Anglers use different methods to catch mangrove snapper
Ever wonder how the adage “There’s more than one way to skin a cat” started?
Maybe fishermen Rudy Valenciano and Chuck Comeaux have given us a clue.
A couple of weeks ago, Valenciano landed enough big mangrove snapper to take home a fifth-straight title for catching mangrove snapper in the annual Catholic Fishing Rodeo.
Valenciano and his sons have five mangroves weighing a solid 44 pounds. While it was far from his family’s 54-pound record catch a year ago, the five mahogany-colored beauties (whoever named this fish “gray snapper” is a mystery, too) were more than good enough to prove, once again, that he knows how and where to haul in this hard-fighting fish.
“You have to have patience,” Papa Valenciano advised. “You have to be patient enough to find the right depth for the mangroves because sometimes they’re shallow and sometimes they’re a little deeper around a (oil/gas) rig.
“And you have to let the fish tell you how they’re feeding that day.”
He said that during that rough-and-tumble trip, when Tropical Storm Debby had Louisiana’s offshore waters roiling in 4-8 foot seas, the mangroves at one rig ate the bait rigged to 50-pound fluorocarbon leader.
“That worked at one rig earlier in the day, but the mangroves wouldn’t take the bait on that tackle at the next rig,” Valenciano said. “We switched to 30-pound fluorocarbon and we started to catch fish, big mangroves and some of the ones we weighed in for the rodeo.”
And the family uses live bait, mostly live croakers, sometimes live pogeys to target the biggest mangroves. And they don’t use chum.
After Comeaux and his crew weighed in a handful of mangroves during Saturday’s final day of the 64th-annual Golden Meadow-Fourchon Tarpon Rodeo, he showed their total catch.
It included two giant cobia, fish big enough to make the leaderboard, one that hit 54 pounds and was that category’s heaviest fish.
And there were dozens of mangroves, enough, he said for lots of folks “…on the bayou (Lafourche) to have fish for dinner tonight.”
Most fishing folks who venture to Lafourche and Terrebonne parishes and down to the Grand Isle know Comeaux not when he shows up at a weighstation speckled in fish scales, but when he dons a Wildlife and Fisheries Enforcement Division uniform. He’s patrolled Central Coast waters for years. He lives in Larose, just south of the department’s Thibodaux region headquarters, where he reports for duty.
Comeaux talked about how the haul of mangroves came to be, and maybe hinted at why we can believe there’s more than one way to skin a cat even though nary a soul anyone knows would try to do that.
“We chum for mangroves, try to get them to come out of the rig to feed, When they get into a feeding frenzy we free-line bait into the rig and hold on,” Comeaux said. “It’s not anything fancy, but when you get them like that things get crazy on a boat.
“And the chum is the key to finding mangroves and the first step for catching them.”
The problem now? To chum, or not to chum, that is the question.
For Valenciano and Comeaux, there is no single answer.
The Geiling maneuver
Gene Geiling won another first-place prize in last week’s rodeo at Fourchon. His 31-pound bull dolphin gave the Tenacious crew another rodeo trophy.
That’s only a little part of the story of that boat’s adventure in the GMFTR. Kevin Higgins, Rennie Carter and Daniel Landry head up the Tenacious crew and Geiling is on that crew list.
“He’s a bulldog,” Higgins said. “He fishes as hard as anyone I know.”
After what happened last Friday, maybe more than anyone Higgins knows.
The Tenacious had what Carter estimated to be a 700-pound blue marlin on and the giant fish, after a lengthy fight, was nearing the boat.
If a billfish get close enough for one of the crew to grab the leader, the fish is considered caught. The routine is to “tag” the fish, remove the hook and let is go to live another day, hopefully for many, many more days.
Well, Higgins continued, this big blue decided to make one more pass under the boat and that’s when it wrapped the line around the boat’s rudder.
“Gene stripped off his shirt and dove over the side, when under and got the line off the rudder. It was something to see. He had to unwrap the line twice and we were able to tag the fish and send it on its way. I’ve never seen anyone do something like that, not for a fish. What a guy.”
That marlin was one of two blues and two white marlin the crew tagged and released during last week’s rodeo.