FLY FISHERMEN Carl “Bud” Rowland caught the current official state record speckled trout May 23, 2002 in Lower Laguna Madre. It weighed 16 pounds and measured a monstrous 37 inches.
This replaced the record trout Jim Wallace caught in 1996 in Baffin Bay that weighed 13 pounds, 11 ounces. The all-tackle world record for speckled trout was caught in 1995 in Fort Pierce, Florida and weighed an astonishing 17 pounds, 7 ounces.
Is it possible that Texas will one day produce a world-record speckled trout? If not, will it one day at least see its own state record eclipsed? First, it’s necessary to look at how rare these truly giant catches are along the Gulf Coast.
Wallace’s fish beat the 13-9 record held by Mike Blackwood set in 1975. It took 21 years for that record to fall and this year marks 18 years later that Rowland caught his Lower Laguna giant. The Florida world record has stood for 25 years.
Let’s take a look at the speckled trout water body record along the Texas coast.
SABINE LAKE: Kelly Rising (12 pounds/March 28, 1999)
GALVESTON BAY: R.J. Spencer (12 pounds/March 19, 2007)
CORPUS CHRISTI BAY: Filip Spencer (12 pounds/March 18, 2014)
MATAGORDA: Mark Idoux (11 pounds/Jan. 20, 1999)
GULF OF MEXICO: Lanny Myers (13 pounds/May 25, 1969)
Looking at these sizes and dates it is easy to see there is no real pattern. Unlike largemouth bass for example, where a huge amount of Texas’s largest fish came from 1986 to 1993 at Lake Fork, big trout seem to show up at various times.
There is no question 1996 was an incredible year for the Baffin system because several fish in the 11- to 12-pound class were caught within a short span of Wallace’s catch, but all of these records have now stood for years.
One could look at major coastal freeze kills as being a limiting factor in big trout production, and that’s a valid point, but Wallace’s fish came seven years after the major freeze kill of 1989. That fish was definitely born before the freeze.
Again, there is no real pattern here.
Unlike largemouth bass where intensive management of hatchery fish attempts to create trophy-sized and perhaps world record fish, trout have no such program. They are bred in captivity and stocked, but they are done so for numbers, not for size at this point in time.
The entire Texas coast is now under a five trout limit, which will limit harvest to some extent and alleviate some pressure on the fishery.
But are these things enough to produce a world record? In my opinion Texas could produce a world record trout, but it is unlikely.
Florida has better genetics and water conditions for such a trout to grow to record proportions. After all, it already has. Additionally Florida has a 15- to 20-inch slot limit on trout with only one allowed that measures more than 20 inches. They also have a five fish limit.
Much more pressure is put on trout here. Floridians have many more inshore and nearshore species to pursue, and pompano, snook, tarpon, grouper and redfish are more popular.
A world record trout could appear here, and in my opinion, it would be on the Lower Coast. (Doesn’t take a genius to figure that out.)
It could also be dwelling around one of the nearshore oil and gas platforms in the Gulf. There are huge trout out there, and they are not targeted nearly as much as those in the bays.
I hope to get a call that the world record trout has been broken in Texas but I’m not holding my breath. Giant trout are rare, elusive and downright special. I have to concede that when it comes to trout, not everything is bigger in Texas. However, that could change by the time this story goes to press.
You just never know.
Sea Center Texas is the largest redfish hatchery in the world. Now biologists hope to replicate that success with spotted seatrout.
—story by CHESTER MOORE