EDITOR'S NOTE: Capt. Eddie Berthelot Jr. reports the leopard red has a total of 670 spots - 342 on one side, and 328 on the other.
As a fishing guide on the water regularly out of Golden Meadow and Grand Isle, it should come as no surprise that Capt. Eddie Berthelot Jr. has literally caught thousands of redfish.
But never one as special as the fish he reeled in Sunday morning about 10:30.
On a day when lots of anglers were staying home — 36 degrees with a brisk 15 mph wind and water temperatures in the upper-40s — Berthelot snagged a trophy 'leopard red' in the Pointe-aux-Chenes area.
“When I set the hook on him, he jumped about halfway out the water and I almost threw up because I was so excited,” said Berthelot, who operates Spots and Specks Charters. “I’ve been waiting for a good redfish mount forever, and when I set the hook I knew it was a mount — that’s how much of his body came out the water.”
Berthelot caught the 28 ½-inch fish with a live cocahoe minnow on a kahle hook under a popping cork.
“That was the only thing they were touching that morning, as cold as it was,” he said.
The tough conditions actually made the fishing easier, and concentrated the reds in a dead-canal.
“It was a super low tide, with the wind blowing out and no water,” Berthelot said. “The duck ponds we normally fish were actually dry. We found an old pipeline canal with an old dam in it that usually holds 2 or 3 feet of water.
“It was like fishing in an aquarium.”
So exactly how many spots are on the fish? Well, nobody actually knows yet.
“Me and the taxidermist got up to 85, and then he lost count with the spot he was on,” Berthelot said with a chuckle. “He said, ‘Why don’t you go home and count all these spots?’
“But just the tail section on one side, we were up to 85 spots in about a 3-inch area.”
Dr. Kyle Piller, a fish geneticist at Southeastern University in Hammond, has told LouisianaSportsman.com in past leopard encounters that the redfish’s unique spots are likely the result of its parents both having a recessive pigmentation trait.
To commemorate the catch, Berthelot is getting a couple of replicas made, as well as an actual skin mount that will go in his camp at Grand Isle.
He estimated the fish weighed about 9 pounds.
“He’s going to sit right next to my 7-pound trout,” Berthelot said.