Oldest fishing rodeo faces off against newer rodeo

July’s last weekend has meant one thing across south Louisiana.

It’s Grand Isle Tarpon Rodeo time. And for the 92nd year, the GITR will celebrate three days of fishing on the state’s only inhabited barrier island.

The Sand Dollar Marina and the Otto Candies Memorial Pavilion will take the bulk of the off-the-water activities.

The GITR, which organizers proclaim is the country’s oldest competitive fishing event, faces another challenge.

The Faux Pas Lodge Tournament, held out of Venice Marina at the end of the road off the west side of the Mississippi River, is gearing up for its 15th annual fishing adventure.

There’s little doubt the Faux Pas set its roots when the GITR committee decided to cancel its Port Eads auxiliary weighstation nearly 20 years ago. Port Eads is a water-access-only community on the Mississippi River south of Venice.

Kleo Blue IV headed up the move from his Faux Pas Prints operation in the New Orleans area. He started with help from anglers who felt dispossessed by the move to the Grand Isle-only weighstation, and the fishermen who joined in decided to put an entirely different twist on their competition.

True, they held a leaderboard for the three most popular species in Offshore, Inshore and Rig division, and threw in a blue marlin tag-and-release division, too.

The twist came in what the organizers called “calcuttas,” and the 100 percent payback of the entry fees in the special categories.

There are two levels, the one that awards cash for the heaviest trout, redfish and flounder in the Inshore Division, the heaviest tuna, bull dolphin and wahoo in the Offshore Division, and the heaviest cobia, king mackeral and mangrove snapper in the Rig Division. (Mangroves were substituted because the red snapper season is closed.)

Add in a “live-redfish” calcutta that totals an angler’s three heaviest redfish and a “lots of spots” calcutta for the red with the most spots and you’ve got the field pretty much set in these winners-take-all categories.

Then the Grand Slam calcuttas take angling skill to another level.

Take the calcutta, and make the Grand Slam the aggregate weight of the three fish species in each division.

For instance, the Inshore winner must weigh a speckled trout, a redfish and a flounder and have the heaviest weight to win the money. Ditto for the Offshore and Rig divisions species.

Like the Grand Isle Rodeo, the Faux Pas runs Thursday through Saturday, except that the Faux Pas kicks off Tuesday with a Captains’ Party at Southport Hall in Jefferson.

The 6 p.m.-10 p.m. party will take entry fees in all categories — the basic entry fee is $40 — and outline the rodeo’s rules.

So how big has the Faux Pas grown since it began in the late 1990s?

Try 800 fishermen for the 2011 and more than 800 for the 2012 tournament, with the possibility that 1,000 will show up this year.

Blue said the nonprofit Recreational Fisheries Research Institute joins with the Faux Pas folks to get the proceeds to help fund the Wish-to-Fish Program, which introduces youngsters to the sport.

Mooring at the Atchafalaya Delta

The Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is taking bids for 40 percent of the available houseboat mooring sites at the Atchafalaya Delta Wildlife Management Area.

In recent years, the LDWF considered removing the mooring sites because demand has outstripped the department’s ability to provide more mooring sites.

A plan moved forward in the last year to bid-out a percentage of the sites, which have become popular mostly for waterfowl hunters.

The remaining 60 percent of the available sites will be awarded via lottery later this summer.

The deadline for bid submission is 10 a.m. July 31.

Bids will be opened at 10:30 a.m. July 31 at the LDWF headquarters on Quail Drive in Baton Rouge. Winning bidders will be notified by telephone and will receive a five-year lease on their mooring sites.

As part of the lease agreement, houseboats will be allowed to occupy mooring sites Sept. 1-March 15.

LDWF managers said the time allows for hunters to complete the waterfowl and rabbit seasons on the Atchafalaya Delta WMA.