Free fishing days come at right time _lowres

Advocate staff photo by John Ballance -- Offshore fisherman James Holt, from Morgan City, shows off the business end of a 29-pound barracuda he caught near an oil platform off the Louisiana coast on the second day of the three-day 2014 International Grand Isle Tarpon Rodeo. Holt's catch took over the top spot on the GITR leaderboard, but faced heavy competition to take the first-place trophy by the time the scales closed. The Grand Isle Rodeo, the oldest competitive saltwater fishing event in the country, headlines the state's list of summertime rodeos, but shares the summer's headlines with other such events that take place throughout the state's coastal communities.

Like all the other oddities Louisiana affords to residents and tourists alike, it’s not so odd to note Louisiana’s coastal fishing summer starts when some other folks in our country are just getting into spring.

It’s no big news that summer’s heat comes early to the Sportsman’s Paradise, so when the state’s tens of thousands of anglers are facing blistering 90-degree noontime temperatures and humidity high enough that the surrounding air cannot absorb perspiration, beating the sun to the morning horizon is a must-do in the first week of June and for the remainder of July, August and even into September.

What’s different between this June’s first week and last year’s is that speckled trout are biting. No. More than biting, they’re darned near jumping in boats.

“Last year I was talking about we’re not having any speckled trout,” Calmwater Charters skipper Danny Wray said. “Was I wrong. Spoke too soon. The fishing’s great this year. We’re catching fish behind the island.”

Excitement generated from catches in the early May Italian-American Fishing Rodeo in Hopedale paved the way for the kind of reports that mimic Wray’s comment and lead the way for families to hit the water in the first full week after school ended for youngsters across the southern parishes.

And just in time, too.

It’s National Fishing Week, and Louisiana’s major contribution to that celebration is the annual first-weekend-in-June Free Fishing Days, a one Saturday and one Sunday during the year when resident and nonresident fishermen do not need state fishing licenses to take from the state’s productive fresh, brackish and salty waters.

Even better, it’s rodeo time, and the Friday-Saturday mini-trial run of the Catholic High Alumni Rodeo is June’s kickstart to what should be an ultra-competitive rodeo summer.

Out west, ardent big-trout pursuers are getting ready for the big-money 30th-annual Lake Charles Trout Shoot-Out set Saturday out of Calcasieu Point Landing. If 300 register to take a shot at Calcasieu Lake’s giant yellowmouth trout, there’s $50,000 in the pot, including a $5,000 payout for the heaviest speck in the Adult Division. For the Youth Division winner, there’s a $2,000 education IRA. Organizers plan to pay 20 places in both divisions for overall and hourly winners throughout the 7 a.m.-1 p.m. weigh-in.

This CCA-sponsored event has registration locations at Lake Charles Tackle, Cajun Fast Mart, Cormie’s Grocery, Cajun Tackle, West Marine and at the landing. And you can go to the association’s website: www.CCALouisiana.com.

Back at Grand Isle, Wray’s home port, anglers are still crowing about the run on trophy fish from the island’s first big tournament, the Grand Isle Speckled Trout Rodeo held over the Memorial Day weekend.

Today, preparations are underway for the season’s first big offshore event, the Swollfest Fishing Rodeo. It’s set to go from Sand Dollar Marina June 11-13 with 5-7 p.m. weigh-ins set for June 12 and 13.

Organizer Dr. Nick Rauber said sponsorship levels remain open for Swollfest, which raised in excess of $100,000 last year for the American Diabetes and Muscular Dystrophy associations. Just last year, Rauber’s group also pushed $10,000 to Cancer Service of Greater Baton Rouge, and $6,500 to three other charities.

And Swollfest proceeds also enabled disabled U.S. Army veteran St. George Wells to make a trophy elk hunt.

“It’s because of the generosity of so many people that we’re able to carry on our mission of selfless giving,” Rauber said. “Every rodeo has grown in numbers to make Swollfest a premier family fishing tournament.”

The rodeo’s website is open for registration: www.swollfest.com.

If that’s not enough, then the annual Golden Meadow-Fourchon Tarpon Rodeo is ahead for the Fourth of July weekend out of Moran’s Marina at Fourchon, and the granddaddy of all fishing events in the country, the International Grand Isle Tarpon Rodeo comes up July 23-25.

It’s through these weeks that Wray will work as hard as anyone on Grand Isle.

The brainchild of Wray and his wife, Kristen, the annual Ride the Bull Extreme Kayak Fishing Tournament, launches from Bridge Side Marina on Grand Isle come Aug. 14-15.

In less than a decade, Ride the Bull has become the world’s largest “extreme” paddlecraft fishing event. It attracted nearly 700 anglers, some from foreign countries and most fishing from kayaks, to Caminada Pass to seek strikes from heavy-hitting and hard-battling bull redfish. The registration website, www.calmwatercharters.net, is open for registration.

The RTB also features GoPro Film Festival, the highlight of the Friday night (Aug. 14) registration and dinner.

Other June rodeos (check the calendar) include the annual Father-Daughter Rodeo (June 13, Moran’s Marina), the Family Fish Fest (June 13, Myrtle Grove), the open-water Kayak Trout Challenge (June 13), the inaugural Deputy Jeremy Triche Spots & Dots (June 13, Cocodrie) and the annual Blue Jay Rodeo (June 24, New Orleans).

To get your summertime fishing rodeo on the list, email: outdoors@theadvocate.com.