GRAND ISLE – How many of your office buds tell you they can’t wait for 5 p.m. Friday — ah, the weekend.
Hunter McDonald’s got them beat; he can’t wait for 5 a.m. Friday, any Friday now that Louisiana has a Fridays-through-Sundays red snapper season.
“I live for Friday,” McDonald said while the two largest red snapper he and his buds caught, then weighed, in Friday’s closing hours of the second day of the 91st annual International Grand Isle tarpon Rodeo. What the recreational red snapper closure meant was Friday was the first “target” rodeo day for private recreational snapper fishermen.
“We had seven (fishermen) today and we limited out, all about the same size.” McDonald said.
Jake Noel, one of McDonald’s fishing group from Luling, was atop the leaderboard with two red beauties weighing 18 pounds, 12 ounces and 16-14, and McDonald said he expects challengers to those first- and second-place entries.
“We spent the night offshore, and that was enough. We’re done,” he said.
Maybe. Until next Friday.
“We caught red snapper, good ones, and had 45 blackfin tuna, the 14 snapper and about 10 mangroves, and we caught a lot of amberjack today and had to release them because the season is closed,” Gilbert Bustamante said. He was also on the boat with McDonald, and put up the top blackfin tuna, a 23 pounder.
With the Aug. 1 opening of the recreational amberjack season, McDonald said he’s ready to double down on next weekend’s trip.
“With all the Ajs (amberjack) we caught Thursday and today, we know where to go next weekend,” McDonald said. “I can’t wait.”
Minutes later, McDonald and his crew had a challenger. Brook Fuller made the trip from Vincennes, Indiana, to fish his first rodeo, and he delivered a knockout punch to the Luling crew.
Fuller’s 19-14 red snapper came with the promise “...that I’ll be back tomorrow with a bigger one.”
C’est la vie — rodeo style.
Then there’s the battle shaping up in the “other” snapper.
Prairieville’s Summer Stevens strained taking two mangrove snapper from his ice chest. The effort was worth every bead of sweat. His top mangrove went 9-8 and took over first place, again with the promise to return for the rodeo’s third and final day with a bigger fish.
That die-hard attitude was matched, maybe surpassed by Luca Perez, a young redhead who’s been patrolling the docks around the Sand Dollar Marina weighstation. He fished until the Children’s Division 3 p.m. weigh-in deadline the first two rodeo days and is dominating the hardhead catfish category, and he celebrated another catch Friday when he recorded another first-place fish.
Then, in Friday’s final minutes, the first big deep-water catch arrived.
Beau Baudoin’s crew weighed in a top-drawer group of yellowfin and blackfin tuna and dolphin to begin filling the Big Game Division.
“We left Thursday morning, spent the night out, and it was a little sloppy, but good. We caught five yellowfins, and we had a good day, a very good day.” Baudoin said.
And, in a rodeo known for its tarpon, and attracts the most ardent of Louisiana’s tarpon chasers, this year stands without one, and no one could remember any IGITR going two days without a silver king.