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Big fish fascinate me. And, I do not necessarily mean the giants of the ocean like marlin, shark and grouper. I'm talking about the biggest specimens of any species that have eluded anglers and grown to maximum proportions.
With fishing pressure being higher and more intelligent than ever, thanks to space technology and super informative publications, like this one, the chances of any fish getting super-sized is tough. There is something encoded within their very DNA that makes them more elusive, responsive to angling pressure and able to grow extra large.
Two years ago I began an exhaustive study of big fish. I began to toy with the idea of creating a system for anglers to follow to catch their dream fish. It had to be something anyone could do from a financial perspective and that included the all-important aspect of experience.
I never value a fish by its weight or length. I do know, however, how exciting it is to fight and land a big, elusive fish and the kind of smiles it can produce.
F.L.E.X. stands for Focus/Learn/Eliminate/ Experience/ and is a system developed to help anglers catch big fish of whatever species they so desire. I have personally researched, tested, and lived it and am excited to share it with others.
This is the first article I have written on the F.L.E.X. system so I thought it would be fun to look at the pursuit of trophy speckled trout and how to pick the optimal area to find them.
"Elimination" is a key component of the system and it is essential to whittle down the areas we fish to places that offer a strong chance of catching the fish of our dreams.
Most anglers never leave the boat dock with a plan other than perhaps pursuing a particular species. By using our greatest God-given gift, which is our mind, we can make great strides in finding big trout and other species.
F.L.E.X. Fishing Steps to Selecting Key Locations:
A water body with a history of producing big fish, of the variety you prefer, is an obvious need for what you want to accomplish. If you find an area with either a consistent history of producing monster fish, and a recent history trending toward big fish, you are in good shape.
If an angler wanted to catch a 25-plus inch speckled trout he could study Texas' Aransas Bay and find out it has produced a whole lot of those in the past. However, when looking at recent history, it would become obvious that fishery has declined in trophy production in recent years. The chances of catching a trophy fish are not as great as they used to be.
If you look up the Lower Laguna Madre near Port Mansfield, you would find there is a rich history of big trout production and recent trends due to our next factor show it producing more than ever. This is the kind of area that fits perfectly into a F.L.E.X. scenario.
An area not managed for big fish will not consistently produce big fish. There is simply too much intelligent angling pressure out there to make this possible.
Guides in eastern Louisiana advertise tro-phy specks with photos at sports shows and on their websites. However, the fish they are showing are a rarity in those areas because the state allows a harvest of 25 trout per day in that region of the state.
Big fish are not common. If you go to southwestern Louisiana near Lake Calcasieu, however, anglers can only retain 15 and only two 25 inches or larger. This area is a big trout haven, similar to the Lower Laguna Madre which cut the trout bag limit from 10 to five. It has seen a huge rebound in mature fish putting it way over Aransas Bay for trophy fish. Any of the key water bodies that produce big fish will have a management principle in place.
This ties in with two types of location: water body and specific spots on a water body. Nowadays it is rare to find a water body that produces lots of big fish that is lightly pressured. In the information age, people find out about big catches in real time and respond accordingly.
Sabine Lake gets a lot of pressure but the deep water areas in the Sabine-Neches Waterway do not and they give up the best fish to the small group of anglers that target them. The shorelines get beat up but quite often the areas where the biggest bass dwell get little pressure.
A dream scenario is a water body that gets very little angling pressure and a specific location on it that gets even less. I fish a stretch of distant bayou in the Louisiana marsh for flounder and rarely see other anglers. Even fewer are targeting the deeper cuts I focus on and it in turn produces lots of big fish. These places are rare but special.
Fish are driven by a variety of seasonal urges and fishing at the proper time in particular areas can literally enhance the chance of catching monster fish tenfold. Probably the best example for trout is their propensity to inhabit deep water in the ship channels during winter and move onto mud flats in the shallows when high tides abound on sunny days. While the fish can be hard to catch deep in the winter, they will feed sometimes surprisingly aggressively on flats under these conditions. Most of the fish tend to be larger than average with very few small ones joining in.
For the anglers with a dream to catch their biggest trout ever it offers a shot at eliminating small fish and targeting a potential concentration of large ones.
Similarly, the nearshore oil and gas platforms on the Upper Texas and Louisiana coasts offer a shot at big fish during the summer. There are only about two really good months of this action and it can be tough to find days when it is calm enough to fish but for those anglers seeking super specks this is a golden opportunity.
This is the wild card of our destination selection process. Natural phenomena occur that can be extremely valuable in your quests. They are not common but when they happen, you need to be on the water.
Savvy bass anglers know that when reservoirs experience prolonged drought and then go back up to pool level, what is known as the "new lake effect" occurs. The system for several years becomes super rich in habitat and nutrients due to the vegetation that grew on the lake bed during the drought. The lakes become red hot producing monster bass for a season or two. At the time of this writing, Lake O.H. Ivie near San Angelo, TX was going through one of those production spikes and produced more Sharelunkers than any lake in Texas during the 2009-10 season.
You are probably wondering why I am mentioning bass in a saltwater publication. Hear me out...
All fish share a few key traits of each specie's behavior even though they are physically different. By studying bass, which have had more research done on them than any other species by far, you can learn things that apply to speckled trout and other species, as well.
Bay systems get their own "new lake" effect often times after a major hurricane strike. What seems like pure tragedy can actually have benefits for a variety of species, trout included.
Let us take 2005's Hurricane Rita, for example. It caused huge damage to the area surrounding Sabine Lake, however, in the following couple of years there was a boom in trophy trout production. Why? For starters, the super pressure that abounds on the lake in the fall was cut to nearly nothing as very few anglers pursued fish. Tens of thousands of trout were left to grow.
Secondly, the next couple of years saw a gigantic increase in forage. Despite fish kills produced by the storm, the shrimp and menhaden population boomed in a huge way. Something about the storm kicked them up a notch.
Thirdly, a theory of mine is Rita (and Ike after it) put a bunch of the surf run trout into the lake. That fall we caught big, muscular fish that were light silver, like the ones we usually catch in the surf. Our bay trout are typically darker and thinner. We literally had a fresh stock of fish brought in by the storms that gave our fishery a boost.
If an angler can line up three of these factors he or she stands a good chance of selecting an area where big trout roam in numbers large enough to give them a better than average shot at catching them.
The F.L.E.X. Fishing system is for thinking anglers who want to catch the fish of a lifetime. The power is within you to make it happen.
For more information on F.L.E.X visit www.flexfishing.com.