GRAND ISLE — Kurt Cheramie was all smiles at 9:15 Thursday morning.


For the third straight year, either he or his son Cory, rang the bell for the International Grand Isle Tarpon Rodeo with the rodeo’s first tarpon.

As Thursday’s first day of the 87th annual rodeo played out, Cheramie wasn’t the only fisherman smiling.

Lots of others, including his son Cory, who’s 154-pound tarpon pushed his dad’s 82-pounder down the leaderboard later in the day had that smile, too.

So did Brent Candies, the Thibodaux fisherman about “Coon” Schouest’s tarpon-hauling boat. Candies’ 165-pounder topped the leaderboard with two days left before the rodeo shuts down at 6 p.m. Saturday.

Candies’ story is legendary.

About halfway into the one hour, 40 minutes of battling the huge silver king, the handle on the reel broke, and he was forced to wind the brusier with just the aluminum arm attached to the reel.

Like the Cheramies, Candies showed the deep affection tarpon chasers have for their quarry.

For Cheramie, the catch was the second straight year, and the third time in the past five years, that he’s caught the International Grand Isle Tarpon Rodeo’s first tarpon.

To boot, Cory, brought in the rodeo’s first tarpon in 2013.

All fish came aboard the John and Jeff DeBlieux’s Rock ‘n Roll.

The fish hit the sclaes at the Sand Dollar Marina at 9:15 a.m. and weighed out at 82 pounds, 2 ounces.

“It’s not a big fish, but it’s the first fish, and that’s a fantastic feeling,” Kurt Cheramie said. “It’s always great, a great way to start the rodeo off right.”

Jeff DeBlieux said the the Rock ‘n Roll crew had a larger tarpon on earlier in the morning but that fish made one jump and got off.

“There were about 30 boats in the area, and we were the only one with fish. I guess we found the right pattern,” John DeBlieux said, adding that the 1-2 foot seas off Grand Bayou made running to and from the fishing grounds a problem.

“Once we were out there, it was OK, just getting there and back was a little bouncy,” Jeff DeBlieux said.

The DeBlieux brothers made the IGITR a trifecta of sorts after catching tarpon in south Florida and off Orange Beach, Alabama, this year.

“We know it’s a small tarpon. The first one we weighed last year was pushed back to fifth on the leaderboard by the end of the rodeo, but this is a great start,” John DeBlieux said. “We’re going back and will try for a bigger fish, and we have Friday and Saturday. Jeff had the first tarpon a few years ago, and we finsihed second and fifth that year. We want to do beter.”

Baton Rouge angler Matthew Kippinger was minutes behind the Rock ‘n Roll crew at the weighstation. His 29-2 bull redfish was the second fish of the day, but there’s no prize, no award for the first redfish. By day’s end, his fish was off the leaderboard.

Thursday’s leaderboard set the tone for the rodeo’s final two days, and left anglers hoping they wouldn’t face the same fate as did Kippinger.

Among them is Raymond Galatas, a die-hard angler from Reserve, who’s five-pound speckled trout topped that category.

“I’m happy. That’s the biggest speckled trout I’ve ever caught, and I lost won bigger than that,” Galatas said. “I’m going back tomorrow (Friday) and Saturday, too, looking for that one that got away.”

Kippinger will have to wait until the rodeo’s scales close at 6 p.m. Saturday to find out if his early hours catch is a winner among the rodeo’s 29 species categories.