The news hit like a bolt from the blue, and Tim Champagne’s story about catching gigantic mangrove snapper Wednesday off the Louisiana coast will echo across the Deep South and possibly around the world.
Facebook brought the first word: Champagne was with veteran charter skipper Andre Boudreaux, the former owner of Boudreaux’s Marina in Cocodrie. They were using live croakers and targeting mangroves.
Word was that mangroves were active, and there was loads of action before Champagne tied into another hard-fighting mangrove, a fish that took a little more time to battle and land than the earlier fish they’d put in the ice chest.
Reason is that the Lafayette fisherman was tangled up with a fish that, when weighed, hit 18.63 pounds, certainly heavy enough to drop Mike Lorio Sr.’s 14.36-pounder into second place in the State Top 10 Fish Records. Lorio’s catch held the No. 1 spot for more than seven years.
Champagne’s fish was identified by a state biologist and paperwork forwarded to the Louisiana Outdoors Writers Association’s Fish Records Committee.
The size of the fish prompted another check: a look at the International Game Fish Association’s all-tackle record for mangroves. Champagne’s catch, if submitted and approved, will stand as a world record, bettering the 17-pounder taken by Steve Maddox on the Atlantic side of Florida in 1992.
Hundreds, maybe more, fishermen will show up at Grand Isle in the next weeks before school begins in August.
For some, ATB will be the approach, the anything-that-bites trip to make the trip worth the trouble, but speckled trout will continue to be the main target, and the action on specks has waned in the past three weeks.
Baton Rouge native Tommy Vidrine, who launched a successful inshore charterboat operation in the past handful of years, came in Friday with two trout that made the Grand Isle Tarpon Rodeo leader board.
Even better was he gave a hint of how he and Blake Rymer, a young man competing in his first rodeo, caught their fish.
“I made a trial run Wednesday to scout areas and caught 10 trout, maybe the biggest a pound and a half,” Vidrine said.
That trip told him to change his tactics for the rodeo to a plan that included what he called “special” shrimp, larger-than-usual live shrimp from Bridge Side Marina.
“We caught the 4-pounder just before dark Thursday and went back to the same area this morning and caught the 4-4 about 7:15 (Friday morning),” Vidrine said.
That was just the first step in the plan. Reading the water from Elmer’s Island west to The Fourchon, Vidrine said clearer water wasn’t the place to be.
“The water in some areas is too green, too clear, and so many other fish are in there the speckled trout don’t have a chance,” Vidrine said.
It’s the competition from other fish like small jack crevalle, Spanish mackeral and some small sharks and bluefish that makes it hard for trout to get to the bait from the fishermen.
“I’m fishing water that’s not that clear, a little cloudy, and that’s where the fish appear to be,” Vidrine said.
WMA road closures
High water and the need for roads repair will close access areas on three wildlife management areas, the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries announced late last week.
Po-Boy Road on Pearl River WMA will close Monday, and further high water-caused closures are set for the Richard Yancey WMA in Concordia Parish on Hogpen Lake, Lac-A-Sostien, Goose Lake, Blount, Catfish Bayou, Dobbs Bay and Ross roads.
High water and repairs closed Alligator Bayou Road on the Dewey Wills WMA.
The LDWF’s website www.wlf.louisiana.gov/wma will update openings and closures.
The LDWF has set a 4:30 p.m. Aug. 21 deadline for physically challenged deer hunters to submit an application for a hunt on the Sabine Wildlife Management Area, and a 4:30 p.m., Sept. 4 deadline for applications for a similar hunt on the Camp Beauregard WMA.
The LDWF advisory carried restrictions limiting the Sabine WMA hunt to physically challenged hunters, while the Camp Beauregard hunt is only for qualified disabled veterans.
The Sabine hunts are set for Oct. 10-11, and the Camp Beauregard hunt is set for Nov. 7-8.
The application form, along with a $5 administrative fee, must be sent to LDWF’s Wildlife Division, Lottery PCH Deer Hunts, P. O. Box 98000, Baton Rouge, LA 70898-9000. Applications are available on the LDWF website: www.wlf.louisiana.gov/hunting/lottery-hunts.
The advisory also said that applications “will be screened by Hunters Enriching Lives of People to determining qualifications. Hunting will be from assigned ground blinds, which are provided, and volunteers and LDWF staff will be on hand to assist hunters with accessing blinds and recovering deer.
Call Jeff Johnson (318) 371-3051 for more information.