The Wild Side, July 28, 2013

Spend four days on this island and it’s easy to know why our state is called the Sportsman’s Paradise.

Despite four days of west and north winds since Wednesday, and the last three spent in what can only be called monsoon-like conditions, folks here celebrated fishing like no one in this country.

And they caught fish in not-so-favorable conditions. And the anglers spent lots of money to do it.

That considered, it’s also easy to understand the consternation fishermen have with the state’s noncommital approach to promoting our phenomenal fishing.

Yes, you see highway billboards and hear radio spots across the state promoting fishing in Lafourche, Terrebonne, Plaquemines and St. Bernard parishes, but where is that effort around the country?

All of us have friends in other states, friends who know about the broad scope of the fishing coastal and offfshore Louisiana.

Need proof?

A man came to the Grand Isle Tarpon Rodeo from Orlando to defend his title from last year’s rodeo in the Black Drum category no less. A drum isn’t the prettiest fish. In fact, it’s downright ugly and has been so named by the BLUMF Club, a group of avid Terrebonne Parish fishermen who chose the acronym to stand for Big Lipped, Ugly Monster Fish.

The Florida angler celebrated his 38-pound drum with a fist pump and high fives among his friends for an entry that held first place on the leaderboard through the rodeo’s first two days.

A man from Atlanta fished with veteran Louisiana angler Ed Fike, and was proud of his 62-pound grouper. Bill Laupus said he wouldn’t miss this rodeo, because it’s the most enjoyable three days he spends every year.

Then there was the Texan from Pearland who brought in a five beautiful, bronze-colored redfish that stood second in the Redfish Stringer category and proudly proclaimed he’d just had the best day of fishing ever.

Match those three with competitive young fishermen like Port Allen’s Mason Maurer and Plaquemine’s John Daniel Hebert and hundreds of others entered in this weekend’s Grand Isle and Faux Pas fishing rodeos, and it should be evident that we’ve got a mother lode of a gold mine here that’s been untapped as far as luring national dollars into our state.

There’s no argument that our food, our music, our multicultural heritage and our joy of living is a lure for tourism dollars.

Somewhere along the way, our state officials must be made to understand that fishing can add another finger to give us a full hand when it comes to playing our cards against all others competing for vacation dollars.

Add ecotourism into the mix and we can add in another unexplored revenue source.

We don’t have white, sandy beaches of Florida. We don’t have the glitz of Nevada’s 24-hour sensory overload.

What we have are fish in numbers found nowhere else in the lower 48 states, and we need to tell people about it.