Large tuna catch highlights offshore trip for teen, family
For a spur-of-the-moment fishing trip, Hayden Palmer couldn’t have asked for more.
Ditto for his dad, James.
See the younger Palmer is heading for his first duty with the U.S. Coast Guard. The recent St. Michael the Archangel Catholic School grad reports for basic training Sept. 25, two days before his 18th birthday.
So with boot camp awaiting, James Palmer decided he’d like to get his son on a couple of fishing trips before leaving home for what could be far-distant shores.
“Sam put the trip together,” Hayden Palmer said. “He needed a couple more (fishermen) to complete the charter, and called my dad. I’d been on a couple of overnight trips before — those are usually the best — and have been offshore several times, but this was one of the best trips ever.”
“Sam” is Sam Leyrer, one of Chris Moran’s Cajun Made Charters’ captains, and he relied on experience to make it a memorable excursion.
“We were due for a good trip after a couple of bad ones,” Hayden Palmer said. “We knew Captain Sam knew what he was doing ... we got tired of catching fish. That’s how good it was.”
How good? About 14 blackfin and two yellowfin tuna good, including Hayden’s 165-pound yellowfin, “The biggest fish I’ve ever caught, ever” good.
Baton Rougeans Alex Norris, Nathan Baldwin and Megan Norwood made up the crew.
Leyrer knows tuna start ganging up behind shrimp trawling boats this time of year.
“It really starts near the end of August and goes midway into October,” Leyrer said. “The shrimp boats stay along the edge of the Mississippi Canyon, and we’re fishing behind the boat while they’re pulling their nets. They’re fishing nets deep, near the bottom, and we pull up on the (trawl’s) stern and get the fish to start coming up to us.”
The canyon is a 3,000-foot ledge off the mouth of the Mississippi River, and a transistion area for yellowfin and blackfin tuna between the summer and fall months.
Leyrer said they caught enough bait to last the morning, and
“As soon as we pulled up I tossed a sardine and it was an instantaneous hook up. After an hour-and-half game of tug-of-war we were able to land the tuna.”
“I was pretty beat afterward,” Hayden Palmer said. “The others were catching more fish and they were trying to get me to reel in more, but I had to tell them ‘no, thank you’ because I’d had enough for a while.”
Leyrer said the target was smaller tuna: “We were able to pick up a few more blackfins, then made the jump a few miles west and our crew boated another 10 blackfins.”
After agreeing on one more try, Leyrer found another shrimper and started the chum line for the third time.
“It was solid blackfin. Not long after getting the slick going, I started seeing a flash deep, definitely a big yellowfin. I hooked on a wiggler for when he decided to come up. It’s always a good day when you’re playing keep-away from a school of 20-pound blackfin,” Leyrer said.
When the yellowfin came for the bait, it was Megan Norwood’s turn on the rod. The giant tuna smoked the reel, and Leyrer said she began to gain the line back on the reel when the line went limp.
Leyrer said he started the chum line again and had another bait down for yellowfin. This time it was Baldwin’s turn and 45 minutes later, Hayden Palmer’s fish has a partner, a 120-pound yellowfin that Leyrer said, “ended the day on a good note, a very good box (catch) and a tired crew.”
The Palmers aren’t sure if they have enough time to squeeze in another trip before boot camp, but this trip might have been enough for Hayden Palmer.
“It was awesome,” he said.
The Elm Hall and most of the Maurepas Swamp and Pearl River wildlife management areas were reopened last week after closures forced by Hurricane Isaac.
Only Elmer’s Island remains closed while beach cleaning and clearing operations are under way after oil and tarballs washed up on the beach following the passage of Hurricane Isaac.