upper Laguna Madre, which is hotter, saltier and can suffer periods and patches of low dissolved oxygen.
For whatever reason, Upper Laguna black drum have evolved into a super species. And throughout the year, only a handful of folks chase them. It’s either them or the elusive speckled trout!