Early storms hurt first day of Grand Isle rodeo

GRAND ISLE After Thursday’s early morning storms raked Grand Isle with 30-mph winds and torrential rain, the aftermath was a light, northerly, cooling breeze that brought a respite from July’s sweltering heat and humidity.

Great for comfort.

Bad for fishing.

And the first-day leader board for the 92nd annual Grand Isle Tarpon Rdoeo showed it.

While there was a flurry in the final three hours of the 12-hour marathon for weighmasters Marty Bourgeois and Steve Hein, the first several hours produced nothing but boredom. Only five fish — a sheepshead, three gafftopsail catfish and a black drum — were on the board at 3 p.m.

Although there were a near dozen categories empty — and wind-blown downpour has to shoulder most of the blame for that — there were anglers, their catches and their stories to make this rodeo’s first day memorable.

Included in that mix was a fish that didn’t survive the late-day rush to the scales.

Sydney Waguespack, the 12-year-old daughter of Assumption Parish sheriff Mike Waguespack, braved the elements with her dad and showed up to the scales smiling and holding what turned out to be a 2-pound sheepshead that topped the leader board.

“I got wet, but we went out in the afternoon into Barataria Pass. We had a good time, and I caught this fish,” she said.

Her catch was wiped off the board by the time the scales closed at 8 p.m.

Lance “Coon” Schouest did make a morning-time appearance at the scales. Usually this most respected tarpon angler brings something when he comes. Not Thursday.

“When we looked at the weather early this morning, I told my crew not to worry about getting up,” Schouest said. “We were going to let the winds settle. It was just too rough.

“A couple of boats went out, and they said there were four-foot seas and turned around and came back,” Schouest added.

“The fish (tarpon) are only seven or eight miles away (from Barataria Pass), and there’ll be plenty of time in the next two days to catch them and keep the rodeo’s namesake on the board.”

Thursday was the first time in four years that a tarpon didn’t hit the leader board in the rodeo’s first two hours.

Most anglers followed Schouest’s lead. Royce Rispone from Central didn’t.

“It was bad in the morning, but it was a much better afternoon,” Rispone said after weighing in the top jack crevalle, a near 26 pounder. “There’s plenty of clean water out there and we found plenty of mangrove snapper.”

The rodeo runs through 6 p.m. Saturday.