As we drifted along, I compared my technique to Panknin's. He's a bigger, stronger guy than I am, and when he whipped the rod tip to make the cork gurgle through the water, water whizzed off the line when it came taut. I struggled to get the line tight enough to make drops drip. Panknin boated one fish after another, but they were all undersized trout or hardheads. I was beginning to wonder if my kinder, gentler technique had a fatal flaw.
Then a fish picked up my shrimp and ran straight at me.
"It's a big red," I told Panknin.
However, when the fish tired and came to the boat, it flashed silver with black spots, not pink. And it went on forever.
"It's a 24-inch trout," I exclaimed.
"It's bigger than that," Panknin shouted as he grabbed the dip net.
Stretched out on the ruler, the fish went 28 inches with ease. Empty of eggs, it weighed in at a "mere" 6 pounds; when ready to spawn, it would have been that Boone and Crockett 10-pounder we all dream about.
Now is the time to go seeking those major mommas-to-be, Panknin said. "Trout are very temperature sensitive. They like 68- to 74-degree water and will do everything they can to find it. They start spawning when the temperature goes above 70. You have to watch the water temperature and catch them before they spawn, when they are the heaviest."
When seeking spring specks, Panknin says you must get up early. "The fish move up into shallow, grassy water and feed at first light. By 8:30 or 9:00, the water has warmed up and they leave the flats and move back to deeper water. You want to be where you want to fish at very first light," he stated. "That big trout you caught was exactly where it should have been at that time of day, in the shallow water on the back side of a spoil island."
Panknin compares trophy trout to trophy deer. "They didn't get that big by being stupid," he observed. Then he offered these tips for seeking sizable specks.
"I believe fish can hear you talking through the bottom of the boat," Panknin said. "With some wind and wave action, that sound is muffled. But on calm days, you will spook them. The noise factor is one reason wade fishing can produce a big fish - provided you slide your feet and be very quiet."
I heartily agree with Panknin's final words of wisdom.
"It's hard to tell somebody what to do," he said, "because there are so many things you do subconsciously. I couldn't walk into your office right now and do the job you do. You can't come to the coast once or twice a month and expect to do what I do for a living every day. Hire a guide, and do what he tells you to do."
(Editor's Note: You can contact Capt. Terry Panknin at 512-992-8368 or 1-800-992-8393.)
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