Calling the salty, Gulf water refreshing would've been an exaggeration, but compared to the relentless August sun that beat down on us all day, the change of environment was a welcomed relief.
My fiancée Lisa Bartunek and I were fishing at an oil platform that sits 7 miles off of High Island when a large school of spadefish moved in. We had caught and released several small sharks and were on our way to a limit of Spanish mackerel. But seeing the spadefish gave me other ideas.
I always carry snorkeling gear and my Sea & Sea MX-10 underwater camera on offshore trips, and since the water was smooth and clear, the chance to photograph the pretty spadefish was too tempting to resist. Each time I dove down to photograph the spades, I could see a silver form about halfway down the platform leg. Curiosity finally got the best of me, so I took a deep breath and went down to see what it was.
As I descended, the silver form took the shape of a fish. At first I thought it might be a small kingfish or a wayward barracuda, but upon closer examination it proved to be a speckled trout.
A huge speckled trout.
It took a second for the magnitude of what I was looking at to set in. As I started to run out of air and ascend, the fish swam right next to the platform leg. It was nearly as long as the legs are wide! If this fish wasn't 3 feet long and 13 or 14 pounds, it was real close to being that big.
When I surfaced, Lisa asked if I had seen a big shark or something. She said I was as white as a sheet.
After telling her what I had just seen, she explained to me that NOAA radio had reported that a large thunderstorm was heading our way from Galveston. We had to leave.
This squashed my plans of going back down to photograph the fish, but I wasn't about to argue with Mother Nature. A gray wall of angry-looking clouds was building to the west and I could virtually feel the barometric pressure dropping by the second.
On the way home I could think of nothing but the monster trout I saw. Was it a state record? Could I have caught it if we had stayed? Would the fish be there when I went back? Why didn't I get a picture of it?
Each question seemed to spawn another and another until I found myself at home that night watching a show on the Discovery Channel about bio-engineering, and the scientists in Europe who are trying to create a "super sheep," an animal that would grow much larger than the average sheep and yield twice the wool.
Suddenly I found myself thinking, "If they can create a 'super sheep', why not a 'super trout'?"
After all, the introduction of Florida bass genes have practically doubled the size of bass in reservoirs throughout Texas and California. Why couldn't scientists isolate the growth genes in speckled trout and create a supreme subspecies to release into our bay systems?
Visions of the monster trout I encountered underwater stayed with me as I began a quest to learn more about the possibilities of the creation of a super trout, making what may seem like science fiction now, become reality in the future.
Define the Word "Super"
The first step of my quest was to define exactly what a super trout would be. Make no mistake, a super trout would have to be a gargantuan fish. I'm talking about a fish that would command serious respect in a bay system, making schools of foot-long mullet really nervous. Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) officials have labeled bass weighing 13 pounds or more as "lunkers," so I think a speckled trout weighing more than 10 pounds would qualify as a genuine "super trout."
But size isn't the only qualification. We're headed toward the millennium and there are many questions to be asked in regard to the health of our oceans, so this fish would have to be designed for the future. The super trout would have to be a more pollution- and red tide-resistant species than the run-of-the-mill speckled sea trout we have now. This fish would have to be able to tolerate the worst polluted areas-like the Houston Ship Channel- and red tide-prone areas-like the Laguna Madre -to thrive in the 21st century.
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