COMMENTARY by Kendal Hemphill
May 25, 2017
May 25, 2017

Fake Fish News

N ote to those who post photos with exaggerated and erroneous information attached: Cut it out.

A while back a photo was forwarded my way by a friend. The bold subject line read: 40-inch trout. The text beneath alleged that the fish came from Baffin Bay, which is believable. There was no identification of the two young men in the shot, one of whom held that big speckled trout.

And it was big. No doubt about it. And getting bigger with every electronic forwarding of the photograph, apparently. Within 48 hours, I’d received the photo several times. As had some friends in the coastal-guiding business. One of them noted with a laugh that the first time he got the email, the fish was claimed to be 38 inches. By the fourth or fifth, it had grown to 42 inches.

My friend Mark Nichols, founder of DOA Lures down in Stuart, FL, even called.

“Is it true somebody over there caught a 40-inch trout?” Nichols asked. “I got this picture…” 

“Nope,” I replied. He sounded relieved. 

The truth of it, I’m confident, is this: Somewhere in Texas, probably Baffin Bay, a young man fishing with at least two buddies caught one heck of a speckled trout. One fishing partner got to stand behind the extremely fortunate angler, and the other got to snap the picture. 

The guy who caught the beast had every reason to smile, but he’s not smiling because he caught a 40-inch speckled trout. He and his friend are both grinning because neither of them ever had seen a trout so long – and may never again see one of equal or greater length.

Guessing, and that’s all it is, the fish is in excess of 30 inches but short of 34 inches. It’s a pig. A fat pig. And anyone who says otherwise is wrong.

But it’s not 40-inches. Here’s how I know.

First, nobody’s come forward publicly to claim being either of the fishermen in the photograph and set the record straight. My thought is that they’re a tad embarrassed by it all, but they shouldn’t be. They should, in fact, be congratulated for landing such a magnificent fish. The angler has done, at a fairly early age, what an overwhelming majority of fishermen (who target speckled trout every time they leave the house with rod-and-reel in hand) never will do.

I’m increasingly impatient with people who are first to throw something like this onto the Internet and simultaneously frustrated with those who would believe the hoaxes. A 40-inch trout? Really?

Second on my “here’s why it’s fake” list is omission of the angler’s name. If I caught a 40-inch trout, I’d write my name in Sharpie across my chest and on the fish, and I’d make sure both scribblings were plainly visible in every photo. 

I’d call newspapers and magazines and radio stations and even the rare, outdoors-friendly television station – I know of at least one remaining in Texas – and tell my story to anyone who’d listen.

And I’d make darned sure that a real photographer showed up to get real photographs back at the dock where I launched…presuming I were too far from the dock for a photographer to meet me right there where I caught the fish.

A couple of friends at Clear Channel questioned whether the photograph – latest in a growing string of “monster trout” shots distributed in recent years and all of which were quickly debunked – had been altered to make the fish look larger than it really was.

I don’t think so. It’s a huge trout, and I won’t deny it a millimeter of its actual length, whatever that was. But it’s not three feet, four inches of teeth and fins and tail. Not even three feet.

That doesn’t diminish the greatness of the fish or the fortune of the man who caught it. The only fault in this and similar cases lies with the first person who “doctored” the accompanying text and tried to turn a great thing into an implausible thing. 

If I ever meet the young man who caught that fish, I’ll shake his hand and applaud his incredible catch. And unless he volunteers the information, I won’t even ask how long it actually was. He might not even know, exactly. And it doesn’t matter. 

It’s a great trout, and even a knucklehead jokester can’t make it anything less.


Email Doug Pike at [email protected]


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