Fishing rodeo season about to hit high gear _lowres

Advocate staff photo by JOHN BALLANCE Jamie Gaspard of Pure Adrenalin Fishing Charters, left, and Brandon Rochner of League City, Texas, pose with a 204.55-pound Warsaw Groupe on Saturday, July 11. Rochner said it only took him about 15 minutes to land the fish. Rochner was fishing on the Danos fishing team in the Fourchon Oilman's association fishing tournament. The grouper was the first place fish. Money raised in the tournament help local schools and charitable organizations.

Louisiana’s most competitive three days of summertime fishing begin in seven days with the 87th annual International Grand Isle Tarpon Rodeo at, naturally, Grand Isle, and the 17th annual Faux Pax Lodge Rodeo in Venice.

There’s a lot more on the GITR coming Sunday. It’s a more expansive lineup than the Faux Pas Rodeo offers anglers, but competition for the top spots in both rodeos is equally fierce.

Both rodeos begin next Thursday and run through the evening of Saturday, July 25.

The Faux Pas offers something others rodeos don’t. It’s the “calcuttas” that draw an increasing number of saltwater fishermen from all five Gulf states.

This rodeo has the usual first-through-third places in nine individual species, but the bragging rights, the big money, comes in the “calcutta” combinations of three species in each inshore (speckled trout, redfish under 27 inches long, flounder), rig (cobia, king mackerel, red snapper) and offshore (tuna, dolphin, wahoo) division.

The toughest angle here is catching all three species. The top cumulative weight takes the pool of money in each division, and Faux Pas veterans have said for years that the Inshore Division is the toughest, if only because entered anglers have to fish three different areas to find big enough trout, redfish and flounder to — and you must have all three — to claim the gold.

Deep and slow

Steve Fontana teamed with Brad Buoy to win the annual Turner Industries bass tournament Saturday. Fontana said it was because they settled on a deep and slow summertime pattern in Belle River and the Intracoastal Canal.

“We caught the fish cranking, but not with crankbaits,” Fontana said, adding he’s using a vibrating head on a what most fishermen would call a “swimbait.”

Fontana said the way to beat surface water temperatures hitting 85 degrees is to find deep holes in the main channel.

“You need to be where the water is moving. It’s cooler there. Stay out of the pockets because the water is too hot. The fish have moved to deeper water and you have to let the bait settle to the bottom and crank it very slowly,” Fontana said.

Their winning stringer weighed 14.65 pounds, and, Fontana said, “We saw guys beating the banks and they came in with maybe seven pounds. I had 10 keepers and had two 4-pounders on the drop-offs.”

Big reds

Lance Reynolds of Larose took home the big money from the three-day Yellowfin Elite Series-Redfish Open held out of Leeville with a 15-redfish (5 per day) catch totaling 119.29 pounds. The 40-angler field fished the first two days, and only the top five fishermen survived to Saturday’s finale.

Former LSU football player Nicky Savoie finished second after surviving an early final-day scare when he spun the prop on his outboard at take-off time. Cypremort Point guide Steve Smith was at the launch and offered Savoie his spare prop, helped Savoie change out the prop and Savoie finished ounces behind Reynolds, who chalked up his second consecutive win on the circuit.

Don’t pull this trigger

For the first time in four years, offshore fishermen are finding gray triggerfish in numbers around deep-water platforms.

For the past month, reports continue from divers and rod-and-reel anglers about the increase in gray triggers, and, from the latter group, how eager the species is to take cut bait and Spanish sardines intended to lure mangrove snapper to circle hooks.

One report last weekend talked about a huge gray trigger that likely was a state-record catch.

But, you can’t keep ’em: Federal managers put gray triggerfish off limits throughout the Gulf of Mexico four months ago. And the state followed suit on the closed season.

One less WMA

Earlier this month, Department of Wildlife and Fisheries managers announced the agency decided to let the long-term lease lapse with Plum Creek Timber Company for the 10,000-acre Union Wildlife Management Area in Union Parish.

According to the LDWF, the timber company has plans to offer the land for lease to individuals or hunting clubs.

Notice anything new?

If you’ve purchased your 2015-2016 hunting and fishing licenses, did you find out that you can make a donation to the ever-expanding Hunters for the Hungry Program.

If you haven’t purchased your licenses, your donation will help this Baton Rouge-based group in gathering food for the needy, soup kitchens and homeless shelters around the state. Funds will be used to process deer in a project similar to the Donate a Deer Program that’s helped the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank provide venison to more than 100 kitchens in a 12-parish area for more than 15 years.

In the Baton Rouge area, the annual Clean Out Your Freezer Day is scheduled for the afternoon of Sunday, Sept. 27, the now 20-year anniversary of the event designed to help hunters — fishermen, too — donate frozen game and fish in advance of the approaching hunting seasons.