Storm Randall was a nurse, 40 years at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital in Baton Rouge.
He’s retired, and he likes to say he’s a full-time husband to his wife — and he’s a bass fisherman down into his bones.
Somehow all that didn’t mesh so many years ago, then he found a way to make it work — the Friday Night Cookie Jar at False River.
The gray hairs among us need no explanation. “Cookie jar” tournaments were just that: fishermen would show up, throw a few bucks apiece into a jar, the guy running the thing would put a lid on the jar, tote it along in a boat while he (and sometimes a buddy) fished for three or more hours. Later, the guys who came in with the heaviest catch stuffed the cookie jar’s cash in their pockets.
By most reckonings, False River’s is the oldest among the double handful of late afternoon/nighttime bass goings-on in these here parts. Its 7 p.m.-midnight runs began at the old Bonaventure’s Landing.
Guy Perkins (God rest his soul) took it over in the 1990s, and when Bonaventure’s was closed, he moved it across the oxbow lake’s south end to the LA Express launch in Jarreau. About four years ago, Perkins asked Randall to continue this tournament’s now continuous 50-year-plus run.
“Guy knew Friday night was my night to fish,” Randall said Friday. “He knew I liked to fish, and with what I did, Friday night was perfect for me. So I did it.”
All the usual suspects show up Friday nights, and sometime there are more than the 10-12 boats, and Randall said his phone rang for a week with guys asking about this year’s start.
“I wanted to go March 27, but the virus hit before that, and, well, I remember the swine flu outbreak and (Hurricane) Katrina — I was working then — and remember what a strain it put on the hospitals,” he said.
So he decided to postpone: “It just did not make sense to put life in jeopardy for fishing.
“It hurt to do that, to postpone, because there are guys like me who lived to make the Friday night trip,” Randall said. “I pretty much gave up the daytime 100-degree in the (Atchafalaya) spillway fishing after got involved with Friday night. It filled my need to get away and not fight the heat.”
And that’s when Randall said he drew on his professional experience and the personal conflict of bringing a group together amidst today’s warnings about social interaction.
“It’s twofold,” he said. “I have friends still doing the work I did, and I pray for them every day. They’re taking a beating much more than us.
“Still, I know some (weekly) tournaments kept going, but I couldn’t do that. The guys who show up on Friday night are my friends, and I knew all it would take was one of those guys to come and ...”
He stopped there. He didn’t want to say “infect” or “spread” then continued: “I wouldn’t know how I would deal with myself if I let that happen.”
So, for today, the Friday night is on hold. Randall said he has a Facebook page and enough telephone numbers in his cellphone to let the “regulars” know about 2020’s season opener.
“I’m thinking about it. I know the governor wants to reopen some things May 1, but I haven’t made a decision,” he said. “But I know I will be in control of the situation. I know there will be a minimum of contact. We’ll collect (the entry fee) in a drop box and I’ll handle the money with gloves, have hand sanitizer and wipes to make sure we can stay safe.
“When guys come to weigh (their catch), they will put the fish in a basket and back off, not six feet, but more like 10 to 15 feet. My fishing buddy Stuart Woodman will weigh the fish, put the basket back on the ground and back away. We’re going to do this properly, and if somebody comes to this tournament and doesn’t exhibit the proper things to do, if they don’t act right, we’re going to tell them to go somewhere else.”
Randall said he’s been touring the roads around False River and said he was surprised to see “seven to eight people in a ski boat on the river. It just looks like the younger people aren’t paying attention. We’re not going to have that. At night, we pretty much have the river to ourselves.”
The tournament usually doesn’t have more than 12 boats, but opening the Cookie Jar might attract more than the usual crowd.
“I know people want to get out, know that fishing can be a way to ease the stress, and there’s nothing wrong with family members fishing together,” Randall said. “I just want to be safe, to keep my friends healthy. I shut us down before the call to ban large gatherings.
“I spent all my adult life caring for people to make them better not make them worse, and I would have to live with that if something happened to one of our fishermen,” he said.
“Right now, though, I wish we could give the coronovirus to gnats. They’re eating us up.”
Looks like the island will open up to allow some activity, mostly for the camp-owning folks.
With restrictions like a 6 p.m.-9 a.m. curfew, it’s not likely Grand Isle’s solons want anyone to come fishing just yet. And you won’t be able to ride those souped-up golf carts up and down the island.
Rainfall in the vast Mississippi River drainage will keep the river extra high for the foreseeable future.
The Ohio River remains at flood stage at Cairo, Illinois, and that will mean a slower fall in the lower Mississippi. Saturday’s respective readings on the Baton Rouge and New Orleans gauges was 42.8 and 16.8 feet, with the May 22 projection at 31.3 feet at B.R. and 12.8 at N.O.
State Wildlife and Fisheries folks want to get youngsters along with professional and amateur photographers to submit images to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Louisiana Scenic Rivers Act.
The Louisiana Natural and Scenic Rivers System photo contest with a category reserved for young photographers 15 or younger on or after June 1 and one for older photogs.
The announcement indicated submitted photographs “must be taken within the boundaries of the state, and should portray the wildlife, fisheries, natural habitats or recreational opportunities Louisiana's natural and scenic rivers provide.”
The LDWF’s entry website: wlf.louisiana.gov/page/myscenicriver. For a scenic rivers list and a map, go to: wlf.louisiana.gov/page/scenic-rivers-descriptions-and-map.
Entry deadline is June 1.