There’s something magical about giant speckled trout, and there may never in our lifetimes be a better winter to catch one or a better place to do so than Baffin Bay.
Grab your rod, knot up a big lure and grind. I had my turn in the spotted sea trout spotlight exactly two decades ago, when then-guide Cliff Webb and I had the state’s premier big-trout venue nearly to ourselves for part of a cold, drizzly, foggy January afternoon.
On topwaters, we caught and released more than two dozen trout heavier than 8 pounds, five of which stretched beyond the cooler’s 30-inch mark. My final fish, as a thickening fog threatened to strand us if we stayed, was 32 1/4.
Since then, I figured the odds against a replay to be astronomical. Until now. One by one recently, captains who know Baffin Bay best say this winter could be “the one.”
When they married a couple of years ago, captains Sally and Aubrey Black pooled two of the best lower-coast fishing minds on the water. This past summer, each hinted at but stopped short of shouting about the potential for this winter to produce some monstrous speckled trout. And then came autumn, when they and several other professionals and respected amateurs couldn’t help talking about it.
Sally spoke on my radio show one Saturday morning about the chain of events that created this unique opportunity. The corners of the puzzle were set five years ago with an excellent hatch of speckled trout, millions more than in a typical class of recruits. The perimeter of the puzzle was formed by an unfortunate and persistent outbreak of brown tide, an algae bloom that turns water the color of spicy mustard. Brown tide can have a negative impact on juvenile trout, but typically doesn’t interfere with mature fish.
The remainder of the spaces was filled, ironically, with missing fishermen. As word of brown tide across Baffin Bay fell on uninformed ears, it caused a significant and noticeable absence of recreational pressure on all those big, fat, maturing speckled trout.
Fishermen who knew better took advantage of the opportunity this past October and November to catch (and mostly release) more big trout, according to the Blacks’ records, than in any previous winter they recalled.
So here we are. And there they are the kind of long, thick trout that can fulfill dreams. My guess is that the seasons longest will stretch 34-plus inches. My hope is that she’ll be in my hands long enough for some good photos before I give her a gentle nudge and watch her swim away.