BR woman lands big fish

Sydney Turner is walking tall these days.

Well, maybe not Sunday because she’s on the water for the final day of the Orange Beach Ladies Tournament and walking would be more than a doable chore, but she can stand tall on her family’s boat with her mom, Sari, while competing in another big-time offshore fishing rodeo.

And, Sydney Turner said she’s disappointed that Sunday being Father’s Day is the final day for a women’s-only something.

That’s because Sari and Sydney’s dad, Thomas, were together when Sydney set the tone for the family, their boat, the “You Never Know,” and the crew she said worked so hard to open the summer fishing season with such a bang.

See, it went like this. Sydney Turner caught a 756-pound blue marlin in the Mobile Fishing Club’s Big Game Tournament during the Memorial Day weekend.

While the petite blond is quick to share the credit for getting a 10-foot-long fish into the boat, she stops short when she should be taking the lion’s share for hooking up, then
battling the monster blue.

“It was 6:30 in the morning, and I was walking outside and a couple of the guys were tuna fishing,” Sydney Turner began. “They were catching 50-pounders (yellowfin tuna) and not a lot of the others were awake yet.

“They hooked up on two fish and one of the lines on the left side (of the boat) started,” she said.

She admitted she thought the fish that started the reel screaming was a shark or maybe a big barracuda, but she got the rod and went to the fighting chair to battle whatever it was on the other end of the line.

“I didn’t think it was that big of a fish, but then it jumped,” she said.

Again, she admitted her ability to judge the size of a fish is lacking when the fish is hundreds of yards behind the boat and is contorted in positions only a billfish can make.

“I just knew it was big, but didn’t know if it was big enough to get points, but when my mother saw it, she knew it was big enough,” Sydney said.

Points are important in a big-game fishing tournament. Different fish species have different point values. Most times blue marlin top the list with white marlin, sailfish, tuna, wahoo, make shark and others falling somewhere down the points list.

“I told the guys on deck to go inside (the cabin) and wake everyone up and make sure my dad was up because he needs to come outside,” Sydney said. “The big girl (blue marlin) came up to the boat twice, then peeled line. The third time she came up, we got her into the boat.”

All 5-foot-1 of Sydney Turner had the prize of a lifetime, a first-place marlin, a 10-foot-long fish that came less than 25 pounds from the existing Alabama blue-marlin state record, and all she said was that boat captain Joey Birbuck was key to her being able to reel in hundreds of yards of line and make the 70 minutes she spent in the chair battling one of the biggest fish in the Gulf of Mexico seem much shorter.

Tournament records show the fish measured 120 inches long, more than a foot longer than the tournament’s 106-inch minimum, and somewhere along the ride back to the weighstation, somebody mentioned the $1 million bonus in store for the angler breaking this Alabama state record.

“My mom is just an inch taller than me, and she taught me that catching fish like this one is more about finesse and technique,” Sydney said. “Yes, you have to be strong to reel, but that’s where the crew comes in. We know this is a male-dominated sport, but women have a shot, too.

“This is the first billfish on my dad’s boat — we’ve had it three years — and this is really special. It’s a family sport for us, and we go as a family. That’s why it was important for both my mom and dad to be driving the chair for me when I had the fish on.”

For the record, the giant marlin attacked a blackfin tuna, “...maybe a 20-pounder that’s good for bait.”

And, for the record, Sydney Turner said, all the meat from the tournament was processed, iced down and sent to feed the victims of the tornadoes in Oklahoma.

First for locals

As far as anyone can determine, the Catholic High Alumni Fishing Rodeo was the first Baton Rouge-based event to take local competition to the Louisiana coast.

The 2013 rodeo starts Friday at Port Fourchon Marina, next to Moran’s Marina on Fourchon Road off La. 1.

There are adult and youth (ages 5-16) divisions and there’s a Captain’s Party/registration set for Tuesday from 4-8 p.m. at Cabela’s in Gonzales.

It’s a $60 registration fee with goodies coming on that fee, and meals Friday and Saturday evening.

Fishing begins at 5:30 a.m. Friday and ends at 6 p.m. Saturday. The weighstation at Port Fourchon Marina will be open from 5-8 p.m. Friday, then from 3-6 p.m. Saturday.

While rodeo organizers welcome CHS alums, tournament chairman Cal Madere said the rodeo is open to all comers.

Sponsors have sent in first-rate prizes for the top offshore and inshore anglers, and cash and merchandise in as many as 12 categories.

The competitive draw comes for speckled trout and mangrove snapper fishing teams. A “calcutta” is set for both species with different “cash-in” levels for these two species. The team with the heaviest five-trout and heaviest five-mangrove stringers takes home the bulk of the fees in the respective kitties.

The registration website is http://www.catholichigh.org. Call the CHS Alumni Office (225) 383-0459 for more information.

Another drawdown

Lake Bintineau, the cypress-tupelo-studded lake that dominates the landscape in the northwest corner of the state, is facing a drawdown to help control the spread of giant salvinia.

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries announced the drawdown will begin this week. State fisheries managers expect to draw 4-6 inches of water from the lake per day.