GRAND ISLE — There’s nothing like beating a deadline, and Chad Matherne beat one Friday to claim the top spot in wahoo going into Saturday’s third and final day of the 87th International Grand Isle Tarpon Rodeo.
Matherne’s 51-pound, 2-ounce bluewater catch hit the scales at the Sand Dollar Marina just two minutes before weighmaster Marty Bourgeois was set to close up shop at 8 p.m.
The Bayou Gauche fisherman touched off a wild celebration from his crew.
It wasn’t the only whooping and hollering during the rodeo’s second day.
Take Bootsie Toups. The Marrero fishermen is more closely tied to big speckled trout when it comes to this rodeo. He has busted the leader board with hefty trout enough times to claim at least some ownership of that category.
But trout have been hard to come by in late July, so he went to Plan B.
He went looking for flounder.
“I know where some flounder are, and I went along (La.) Highway 1 and found a couple of good fish,” he said. “I wanted something to put on the board.”
The biggest wahoo weighed in the rodeo and Toups’ 2-pound flatfish only proved that it’s not the size of the catch that counts. There were as many “oohs” and “aahs” over the flounder as there were for the wahoo.
Tommy Vidrine, the Baton Rougean turned Grand isle charterboat skipper, came in earlier in the day with two solid speckled trout, nothing that would unseat Raymond Galatas’ 5-pounder, but the two hard-earned 4-pounders filled out that category and made it tough for any angler to crash that list.
“I made a trial run Wednesday to scout areas and caught 10 trout, maybe the biggest a pound and a half,” Vidrine said, adding that he decided to change his tactics for the three rodeo days.
Big shrimp was the plan, and Vidrine said “the special shrimp I got from Bridge Side Marina made the difference.
“We caught the four-pounder just before dark Thursday and went back to the same area this morning and caught the 4-4 about 7:15,” he said.
Blake Rymer from Baton Rouge caught that 4-pounder.
How special was it?
“I’m fishing my first rodeo, and that afternoon trip was my first time trying to catch a rodeo fish,” Rymer said.
Vidrine added a tip for other trout pursuers: “We ended up Friday morning with 20 trout, all 3 to 4 pounds. 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, I’m fishing water that’s not that clear, a little cloudy and that’s where the fish appear to be.”
So despite a call for rougher conditions Saturday and many other fishermen vowing to head out for the final day, there were some for whom two days on the water was enough.
David Yarbro is among the folks planning to stay on terra firma Saturday, even after taking all three places in wahoobefore Matherne rolled up to the weighstation.
“We left at noon Thursday and ran 100 miles out looking for rips,” the young Capital City fisherman said. “We caught 16 yellowfins, a pile of blackfins and the wahoo. The wahoo aren’t giants, but they’re good fish for this time of year.”
And what now?
“Drink beer and catch crabs,” Yarbro said, knowing full well that blue crabs have started their midsummer run along the Grand Isle beaches.
Ivy St. Romain is among the group heading out for the final shot at the leader board. He’s got his name there but said that Blu Rebel Charters isn’t done yet despite two somewhat frustrating days in the Gulf of Mexico.
“We ran a long, long way — maybe 75 miles — looking for blue water and couldn’t find it and decided to fish in the green water,” St. Romain said. “We wound up back in 60 to 65 feet of water and hauled in the top two jack crevalle. But it was rough out there.”
His first-place jack weighed 27-10, and his brother-in-law Dacques Nini’s 24-14 was second. Nini traveled from Houston to fish the rodeo.
The tarpon hunters put up three more tarpon Friday, a fifth place 72-pounder and two for the Tag & Release Division, the first one coming from Michael Chauvin.
The scales for the country’s oldest fishing event will close at 6 p.m. The final celebrations will follow during the awards ceremonies at the rodeo’s pavilion on the east end of the island.