Once again, I was able to be part of this outstanding event where everyone’s mantra was “Save the ta-tas!”
Yes, you read that right. It’s the universal slogan for the annual ladies’ fishing rodeo hosted on Grand Isle, Louisiana by the Community Development Team during Columbus Day weekend, and this year was the seventh year they’ve done so. The purpose of the rodeo is to collect money that goes directly to patient services in five area hospitals. This year, the event drummed up enough money to donate $5,000 each to the Chabert Foundation, Houma Mary Bird Perkins Center, Thibodaux Regional Cancer Center, the Wig Room at Our Lady of the Sea, and lastly, the Patrick Taylor Hope Lodge.
This event has grown by leaps and bounds since the first one, which I fished back in 2007. When I participated again in 2012, I was so surprised at the huge increase in the number of participants. For example, in 2007, it only took two hours on the second day to weigh in all the competitive fish caught in those two days. But this year, it took two afternoons (about 10 hours) to weigh in the contender fish.
The women who fish this rodeo are from all over Louisiana, with some from out of state, and from every walk of life–from doctors to homemakers. No matter what their profession, one thing they have in common is their love for fishing, and man does it show!
Some of the ladies haul their own boats down from which to fish, while others fish with friends who have boats already on the island, and the rest hire local fishing guides to take them out. The U.S. Coast Guard estimated 200 boats fishing inland this year, which doesn’t include all the boats that went out into the Gulf to fish the blue water.
Again this year, Capt. Choupiquer was generous enough to take me and a small group of women fishing. Joining me this year were two ladies from Lafayette who have charter fished with me about three times down here in my home waters during the past year. They brought with them a third lady who has never caught a fish in her life, and we were determined to change that fact during our trip Saturday morning.
First things first, and on Friday afternoon Capt. Choup and I went cast netting for bait fish. Much to our disappointment, there were no live porgie anywhere, and that is a bad sign since that meant the fish we would be targeting would also be elsewhere. Not to be discouraged, we headed out to scout a couple spots. However, our trip was cut short due to high winds, rough seas and not a sign of a trout or redfish anywhere.
Fortunately, Mother Nature was definitely on our side Saturday morning, as the winds laid down and the rains didn’t come that far south. While Grand Isle sits right on the Gulf of Mexico, we opted to stay closer inland and fish his trusted honey holes. Catching fish is really just a bonus, because for die-hard fisher women, it’s not just about hauling in the “bull red” for the leader board, but more about just being out on the water, communing with the elements and good friends.
Early Saturday morning we met up with Capt. Choupiquer and boarded the boat, already loaded up with live bait shrimp and cocahoe minnows for our trip. First stop was a trout hole, and guess who caught the first fish?
No, not me, but our novice fisher women, Jo. Even though she was soft-hearted, concerned about whether the hook hurt the fish’s mouth, her concerns were short-lived as the trout snatched her bait, one after the other. Before long, she had nine fish to her credit, and I think we can safely say she was hooked!
The half-day fishing went well with our total count for the day about 20 speckled trout, two keeper reds, and one flounder.
Seems like there is always a new experience when I fish down that way, and this time, it was seeing a ribbon fish for the first time, which novice Jo also caught.
Then there was this cute little mangrove snapper, which I caught.
One other fish, which I had never seen, was this one Capt. Choup called a “Look Down” or better known as a moon fish. It was a beautiful shiny silver and only about four inches long. They were caught in the cast net while looking for live porgie, and we threw them back.
This was the first ever rodeo for my friends Renee` and Joy, and I think they are also hooked and already making plans to participate on their own next year.
Despite the fact that no one caught a fish big enough to take to the official scales, we still had a great time and brought back a nice mess of fish.
This year over 1000 tickets were sold to the event, although 1000 women didn’t fish. Next year, who knows, this may grow to the point where the planners of the event can give away $30,000 to six deserving cancer centers. If you’ve never been to this event, then mark your calendars for next year. It’s always Columbus Day weekend and starts on Friday, but like us, you can fish on Saturday only if you can’t make it there any sooner.
The highlights of the weekend for me were watching a newbie learn to cast and catch multiple fish, watching these ladies reacquaint with fisher women from their hometown, and doing our part to support this outstanding event that in turn aids cancer victims who need a helping hand. Catching a winning fish, a raffle, or the best costume contest are all just lagniappe, in my humble opinion.
Hope to see some new faces there next year, but for now,