The International Grand Isle Tarpon Rodeo — billed as the oldest fishing tournament in the United States — will get underway Thursday, July 27, at sunrise — and this year's president is bringing a little Mardi Gras to the island for the event.
The 2017 president is Barry Kern, president and CEO of Kern Studios and Mardi Gras World in New Orleans, and a 10:30 a.m. Saturday "Tarpon Gras" parade will roll down Highway 1 this year from mid-island to the rodeo pavillion at Sand Dollar Marina.
Additionally, three drawings will be held for a total of four people to ride in the Orpheus parade (with throws) next year during the New Orleans Mardi Gras.
Out on the water, anglers will once again compete in big game, shoreline and inside divisions, as well as a tag-and-release tarpon and a tag-and-release big game division, plus a five-fish redfish stringer, according to rodeo coordinator Heather Martin.
Tag-and-release rules, as well as limits for tuna, were tweaked for 2017, she said.
"There's going to be an official report card you have to give to our weighmaster, and you have to have video or photo proof with a time stamp," Martin said, referring to the tag-and-release rule. "And you can only weigh-in three tuna per angler for the entire weekend.
"So if you weigh your three fish on Thursday, you can't weigh any more tuna."
Kids will also be able to participate in eight categories in the children’s division: hardhead catfish, flounder, redfish under 27 inches, speckled trout, gafftop catfish, croaker, channel mullet and white trout, she said.
All fish entered in the rodeo competition must be registered and weighed at rodeo headquarters at Sand Dollar Marina, with legal fishing waters including all Louisiana inshore and offshore territorial waters and the Gulf of Mexico.
The official scales at Sand Dollar will close at 8 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, and at 6 p.m. on Saturday. The pavilion, located next door, opens to the public each day at 11 a.m.
Weigh-in for the children’s division will be from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Sand Dollar scales, Martin said. Daily crab races for kids from 5 to 10 years old will take place daily at 2 p.m. at the pavilion, and entrants must bring their own crab.
All registered participants are eligible to win the rodeo’s grand prize: A Model 2170 center console Blazer Bay boat, complete with a 175 Mercury motor, a trolling motor and a trailer.
Basic tickets are $50 each and include a chance for the boat, a tarpon rodeo cap and a program, Martin said. Upgraded tickets also can be purchased for $125 and include a special cap, a fishing shirt, a koozie, a rodeo poster, a towel, plus a second chance for the boat.
Mail-in registration is closed, but tickets are plentiful on Grand Isle, and Martin said registration also can be completed any day at the pavilion.
Ticket outlets on Grand Isle include Blue Water Sports, Bridge Side Marina, Camardelle’s Seafood, Nez Coupe Gift Shop, Sand Dollar Marina and Sureway Supermarket, plus Songy’s Sporting Goods in Houma.
Additionally, tickets can be purchased at Puglia’s Sporting Goods and Chag's Sporting Goods in Metairie, and at TYD Store and Tackle, Moran’s Marina and Griffin’s Ice and Fuel in Leeville/Fourchon.
Musical entertainment over the three-day stretch will include Rockin' Dopsie Jr. on Thursday, The Topcats on Friday and The Wiseguys on Saturday.
For a complete listing of all fishing categories and rodeo rules, click here.