A fishing story that sets the tone for why I and so many other women like do what we do to inspire, promote, encourage, and empower other women to pursue their interests in the outdoor world.
This particular fishing trip started off with an objective to promote the captain and RodnReelGirls.com, but once I saw 10 year old Maddie jump into trying to catch a fish, it was more than easy to hand the spotlight over to her.
It set a stage that has become so su-real to me. Setting a platform to promote other women in the outdoor industry, putting the fun back into fishing! 2020 has been and still is a particularly hard year for everyone no matter what business you are in.
I feel very fortunate to live in a Sportsman’s Paradise here in Louisiana that has brought much peace of mind to so many as we were allowed to fish through the pandemic, social distancing was easy on the lakes and bayous of Louisiana. If you haven’t read the story of little Maddie, I hope you will take the time to do so now.
Fishing on the Norths Shore of Lake Pontchartrain holds certain challenges that are unique to this state. Timing is of the utmost importance whether you’re targeting bass, sac-a-lait, speckled trout, or redfish. Fishing in June can often result in more disappointing trips that successful ones. With the heat we’re seeing so far this month, the fishing is getting tough. Bass are moving into deeper water, the sac-a-lait spawn is over, and the speckled trout are heading east into Lake Borgne.
So I took the opportunity to do what I seldom do and that is to venture out of St. Tammany Parish for a fishing trip. Wanda Stewart of RodnReelGirls.com extended an invitation for my daughter and I to join her on her annual red snapper trip aboard the legendary “Cougar.” Captain John Coulon greeted us at the dock at Venice Marina at 7:00 a.m. and we climbed aboard the blue and white custom built, 47-foot steel vessel.
During the ride out to our first rig I had a chance to talk with Captain Coulon about the recently extended red snapper season from a meager 9 days in 2016 to what is now a 7-day a week season which is scheduled to remain open until recreational landings reach Louisiana’s annual allocation of 743,000 pounds. Coulon says things are much better now that the state has taken control of things. “Things were rough for a while but now we’re seeing more of a return to how things used to be before the snapper regulations were tightened,” John says. Being stationed out of Venice, red snapper is his bread and butter and on this trip, John and his deckhand, Don, proved once again that the goal of a limit of snapper was the daily norm for the anglers aboard the Cougar.
As we approached our first stop, Wanda made her way around the boat collecting five dollars from everyone for a biggest fish contest. For those of you who know Wanda, she always makes things interesting and the contest immediately had my little girl focused on catching the biggest fish of the day. I reminded her that she had never actually caught a red snapper or even been on a snapper trip but being 10-years old and undefeated, Maddie waved my comments off as to say ‘Awww.. what do you know!” After tying up to the rig Maddie and I headed to the bow of the boat where I baited our hooks with cut pogey and we lowered our lines down to the bottom. It didn’t take long for me to catch our first fish of the day, however it wasn’t the minimum 16” long so we had to throw it back. If you know my daughter, or most 10-year olds for that matter, you know that throwing fish back can often result in explaining why that certain fish didn’t go in the ice box and wasn’t coming home with us. As she recovered from her episode I could only hope that her first fish would clear the minimum measurement. As we both sat quietly staring at the tips of our poles, I felt a bump and set the hook. I was in the middle of reeling in another undersized snapper when I glanced over and saw Maddie get pulled to the the guard rail. The rod bowed over and the confident little girl suddenly realized the power of this new species of fish she was after. Luckily Wanda slid over and gave Maddie a helping hand.
As I unhooked my fish Wanda looked back at me and said in a serious tone, “Keith, this is a big fish!” After throwing my fish back I was able to help Maddie get the fish to the surface. When the fish appeared from the depths, everyone applauded and Don the deckhand used the gaff to haul it into the boat. Not only was her fist fish a keeper, it set the tone for the rest of the day. As others caught fish I noticed my little girl checking on the size of each one that was brought into the boat. She was absolutely consumed by the contest and as the day went on I worried about her being disappointed by a bigger fish that was certain to be caught by a more experienced angler or at least one who was not 10-years old.