Big catches highlight second day of Grand Isle rodeo

GRAND ISLE —Grant Lynch is accustomed to seeing side-by-side racing in what he does to make a living.

But side-by-side tarpon turned out to be one of life’s great treasures Thursday.

Lynch is the chairman of International Speedway Corp., the operators of the Talladega Motor Speedway, and he traveled from his Alabama home earlier this week just to spend a day on the water with old friend Jerry McEwen from Memphis, Tennessee.

Their target was tarpon, and they picked a first-rate guide in Lance “Little Coon” Schouest, who was “on” silver kings in the waters between Grand Isle and the mouth of the Mississippi River.

In Friday’s morning calm, the 70-year-old Lynch added another chapter in the long and storied history of the International Grand Isle Tarpon Rodeo.

And it turned out to be more, much more than him claiming the top spot on the second-day leaderboard in the rodeo’s namesake species.

The back end of his story is his eye-opening 138-pound, 4-ounce, first-place tarpon, and that his old fishing buddy McEwen brought in a second-place 119-12 silver king.

His story’s front end is what forever deeply etched the trip in his memory.

“Both fish hit at the same time, and both were jumping at the same time. It was spectacular,” Lynch said.

“It was the most incredible fishing experience in my life.”

Friday’s second day of this oldest fishing competition in the country was free of the torrential rain-filled squalls that plagued the Louisiana coast throughout Thursday’s opening round.

The skies cleared, but stronger-and-stronger southwest winds began to blow and what started out as a grand day off the state’s Central Coast turned into a slugfest for the more than 1,000 rodeo fishermen.

Like most folks, Morgan City’s Ivy St. Romain had family and close friends aboard for the rodeo’s three-day run.

And they ran to deep water Thursday for a chance to weigh jaw-dropping fish.

“We went to bluewater the first day and found a good grass line, lots of bait, but no fish,” St. Romain said. “We thought we would see a blue marlin, maybe a wahoo, but the only thing we caught was a (bull) dolphin.”

OK, settle for a fish some call “mahi mahi,” but on the way back from a long trip into the Gulf of Mexico, they found rodeo leaderboard treasure.

“We stopped on the way in from 100 miles out, and that’s where James (Holt) caught his barracuda. We stayed closer in today (Friday) and caught the bluefish and some good mangrove snapper.”

Holt weighed the barracuda Friday, and the 29-pounder topped the category.

The plan for the second day was to burn less fuel and stay closer to the island.

“The 1-2 footers we went out in in the morning turned into 5-6 footers on the way back in the afternoon. It was rough,” St. Romain said.

Still, it was a productive trip. St. Romain took the No. 2 spot in bluefish, and his son, Casey, had a solid No. 2 jack crevalle.

“Not what we wanted to put on the board, but we’ll take it,” Ivy St. Romain said.

To rival the Lynch-McEwen story, Baton Rougean Charles Blair and Lockport’s Lee Bollinger shared the day with fishing friend Stephen Guillot, who moved from Lafayette to Orlando, Florida, on a hunt for the elusive bull black drum in the interior marshes around Golden Meadow. Bollinger’s 42-4 tackle-buster topped the category, and Blair’s 31-14 was in second place.

That left Guillot out in the cold and promising to go back for the rodeo’s final day Saturday.

“We have to have a clean sweep. We have to dominate the (leader) board,” Guillot said after this drum failed by only ounces to make the top three.

At the end of a rain-filled first day and rough afternoon conditions on the second day, the leaderboard held solid catches going into Saturday’s final rodeo day.

Going in the final hours, only four categories were without entries, but with the deep-water fleet still in the water, Wahoo and Big Game Tag & Release categories are expected to fill with an outside chance of a blue marlin showing up. And most inshore anglers wait until the last day to enter the five redfish that make up the Redfish Stringer category.

Speckled trout action continues to confound Central Coast anglers. Golden Meadow’s Jody Avenson leads with a 4-8 and Lafayette veteran Terry St. Cyr reported catching only two trout Saturday. Both 4-4 specks made the leaderboard.

Saturday’s final-day scales close at 6 p.m. at Sand Dollar Marina.