The subject line of the e-mail was so impressive that it sounded suspicious. It read: 5 Trout -- All Over 30 Inches.
The skeptic in me said trash it without looking. The fisherman inside told me take a peek.
Within seconds, a string of pictures popped up on the computer screen displaying the same guy holding five different speckled trout of enormous proportions. The collage was accompanied by an explanation from the lucky angler, Bill Pitts of Huntsville. Here's a summary of his message:
"I have caught five trout in the last 12 months over 30 inches, the largest going 32 inches and weighing 11 pounds, 3 ounces," Pitts wrote. "I thought you might be interested in my story."
I don't have a wealth of experience in dancing baits across the fish-filled bays up and down the Texas Coast. But I have rinsed enough salt out of my hair to recognize a good fish story when it falls in my lap. Pitts' tale is a classic.
Catching one trout that measures 30-plus inches from lip to tail is a career goal many veteran salts spend a lifetime trying to accomplish. Few do it.
Reeling in five of the big sows inside a year's time is almost unheard of. I relayed the message to Pitts in my e-mail response.
"That's outstanding -- get ready to divulge your secrets," I wrote.
Pitts, 51, is a veteran angler and hunter who owns a custom embroidery shop in Huntsville. He has a second home in Port O'Connor and goes there almost religiously on weekends to satisfy an addiction that bit him years ago -- wade fishing.
"I'm eaten up with it," Pitts said. "I've been wade fishing most of my life and caught lots of big fish, but this last year has really been wild."
Almost surreal in a sense.
Until spring of last year, Pitts had only read about Texas specks measuring longer than 30 inches. Between April 16 and May 19, 2007, he caught three of them himself.
Respective measurements and weights of the trout were 31 inches, 9 pounds, 4 ounces; 32 inches, 11 pounds, 3 ounces; and 30 inches, 8 pounds, 6 ounces.
"I had wade fished since I was in high school and never even seen a 30-inch trout, then I go out and catch three of them over a span of 32 days," Pitts said. "I don't really know what to attribute it to, either. I like to think I'm doing something right. But a lot of it has to be luck and probably a force much higher than that."
Luck might've been involved, but Pitts' selection of water, timing and a choice of fishing guide also could be serious factors.
The two biggest fish came from what many consider to be the top spot for trophy trout along the Texas coastline -- Baffin Bay. The fishing is outstanding at Baffin year-round, but late winter through spring is when the odds of connecting with a career trout are always best.
The massive bay system spikes inward off the western edge of the Upper Laguna Madre and is surrounded by the famous King Ranch. A pair of state record trout have been caught in or near Baffin, including the current record of 15.60 pounds. Carl Rowland caught the 37.25-inch giant in 2002 while fly fishing a little farther down the land cut in the Lower Laguna.
Pitts does most of fishing with a group of Sam Houston State college buddies -- Loyd Vancil of Houston, Bill Autrey of Needville, Danny English and Paul Kooi, both of Huntsville. The men booked a trip with fishing guide Walt Kalinowsky last April in hopes of catching their personal best specks.
They timed it perfectly. There was a new moon, skies were overcast and the waist-deep flat was churning with bait, primarily mullet.
"The five of us waded side-by-side and caught 20 trout over 25 inches on topwaters, but for some reason I was the one who caught the bigger ones," Pitts said. "Over a period of two days, I had a pair of 29-inchers, a 31-incher and a 32-incher on a orange Skitterwalk. It was phenomenal. But I have to tell you, my buddies were about to drown me by the time we got out of there."
Pitts' streak continued through May, when he landed his third 30-incher in slightly more than a month's time. He caught it on a bone-colored Zara Spook Jr. while fishing a backwater lake at Port O'Connor.
"At that point I'm thinking, 'Man, what is the deal?'" Pitts said. "I don't claim to be a better fisherman than any of those guys, but something is going on here."
Then Pitts tacked on a fourth 30-incher late this winter, when the group made a return trip to Baffin Bay. He caught the 9-pound, 8-ounce sow on Feb. 4, also on an orange Skitterwalk.
"The fourth one made me started wondering would it be possible for me to to catch five trout over 30 inches in less than a year?" Pitts said. "I thought, naaahhh, no way."
Amazingly, however, it happened. On April 7, the group found themselves waist deep in familiar water along the fringes of one of the world's most famous ranches. It was around 10:30 a.m. when Pitts' bone-pattern Top Dog Jr. disappeared in a violent explosion that had monster trout written all over it.
At 31.5 inches, the 9-pound, 8-ounce fish does not rank as Pitts' biggest speck. But it stamped an exclamation point on a rollercoaster episode in his life that has trout masters everywhere pondering their game plans.
"It's been a crazy ride I've been on," Pitts said. "Now I can't help but wonder if it is over."
Next spring will tell.
? Matt Williams' e-mail address is email@example.com.
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