Anglers are jumping over to Grand Isle this weekend for the oldest fishing tournament in the United States, the Grand Isle Tarpon Rodeo. Originally founded by a New Orleans fishing club back in 1928, the long-running competition celebrates its 93rd anniversary. Or, maybe it's the 94th.
The numbers don’t add up, admitted Tommy Ory, Pavilion Coordinator. During an interview this week, he attempted the math for a moment, then said, “Whenever the tarpon ran, they had a rodeo.” The mystery of the event's origins adds to the allure of the South Louisiana Saltwater Angler’s tradition, often referred to as the “granddaddy” of fishing contests.
The awaited event attracts fisherd, families and visitors in droves, bumping the population on the 8-mile long by 1½-mile wide barrier island from approximately 1,338 people up to around 15-20,000. About 2,000 of those registered to fish in the rodeo. Summer is a busy time for the “Big Island.” Tommy adds, “Just pray for good weather.”
Games begin at daybreak on Thursday, July 24, and the Pavilion opens to the public at 11 am, featuring children’s activities until 3 pm, and the anticipated Crab Races beginning at 2 pm each day.
Musical performances by Rockin Dopsie, Cowboy Mouth, Foghat and the Wiseguys will appear throughout the 3-day fishing mecca, with daily jams by DJ Captain P.
RJ and Jay Paul Molinere from History Channel’s reality series Swamp People will make special appearances Friday from 3-5 pm and Saturday from 11 am – 2 pm, and Fox 8 Chief Meteorologist Bob Breck will present the Rodeo Awards for Top Fishermen and Women.
Ory said his favorite thing about the rodeo is, well, hard to say. “I wasn’t raised here, but my grandparents always had a second home here. Grand Isle is like a second home. I like to see the tradition carry on every year.”
Weigh stations at the Sand Dollar Marina will stay open until 8 pm Thursday and Friday and close at 6 pm on the tourney’s final day, Saturday July 26. The catches are iced down and displayed at the Grand Isle Pavilion after they’re weighed and afterward, are donated to the Baton Rouge food bank or the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
Tarpon frequently jump out of water when hooked making them a challenge to reel in, but these leap-frogging gill-bearers aren’t the only ectothermic water dwellers eligible for prizes in the affair.
Last year, Cory Cheramie nabbed the big prize, reeling in the Largest Tarpon of the weekend at 102 lbs., 3 oz.
Other game on tap include: Dolphin Blue Marlin, Blackfin Tuna, Wahoo, Yellowfin Tuna, Barracuda, Bluefish, Bonito Cobia, Jack Crevalle, Grouper, King Mackeral, Spanish Mackeral, Mangrove Snapper, Spadefish, Triple tail, Croaker, Gafftopsail Catfish, Black Drum, Flounder, Redfish, Redfish Stringer, Sheepshead, Speckled Trout, and White Trout.
Tarpon under 4.5 feet total length are not eligible for entry. Casting, drift fishing, trolling, and still fishing are the only trapping techniques allowed, and fishing boundaries include Louisiana inshore and offshore territorial waters and the Gulf of Mexico.
Anglers must be registered prior to entering their booty into the competition and must have a valid Louisiana basic and saltwater fishing license.
Locations to register in Metairie / Jefferson: ??Puglia’s Sporting Goods
Locations to register in Leevilee / Fourchon: ?? TYD Store and Tackle?Moran’s Marina?Griffin’s Ice and Fuel
Locations to register in Houma: Songy’s Sporting Goods West Marine
For a complete event schedule, visit the Tarpon Rodeo website.