Fishing rodeo week is a special time for saltwater fishermen and fisherwomen, young and old.
This is it. This is the week they have been waiting for since last July.
The 66th annual Iberia Rod & Gun Club Saltwater Fishing Rodeo gets underway Thursday, the Fourth of July, at Cypremort Point. The excitement’s building, never mind that water conditions are poor in and around Vermilion Bay.
“I am very excited and so is Hayden,” Brooks Amy of New Iberia said Friday morning as he warmed up to his favorite subject and that of his 9-year-old son, Hayden Amy.
Hayden has good reason to be extra excited. He is the defending Junior Division Best All-Around Fisherman.
“He sure is (excited). He’s ready for it. He’s ready for the long weekend,” the young angler’s father said.
That the youngster goes in as the defending champion doesn’t seem to be fazing him, said Brooks, 40-year-old owner of Overhead Door Co. of Lafayette Inc.
“I don’t think he feels any pressure. He’s just going to go out there and fish hard, catch some fish and put them on the board,” he said.
“We talked about it last night. Everybody on the boat has won Best All-Around Fisherman except my dad (Perry Scott of New Iberia). We’re going to try to get him on some fish and get him the Best All-Around.”
Brooks has been fishing these fishing rodeos for about 16 years with Scott, he said, noting they “look forward to it every year.” So does their other crew member, Jacob Fisher of St. Martinville.
“This is our time right now. We fish as hard as we can and we have fun with it,” Brooks said as he looked ahead to launching the boat, Fish Karma, Scott’s 24-foot Blue Wave, early Thursday morning for the start of the three-day holiday weekend event.
Fishing hours start at 12:01 a.m. Thursday and end at 1 p.m. Saturday. Scales at fishing rodeo headquarters under the pavilion along Quintana Canal will be open from 3-6 p.m. Thursday, 3-6 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday.
Hayden, an avid golfer who attends Catholic High School, won last year’s title by sticking for fish on the final leaderboard in the Junior Division. He smoked the field in the “slot” redfish with first- and second-place fish that weighed 7.61 and 7.45 pounds, respectively, and second-place flounder (0.67 pounds) and gar (29.3 pounds).
He amassed 658 points, points that are accumulated daily, to finish ahead of Riley Louviere, who had 445 points.
The Junior Division has become as competitive as the Inside Division, thanks to the moms, dads and/or friends who make it a point to get children on the water for one, two or three days. Many of the moms, dads and friends fished as youngsters and are continuing the tradition.
Ticket prices are $5 for the Junior Division, $25 for the Inside Division or Kayak Division, and $55 for the Offshore Division. To be eligible to fish the Junior Division, a boy or girl cannot have reached his or her 16th birthday before June 30, 2019. Proof of age is required.
Brooks, Hayden and company on Fish Karma face the same challenge going into this fishing rodeo as the dozens of other saltwater fishermen. Inside waters are fresh and muddy, which isn’t conducive to catching many eligible species.
“Oh, that’s a big topic. I don’t know how well people are going to do catching fish. You’re going to have to get out there and soak some bait in the water. They definitely can’t see it it’s so murky. It’s every year, especially this year with all the high water everywhere, fresh, fresh water, really fresh,” Brooks said.
Does he have a game plan?
“I guess we’ll try to get trash fish. I hope we can find some. I don’t know if there’s any fish out there, to be honest with you,” he said.
The conditions have gotten worse, apparently, instead of better. For example, he said, a month ago the crew went out and caught 50 redfish, releasing 30, one day and then the next day caught 30 redfish, releasing 10.
In the fourth and final Southcentral Fishing Association tournament of 2019, Fish Karma caught a grand total of three redfish on June 22, he said.
Still, Hayden emerged as the SFA’s 2019 Junior Angler of the Year.
“He was really, really excited. I got a big ‘Thank you!’ from him for always taking him to the fish. Yeah, we like SFA. We know all the guys and like the guys. We enjoy it,” Brooks said.
Now he’s got his eyes set on doing well in the IR&GC Saltwater Fishing Rodeo. So does Hayden.
DON SHOOPMAN is outdoors editor of The Daily Iberian.