A New Iberia outdoorsman was enjoying his best bull red fishing trip ever, one that gave him his personal best bull red at 37 inches long, when his cousin slammed the steel home on a sizeable redfish that stole the show on Aug. 21.
What they saw after removing the hook from the redfish’s mouth turned out to be a head scratcher, an eyebrow raiser, a shoulder shrugger, a sight that caused a massive double-take, a pause in the action. However, Mike Viguerie and his first cousin, Donald Gilbert of Charenton, didn’t see it right away.
“He (Gilbert) fought it for a while and got it in the boat. We had it turned over, so we didn’t see it had a line through it. We got the hook out … flipped it over and that’s when we saw the line,” Viguerie said Tuesday night.
There was a thick cord with a loop coming out of the body, estimated 29 to 30 inches long nose to tail, behind the right gill plate, a knot cinched tight below the loop with approximately 1- to 1 ½ feet of rope hanging loose.
“My cousin said, ‘What the heck is that?’ I ain’t ever seen anything like that. I don’t know what happened,” Gilbert said mid-afternoon Tuesday while on the job as owner of Jus-Nail-It LLC Home Remodeling & Repair.
Viguerie has an idea what happened. He suspects the redfish was caught when it was younger and smaller, perhaps just under 27 inches long, the perfect size for entry into a “slot redfish” contest. Whoever caught it apparently looped, then tied the cord around both gill plates and anchored it somewhere underwater.
The redfish’s body grew around it after the cord was broken, probably in a successful attempt to escape being tethered to something.
“I think somebody was trying to keep the fish (alive) without any marking on it (particularly around the mouth). Oh, yeah. I don’t see any other way the fish could have had a line around it like that. It healed like that and started growing. It definitely went through the body. I’ve never seen anything like it. I’ve never seen a line growing from a fish,” he said. “One side (of the cord) went down under the gill plate on the bottom and probably, as it got bigger, grew around it. Then the underside came around it and encased it as it got bigger.”
Viguerie told Will Martin in a story published Aug. 27 on the Louisiana Sportsman website that typically an angler threads a cord or rope through the mouth and out of a gill, then ties it. The cord wasn’t tied that way because “the rope didn’t come out of the mouth. The rope came up and out at the top of the gill plate and the other end came out between the fins at the bottom, through the skin.”
After the initial shock and realization sank in, Viguerie started taking photos, he said this past week.
Viguerie, Gilbert, 50, and his wife, Rowena Gilbert, and a friend of the Gilberts, Caleb Nash of New Iberia, launched Viguerie’s 22-foot long Sea Hunt powered by a 150-h.p. Evinrude that third Saturday of August at Quintana Canal for a day of saltwater fishing in and around Vermilion Bay. Viguerie said they tried Dry Reef, where only croakers were biting, then fished uneventfully around the camps in The Cove before deciding to try the mouth of the Avery Canal.
The 52-year-old pharmacist, who has been working long hours at CVS Pharmacy in New Iberia during this second summer of a coronavirus pandemic, changed his mind and headed to the mouth of Boston Canal. There were a number of boats there, including a boat big enough to go offshore.
He anchored near the mouth of the canal.
“We saw big fish hitting. There was a good bit of people around us. One lady on the back of a big deepsea boat hooked up with several bull reds,” he said.
That roped redfish bit on a Carolina-rigged shrimp around 10:30 a.m., Viguerie said after checking the time stamp on the first photo he snapped with his cellphone.
It was one of eight bull reds the anglers aboard his boat caught along with a bunch of croakers, a half-dozen or so flounders, a couple stingrays and a shark.
“What we caught mostly was redfish,” Viguerie said.
One of the catches was his personal best, a 37-incher, he said, proudly.
Viguerie, the son of Sonny and Kathy Viguerie of Charenton, said while growing up he fished mostly freshwater species with his father, who showed him all around the Atchafalaya Basin.
He’s admittedly still learning the ins and outs of successful saltwater fishing in inside and coastal waters. He didn’t start targeting saltwater species until after he graduated from NLU’s Pharmacy School in 1996, he said, noting that his first boat was an old Manatee that he took into the marsh and around Vermilion Bay.
Viguerie, who went to Franklin High School and also the University of Southwestern Louisiana, and Gilbert grew up together in their hometown of Charenton.
“We’re almost like brothers. He just started fishing with me” when they were young, Viguerie said.
They’ve pretty much seen it all over the years on the water ... All but a redfish with what amounted to a noose above its “shoulders.”
Viguerie said, “It’s terrible that people would do something like that. I think he (redfish) was doing fine. It seemed like he was doing fine, a healthy fish.”
He wishes they would have cut the cord as close as possible to the body and released the redfish alive. They kept it to eat but he kept the head with the rope attached in the freezer for a while before his wife “got fussy about it” and he discarded it.
There were 94 comments on one social media platform about the roped redfish report as of 3 p.m. Wednesday. Viguerie noted people had different theories about what did or didn’t happen but he still believes the intent was to cheat in a fishing contest.