Rad Trascher, director of the Coastal Conservation Association’s Louisiana STAR Tournament, often gets asked about the fate of redfish tagged in previous years’ contests that never get caught.
What becomes of them? How far do they travel? How big do they get?
Well on Wednesday, he found out some answers on at least one healthy specimen tagged 39 months ago — for the 2014 STAR Tournament.
“I got a call saying someone had caught a 31-inch tagged redfish, and I was like, ‘What?’ He tells me the tag number and it doesn’t ring a bell, so I knew it wasn’t this year,” Trascher said, noting he and his volunteers typically tag fish on the smaller end of the slot. “So I sat in my car and pulled up the number on my computer and it was tagged three years ago. It originally measured 17 ¼ inches in The Pen in Lafitte.
“He caught it in Little Lake in Lafitte three years later — at 31 ¼ inches.”
Reece and Ramzee Rojas landed the red while fishing with their dad, Capt. CJ Rojas Jr. with Rojas Charters, in Little Lake.
“I was trolling them and they were casting Johnson weedless gold spoons,” said Rojas, who didn’t initially even notice the slime-coated STAR tag when the fish hit the deck Wednesday morning. “After we had fished a while I needed to ice up, and lots of time I take pictures before I ice them down hard, so when I pulled it out the box to take a picture I saw it was tagged.
“To be honest with you the tag was so slimed up, I was thinking it was a regular Wildlife and Fisheries tag — it didn’t even dawn on me that it might be a STAR fish.”
Since guides and their families are ineligible for the tournament, Rojas said he was relieved when he found out later the fish was tagged back in 2014.
“I would never intentionally take away from someone that has a chance in the tournament by killing a fish that was tagged this year,” he said.
The guide estimates the redfish traveled at least 10 to 12 miles from where it was tagged to where it was caught in Little Lake on Wednesday. He said his daughter Ramzee, 8, set the hook, but her 10-year-old big brother assisted with the catch.
“My girl is a little bitty thing. Reece had the net and she had the fish on, but he was holding the rod for her so she didn’t get pulled off the boat,” Rojas said with a chuckle. “It was a team effort all the way.”
Rojas wondered what the redfish experienced in the three years that passed since it was tagged — while it was adding 14 inches to its frame.
“That thing was dodging hooks, arrows and everything else. For it to live that long is a miracle in itself,” he said. “And it took two little kids to catch him.
“I wish we could get the story out of it on how its life went out there.”