CYPREMORT POINT — The Cypremort Invitational Fishing Association tournament, a popular annual contest with a Redfish Division and a Speckled Trout Division, has started with a whimper for frustrated members in the Teche Area.
Action at the scales at Dago’s Mobil and Grocery in Lydia, the official weigh-in site, has been nearly non-existent since the three-month long tournament got underway July 6, the first Saturday of July. There are no speckled trout on the leaderboard and only two redfish on it. Usually, both leaderboards’ five places are full after the first four weeks of fishing.
This is an unusual, and heart-breaking, year of saltwater fishing in and around Vermilion Bay. The Atchafalaya River has been at or near flood stage since early spring, pumping muddy, fresh water from Calumet Cut into inside waters around here long before Tropical Storm Barry, which made landfall as a hurricane at Intracoastal City, then downgraded, the second weekend of July, messed things up even more.
“Well, yeah, it’s too bad for the members, the freshwater. It’s just Mother Nature,” CIFA president Don Naquin of New Iberia said Friday night, adding there are nearly 100 active members.
“We may not see a speckled trout until the last week or two. Last year we were catching speckled trout in the spring,” said the 58-year-old apparatus repairman for Cleco. “I’m disappointed for the members who like to fish speckled trout. We even added new members (and speckled trout fishing aficionados) Matt Migues and Kyle LeBlanc.”
The CIFA tournament ends at 7 p.m. Sept. 30. With luck, water conditions will improve and both species will start biting with reckless abandon in all the popular fishin’ holes.
If the tournament had ended at 7 p.m. Thursday, the winner would be Baretta “Kenny” Benoit of Avery Island, who has the biggest of the two redfish on the leaderboard at Dago’s. His 30.53-pounder sits in first place ahead of a 24.17-pounder brought to the scales by Teche Area angler Jordan Hebert.
Benoit, a 55-year-old mechanic for the McIllhenny Co. and a veteran, accomplished redfish fishermen over the past several decades, said he caught the pacesetter just before midday on July 27 while fishing with Ty Bonin of Avery Island. The redfish fishing wasn’t good that day at Boxcar Reef, he said, adding he caught the first-place fish on a Caroline-rigged cut mullet.
“We caught three fish all day. The water was terrible. Kevin Horton, the podnuh I fish with, only caught one. He went again Sunday and caught one,” said Benoit, who has been fishing summer redfish tournaments since 1983.
Later, they found dirty water inside Marsh Island in Bayou Lucien and Bayou Michael.
How bad are the water conditions? Recently, he said, he was fishing wharves along The Point. A man walking along the pier measuring salinity readings told him it was 0.00.
“No salt at all. It’s not good,” he said. “Calumet Cut. That’s what’s killing Vermilion Bay.”
Sure, he said, he and others caught bull reds at Boxcar Reef during the 66th annual Iberia Rod & Gun Club Saltwater Fishing Rodeo. Even then, he said, things didn’t look up to snuff.
“The fish were long and skinny for the rodeo. They didn’t look healthy,” he said, noting some of them had sores on their bodies.
“Yeah, yeah, me and Kevin caught 15 for the rodeo on Friday, Saturday we caught 10. The Friday, we threw two 28-pounders back because we listened to somebody who said they had a 31 on the leaderboard (in the Inside Division), so we threw the two 28s back,” he said.
Benoit is ready for the last two months of the CIFA tournament. He’ll even target speckled trout if the water conditions ever improve.
For sure, he said, he’ll be on the water, no matter how discouraging it might be.
“You’ve just got to get lucky. You’ve got to put in the time,” he said.
As for his first-place redfish, he believes it won’t be hanging around the leaderboard on Sept. 30.
“I don’t think it’s going to hold up. I just brought it in to weigh in. You just never know,” he said.
“As far as trout, that’s going to be a blessing in disguise. Usually, we’re catching trout now. Hopefully, it’ll clear up before the tournament ends. If it doesn’t, I don’t know if a speckled trout will be weighed.”