Capt. Vernon Ledoux is a diehard speckled trout fisherman, but when he's down on Grand Isle and the winds fall to a whisper, he has a hard time resisting the call of the offshore rigs. Yesterday (June 3), he felt that insatiable tug, so he and his wife Sherrie launched their 22-foot Bay Quest and headed 30 miles out to a rig they love. Their goal was a couple of red snapper for each of them, and they knew that wouldn't be a problem.
"It's nothing to catch a limit of snapper. Nothing," Ledoux said. But he also knew this rig was frequented by cobia and mangrove snapper, so he and Cherie set out a nice chum line. The technique worked like a charm, but within minutes, they couldn't have cared less about the mangroves. "The cobia came up in a school," Ledoux said. "They had about three or four together." One of the fish was so big it was nearly impossible to fathom. Sherrie dropped down a Spanish sardine on a circle hook, and a big cobia took it immediately, but it wasn't the beast of the bunch. Still, it was far and away the biggest of Sherrie's life, and she fought it for a solid 30 minutes before her husband was able to sink a gaff in it and hoist it over the gunwale. They were happy to have landed such a beautiful fish, but a little disappointed that the monster hadn't taken the bait. "After we got the smaller one in the boat, I started chumming again, and we got them back up," Ledoux said. The giant cobia was apparently determined to die. It ate two Spanish sardines, but missed the hooks both times. On the third strike, Ledoux let the fish run several seconds before he engaged the reel and buried the circle hook in the corner of its mouth. The fish went crazy and took the anglers on a blistering run, rising on the surface to porpoise several times. "We fought him a good long while, probably 30 or 40 minutes," Ledoux said. Finally the fish was nearly spent, and then the couple faced the next challenge: getting the monster in the boat. "I gaffed him, and I told Sherrie, 'Get the small hand gaff,' and I said, 'Gaff him in the tail!'" Ledoux recounted. "I couldn't pull him in by myself." His wife was reluctant, however. "I was scared that thing would pull me in!" she said. Finally, she mustered up the courage, and together, they dragged the fish over the gunwale. On the floor of the boat, it went absolutely bananas. "It went crazy," Ledoux said. "I said, 'Just let him go.'" The anglers didn't have an ice chest big enough to hold the beast, so they left it on the deck of the boat. On the way in, they encountered a cuddy cabin that had broken down, so they offered to tow the much-bigger boat in. "You can't leave anybody out there," Ledoux said. All the while, the fish was drying out on the floor of the boat, losing weight. When the couple finally made it to Bridge Side Marina, it was 8 p.m., and the fish had spent at least three hours out of the water. Still, it drew quite a crowd at Bridge Side, and Ledoux received many handshakes and slaps on the back. Bridge Side owner Buggy Vegas pulled out his certified scale, and the monster cobia pushed it to 79.02 pounds. "That's the biggest fish I've ever caught," Ledoux said. Since he's a charter captain, he's not eligible for the STAR, but Sherrie was more than happy to enter her fish. Even though it was dwarfed by Vernon's, it still weighed 50 pounds.