A ‘Dirty 30’ speck for my son and I

The author caught this spectacular, 30-inch speckled trout on a Sept. 1 trip.

Surprise lunker trout became a lifetime memory for author and his 10-year-old

“See, I told you that trout was 30 inches…she’s beautiful!”

My 10-year-old son said those words on a recent wade-fishing trip to Corpus Christi, Tex.

The trout he was referring too was a completely unexpected, 30-inch giant, but the expression afterwards was, for lack of a better term, inspiring.

Like most stories, this one started off fairly uneventful. Donuts and coffee broke up the monotony during the 21/2-hour drive down I-37 — a nice treat, especially after a 3 a.m. wake-up call.

Unfortunately, the complacency continued once we set foot on our flat. Mosquitos buzzed in the humid, salty air, acknowledging their freedom from the area’s typical, fierce wind. Aside from it being calm, bait and other birds of prey remained perched and lazy, complying with the Labor Day weekend vibe. Simply put, conditions were ideal, but the fishing was not.

Truth be told, the fishing remained tough until 10 a.m. when a mid-morning shower formed over Corpus Christi Bay. Clouds and distant thunder covered the area, but the 20-knot wind gave us relief from an already scorching sun and, better yet, terrible fishing.

As we continued down our flat, we focused our efforts by casting to a secondary ledge in about 4 to 6 feet of water. For the most part, this ledge followed the contour of the primary grass line, with some areas having more diversity in texture. Additionally, a small break between two spoil islands gave us some much needed water flow.

The adjustment

Seeing this, I decided to make an adjustment and power-finesse a Ned rig. I chose a 1/10-ounce, ZMan Ned LockZ jighead and a deal-colored ZMan Finesse TRD. For my son, I chose a slightly heavier weight, 1/6-ounce, with the same tail so he could still cast easily.

Sharing his big trout with his son, Ramsey, was as special as catching the beast.

Shortly after making the adjustment, we were both greeted with barely legal, 15-inch trout, and my son caught a beautiful, 19-inch flounder. After making his mama happy with the flounder, he caught another half-dozen smaller fish, and I started to dial up a consistent bite with a trout from 15 to 17 inches on every tenth cast or so. Content with some action, we talked less about fishing and more about life.

Sharing the passion for fishing

As a military child — and the oldest of three — he’s borne the brunt of an Air Force officer’s life. In his 10 years, he’s attended 6 different schools and moved almost as many times. Despite all of that, he’s been perpetually optimistic.

Additionally, as the oldest, he’s witnessed my passion for trophy trout and my efforts to share that passion with others through Speckled Truth. He knows about the Dirty 30 trout citation program and often hears me talk about anglers who participate. Instead of traditional “chores” like taking out the trash, he helps me pack boxes filled with Dirty 30 “rewards” and bring them to the post office.

Which is why, when I set the hook on a big trout, he saw the unmistakable thrash of a violent head shake. Less than 10 feet separated us, and he could hear the shakiness of my voice when I gave him a command. I was nervous, and he was nervous for me.

He kept shouting, “Dad, that’s a Dirty 30!”

As I tried not to lose focus on fighting the fish, I answered, “No way, and please don’t say it again, son!”

But he continued. “Oh my gosh, Dad! That trout is huge! I think that’s a 30!”

The tape doesn’t lie

Finally, I landed the fish, beaching her on a nearby shore, and right by my side, my son stood, encouraging me. I quickly got out my seamstress tape to get a few measurements, and as luck would have it, the third 30-inch trout of my angling career looked us both in the eyes.

Bringing humor to the situation, Ramsey, with perfect, comedic-like timing, said softly, “See, I told you that trout was 30 inches,” then grinned sheepishly.

Reflecting days later, there was absolutely no reason that trout should’ve been there, let alone eaten my offering. After years of personal study, from Solunar influence to angling technique, catch-data analytics and moon phase, if I were to cherry pick a day NOT to go catch a big trout, Sept. 1 would have met all of that criteria.

Make a memory

However, ALL of the criteria lined up for a father and son looking to bond. Why? Because it was when we could go. Trout, in all honesty, were the last thing that defined the day’s success, but in a twist of fate, they forged it forever as a life-long memory. The untimely death of popular Louisiana guide Theophile Bourgeois was tragic, but if we’ve learned anything from the surrounding events, we need to enjoy the things we love with the people we love. This was one of those days.

Before the long walk back to the truck, my son walked alongside my 30-inch trout all the way until she hit deeper water. I watched in the shade of the mangrove bank and as he drew near, he finished his quote from my opening line in this article.

He said, “She’s beautiful!”