Pulling a big trout out of the vaunted waters of Baffin Bay requires the dogged determination and patience of a true fisherman. First there’s the drive from the nearest town of Riviera—population 700 and already on the edge of civilization. The trip then takes you down ten miles of narrow blacktop that forks to caliche paths before depositing you at whichever fishing lodge or motel you’ve chosen as your home base. There are no towering condos or sugary beaches in this remote area. Instead, these waters are fringed with tight rows of wooden piers that stick out from the jagged shorelines like spokes of a wagon wheel. Access to the prime waters is almost impossible without a boat, and by the time you reach those grassy shallows, the salt will be thick on your skin. Then you’re in the water with your guide, two specks wading through mudholes that suck at your feet until you settle on a spot. The soft current rolls into your thighs while coyotes yip and cattle bawl on distant shorelines. The Kenedy Ranch to the south. The King to the north. For a fisherman, the moment is spiritual. You throw your line again and again.
Hire a guide to ensure a stringer full of fish. Based on the bay, Les Cobb has collected decades of highly sought after fishing data in a GPS unit. More valuable yet may be his keen sense for when to “batten down the hatches and break out the gin,” advice he passed along to me when the fish weren’t biting.
While a boat is necessary to reach the money spot before golden hour, the best fishing happens standing in the water. Because speckled trout feed in schools, wade fishing is the most efficient way to work the shallows and get on top of the fish. Cobb motors out at sunrise so you can hit your limit before lunch.
Plenty of guides provide rods and reels (and can also charge a hefty fee if they fall into the water and require a professional cleaning to remove the salt that dries and hardens on the gears and bearings). A simple bait-casting reel works best. Consider bringing your own (inexpensive setups are available at any big outfitter).
The Trophy Fish
One of the holy grails of sport fishing is the ten-pound, thirty-inch Baffin Bay speckled trout—Cobb affectionately calls the big females “Suzy Sows.” For nearly three decades, Baffin was the source of the state record speckled trout, until a fisherman landed a fifteen-pounder in the Lower Laguna Madre in 2002.
The bay looks nearly the same as when the Karankawa fished it, owing to the King and Kenedy ranches, which own much of the land around the shore. A tiny strip of accessible western waterfront lodging exists thanks to a Minnesota developer who bought King Ranch acreage in 1907 in an attempt to build a Texas version of the French Riviera.