It’s not like Rudy Valenciano and his sons, Eric and Marcus, haven’t made the outdoors news during the last several years with their mangrove snapper-catching exploits.
Few south Louisiana saltwater fishermen dedicate as much time, effort and energy in pursuing these offshore battlers the way they do.
Yet, the Baton Rouge engineer said he and his sons never have faced the scenario Mother Nature has laid out in last few weeks off the Louisiana coast.
“We went out in late May to the usual spots where we catch mangroves and caught three fish,” Rudy Valenciano said Monday. “Then we went out for two days in the Swollfest (rodeo, June 6-7) and caught eight. That was four days of hard fishing for 11 mangroves. That’s not us.”
Valenciano came back from The Swollfest with tough news for anyone devoted to targeting a fish that usually sets up its late spring-early summer home around oil and gas platforms within an easy run of Grand Isle and Fourchon.
“The reports we were getting at Swollfest was that guys were catching mangroves on live croakers in bluewater,” Valenciano said. “So, when we started planning for the Catholic High Rodeo, we were having trouble dealing with the fact that we were going to have to run 40 miles out to catch mangroves. Man, that was going to be rough on this old man.”
But Mother Nature let the Valencianos off the hook this time.
With son Marcus in Houston attending to business, that left Eric and his dad searching for mangroves during Friday’s first day of the CHS event.
“We found nasty conditions ... no current, water that looked like pea soup ... and had a hard time finding fish,” Rudy Valenciano continued. “We caught 18 (the one-man limit is 10 per day), and what we found was that the mangrove we caught had eggs in them.
“That’s not supposed to happen now. Mangrove are not supposed to have eggs after the full moon in June,” he said. “I guess they’re just later than usual.”
That’s when the speculation started: Valenciano said he knows the spring brown shrimp season was later than normal, and that most of his inshore fishing buddies were, and are, having trouble finding big numbers of speckled trout.
“I don’t know what messes up a mangrove’s time clock. I’m not a scientist, but I know this cycle is late,” the elder Valenciano said.
What Friday’s action taught the crew was that the fish had moved into their usual haunts — oil and gas platforms in water 40-80 feet deep — and made Saturday’s trip less stressful. With Marcus back on the boat, the three set out knowing that they didn’t have to catch giant mangroves like they’ve done in past years to continue their domination of the CHS Rodeo “Mangrove Calcutta,” a game that demands self-named teams catch and collectively weigh five of their heaviest mangroves. Team Valenciano’s best five-mangrove rodeo weighed out at 54 pounds.
“We knew Friday that everybody was catching mangroves, but knew nobody was finding big ones,” Rudy V. said. “I thought if we could catch 47 pounds we’d win.”
The family’s effort didn’t reach that 47-pound comfort zone until the late minute.
“We were on the way back in when Eric said let’s make one, last stop at a place we’d caught good fish before about 10 miles out (of Belle Pass),” Rudy V. said. “Eric caught a 10.77 (pounder) on his first drop to go with another 10 pounder we had, a couple of 8s and another over 7.
“That made me feel good.”