Don Wesley Creppel’s stingray, if verified will set a state record

Don Wesley Creppel’s story made few headlines, and until Lafayette angler Ben Bernard paraded around the Sand Dollar Marina with a giant 700-pound blue marlin, Creppel’s catch put the biggest number on the scales during last week’s Grand Isle Tarpon Rodeo run.

Problem was, Creppel’s fish wasn’t a “rodeo fish.”

Guess that’s because southern stingrays aren’t pretty enough to warrant a spot among the Gulf of Mexico’s glamour fishes, species like “silver king” tarpon, blue marlin, yellowfin tuna, speckled trout and mangrove snapper.

Even the brownish, grayish hunks called Warsaw grouper have a better PR agent than does the stingray.

Maybe it’s because there’s an element of danger: The “sting” in stingray is a potent, though not lethal, weapon that’s sent enough fishermen to the emergency room every year to leave this catch over the side until the hook can be dislodged.

Thing was, last Friday, Creppel didn’t know what he had on the end of his line until he’d battled the fish for more than 30 minutes. And it was his first cast of the morning.

“I was fishing for a shark, because I wanted to catch one,” Creppel said. “I was using heavy tackle, a heavy Ugly Stick, heavy spinning reel and 150-pound Power Pro (braided line), and I was fishing a pogey (bait) on the bottom.”

Creppel and his wife trekked to the Fourchon area not so much for the rodeo, but to take in all the fishing action that accompanies the country’s oldest competitive fishing event.

Creppel said the runs the fish made in the first minutes meant he was sharked-up.

“When the fish started pulling my boat into the (rock) jetty, I knew it was something other than a shark,” Creppel said.

He was right.

About the time he was battling what turned out to be a 175-pound, 3-ounce giant, he said a Wildlife and Fisheries’ Enforcement Division boat pulled up and wanted to inspect his boat.

“I told them I was fighting something big, and they held off until they saw how big this thing was. Then an agent got in my boat and helped me get it in,” he said.

By his watch, the battle lasted 45 minutes.

Back at the Sand Dollar on Friday morning, weighmasters Marty Bourgeois and Steve Hein were waiting to weigh the first tarpon.

Few folks were around when Creppel pulled to the scales with the tailgate down on his truck and a large tail flapping over the tailgate.

Fully weighed and paperwork completed the massive stingray measured more than 6 feet long with a wingspan just shy of 53 inches.

If approved by the Louisiana Outdoor Writers Association’s Fish Records Committee, Crappel’s catch will better the standing state record by more than 40 pounds.

Blue water red hot

While Bernard’s 705-pound blue marlin was the Tarpon Rodeo’s star fish, and Bernard was treated like royalty at the weighstation Saturday afternoon, his catch hardly scratched the surface for the bluewater fleet fishing the rodeo out of five Louisiana marinas. One boat, “Colby Jean,” came from as far away as Orange Beach, Ala.

The “CJ” crew acted disappointed when he showed up at the weighstation with a single Tag-and-Release card in hand.

They talked about going 0-for-4 in battles with big blue marlin Friday before hooking up a 400- pounder they tagged that put Cory Arceneaux on top in that highly competitive category. Scoring is 500 points for blues, 150 for white marlin, 100 for sailfish and 50 points for yellowfin tuna that anglers catch, bring to the boat, tag and release to swim and eat another day.

Fact was all five places afforded the T&R Division were taken by Arceneaux, Chris Roques on the “Juanita Fish,” Nicholas Baum aboard the “3 Cool Dudes,” Brandon Perry on the “Make It Happen” and Jansen Pellegrin aboard “Caboom.”

That’s a rodeo record, and shows the kind of action that’s drawing bluewater folks across the Gulf to waters from Orange Beach to the thousands-of-feet depths in the Mississippi and Green Canyons off the Louisiana coast.

The Tarpon Rodeo and the Faux Pas Tournament out of Venice Marina held up under violent storm conditions Thursday morning and Friday afternoon to produce first-rate catches.