Youngsters take spotlight at Fourchon rodeo

PORT FOURCHON Smiles on children’s faces provided the only sunshine for the two-day run of the 65th annual Golden Meadow-Fourchon Tarpon Rodeo that ended Saturday.

Two solid days of downpours, squally, monsoonal-like rain, plagued this annual fishing celebration built around the Fourth of July holiday.

And while the adults struggled to fill up the usually competitive Blue Water and Shoreline divisions’ categories — and no tarpon made it to weighmaster Marty Bourgeois’ scales — youngsters from as far away as Madison, Miss., Baton Rouge and Plaquemine held their own with the best young anglers Bayou Lafourche communities send to this competition.

While Koby Bruce of Galliano and Abigail Bouzigard of Cut Off took home the top boys and girls awards in the Children’s Division, Plaquemine’s Bailee Collins was proud of her 2-pound, 6-ounce speckled trout, second in that category, and Caldwell Carter’s second-place, 12-ounce white trout lit up the afternoon gloom. Paxton Thompson, the Mississippi kid, earned first and third spots in Flounder with 2-2 and 1-8 catches.

“She fished hard and she fished in the rain,” proud papa Rennie Carter said of his 5-year-old daughter. “We were forced to stay in the Flotation Canal and in Bayou Lafourche because of the weather and because that was the only clear water we could find. Every other place we checked was nasty, dirty water.”

That was sharp contrast to what anglers found on the Fourth, the day before Friday’s rodeo start.

“It was great Thursday. We caught 50 (speckled) trout on VuDu Shrimp and thought we could do the same Friday,” Baton Rouge fisherman Rusty Tucker said. “Boy, were we wrong.”

Capital City physician Brent Bankston, the rodeo’s Admiral this year, was cooking in Saturday’s Rodeo King of the Catch competition and not far offshore on his new 52-foot Cabo Express.

“We went out Friday thinking we could find a lull between the passing storms, but that didn’t last long,” Bankston said. “It started with 3-to-4 foot seas and it got worse, so bad that we had to turn around and start back. It got worse, and we were in 5-to-7 foot seas and the waves were breaking over the bow. You can’t fish in that.”

Apparently nobody else could either: The Big Game Division, usually the crowd-attractors at the weighstation, had only two small entries.

Still, if there was an “undaunted award” it should have gone to the Helldivers, the long-standing New Orleans-based dive club. The Helldivers swept every spot in the Scuba Division, an unprecedented feat for the GMFTR.

“Yes, it was choppy, and it got a little rough late in the day, but we knew we had a one-day window to get after the fish,” HD veteran Rafe Antil said. “We were in the Ship Shoal and Eugene Island areas, and we wanted to compete, wanted to support this rodeo because it means so much to our members.”

Most of the fish the Helldivers brought to the Fourchon Marina were taken Friday.

If most of the deep-water anglers were left wishing and hoping at docks and camps from Leeville to Grand Isle, the inside marshes provided enough action, even to the point of deciding one of the rodeo’s top awards.

Janey Guidroz of Larose weighed in the rodeo’s final fish, a 2-pound bass, just a minute before the 6 p.m. weigh-in deadline. It took first place in that Inside Division category and knocked Chackbay’s Hunter Andras back a spot in the standings, a move that possibly cost Andras a shot at an Outstanding Fisherman Award.