CYPREMORT POINT — The “big boats” hauling huge fish from far out in the Gulf of Mexico won’t show up en masse until early or midday Saturday, the third and final day of the 66th annual Iberia Rod & Gun Club Saltwater Fishing Rodeo.
There were enough big fish, those sizeable fish that make you go ooh and ahh, and action at the scales on opening day Thursday to more than make up for their absence at fishing rodeo headquarters under the pavilion along Quintana Canal. The Junior Division and the Inside Division had enough fireworks to make it worthy of a hot Fourth of July.
Subpar water conditions and the heat took a backseat to dozens of anglers who overcame those challenges, particularly 13-year-old Faith Landry, who brought in the biggest fish of the day and, possibly, the entire fishing rodeo, and a brute of a “slot” redfish carried to the scales by Matt Migues. Landry’s 70.1-pound garfish, easily longer than her, and Migues’ 25-inch, 7.91-pound redfish wowed the crowd.
The first day set the stage for the all-important second day today in the highly competitive races in which points are accumulated daily for the Best All-Around Junior Division Fisherman and the Best All-Around Inside Division Fisherman and Inside Division Boat Captain. Scales reopen at 3 p.m. and close at 6 p.m. today.
Approximately 30 boats showed up Thursday, two days after a free Angler’s Supper drew an estimated 90 people to the American Legion Hall in Lydia. Those anglers enjoyed a meal furnished by Murphy Meyers, a candidate for Iberia Parish sheriff.
“Murphy Meyers did a good job for us. He brought red beans and rice from Pelican’s. He did a great job and everybody enjoyed themselves. We had a good crowd. We got a lot of compliments. I think we’ll have a damned good rodeo,” veteran fishing rodeo chairman Brock Pellerin said before boats started tying up to the bulkhead near the pavilion.
Pellerin said today’s meal at fishing rodeo headquarters will be provided by Gotta Have Faith charter boat captain Gerrit “T-Blu” Landry, whose daughter outlasted that monstrous gar, and Saturday’s meal will be courtesy of Roberta Boudreaux, another Iberia Parish sheriff candidate.
The fishing rodeo chairman said there are at least five boats entered in the Offshore Division’s Calcutta. However, several others are expected to fish.
It didn’t take big boats to bring in big fish Thursday. Faith Landry, an avid softball player who will be an eighth grader when school starts next month at Iberia Middle School, saw to that.
The garfish hung out over the wheelbarrow fishing rodeo officials use to carry large fish from the boats to the scales. She caught it about 2:30 p.m., arguably the hottest part of the day.
Before it was weighed, she talked about the catch start-to-finish aboard her dad’s 23-foot Key West, Gotta Have Faith.
“Okay, a garfish is like, very finicky, it took a long time to chew on the dead mullet (she was using for bait). I had to wait for the fish to swallow it. I had to wait a long time. Finally, I pulled back and set the hook,” the young fisherwoman said after the day on the water with her parents and her close friend, Evie Sherville, 11, and Evie’s father, Nick Sherville.
When she felt the force of an immovable object, she did what comes natural. She yelled, “Daddy!”
“I said, ‘Daddy, shoot (or something similar)! No,’ ” Gerrit Landry said.
He meant it was hers to land or lose and she wouldn’t get any help from him.
“I never stopped reeling after that. It took drag and it ran. Oh my God. I thought my shoulder was going to fall off. It definitely was a stronger fight than the bull red,” Faith said.
Ah, the bull red. She caught a 28.8-pounder earlier, before they moved to the garfish hotspot, and it also settled into first place going into the second day of the fishing rodeo, a little more than 3 pounds ahead of Evie’s 25.3-pound redfish.
Faith also stuck a .41-pound croaker on the leaderboard to give her 267 points and the lead for the Junior Division’s Best All-Around Fisherman. That race is wide open, unfortunately for defending champion Hayden Amy, 9, of New Iberia, who went out Thursday morning with his father, Brooks Amy, but became seriously ill after they got to South Point and had to return to Cypremort Point.
Following Faith in the race are Matthew Latham, with 169 points after catching a first-place drum (26.8 pounds) and second-place garfish (47.1 pounds), and Evie, with her second-place redfish.
Going into the second day, Lainie Moss has the inside track for Best All-Around Inside Division Fisherman with 174 points, just ahead of Jordan Hebert, with 161, and Angelic Broussard, with 137.
Broussard, of Abbeville, who fished with her husband, Mike Robideaux, in their 16-foot StarCraft, a 1967 model, weighed the first fish of the day after the scales opened at 3 p.m. It was a .76-pound croaker, which held second place going into today. She also weighed a .65-pound croaker, which was in third.
The Inside Division’s big story was the “slot” redfish brought in by Migues, who fished with Kyle LeBlanc in Migues’ 15 ½-foot Eric Romero aluminum hull boat, easily the smallest boat to check in Thursday. Migues said he caught the redfish in Marsh Island.
“Man, it was a pretty day. You couldn’t ask for better. It was hot. The breeze just now started,” he said after his first-place redfish was weighed about 4 p.m.
LeBlanc’s 7.79-pound “slot redfish” was in second place in the Inside Division.