Lance “Coon” Schouest’s elusive quest to land a new state record tarpon will have to wait.
On Monday morning in rough conditions, Schouest landed a 228.13-pound monster about 7 miles from the Sand Dollar Marina in Grand Isle. He weighed in just 1.87 pounds shy of the 20-year-old state record 230-pounder caught by Thomas Gibson in 1993.
“We hooked him about 40 yards from the boat and he made his first jump about 150 yards from the boat,” Schouest said. “When he came out the water, we knew he was a big one.”
The fish was 85 inches long with a girth of 48 inches, and Schouest was hopeful that he might have finally caught one big enough to crack the 230-pound mark.
“I was honestly thinking 235 (pounds) or 236,” Schouest said. “But they’re going to weight what they’re going to weigh. I always say the scale don’t lie.
“I was excited, but it was a little of a disappointment because we wanted No. 1. That’s twice we’ve come that close, within a pound.”
Monday’s catch marks the 17th 200-pound tarpon that Schouest, 58, has personally caught, and he said six of the current Top 10 Louisiana tarpon have come from his boat.
“It’s what I do. I’ve got a passion for it and I think God put me on this earth to be a tarpon fisherman,” Schouest said. “It’s a lot of hard work and there’s a lot of luck involved.
“But I’d rather be lucky than good any day.”
On Monday morning, he had intended to head for Southwest Pass, but 2- to 3-foot seas and whitecaps forced him to stay closer to home.
“It was just too rough,” he said. “It made us stop so we stayed around and fished. Thank God we did.”
Within about 20 minutes of putting out six drift lines, the big tarpon grabbed the green-and-yellow Coon Pop, Schouest’s personal custom-made tarpon lure, and the 40-minute fight was on.
“We knew they were in the bait. We knew they were around,” said Schouest, a charter fisherman from Houma. “And sure enough, they came up by the boat and he hit the line. We were in the right place at the right time.”
If the catch is approved by the Louisiana Outdoor Writers Association, Schouest’s tarpon will be the No. 3-ranked tarpon in the state, less than a pound behind his son-in-law’s 229-pounder caught in September, 2011.
Depending on what kinds of cool fronts head this way, Schouest said the season usually wraps up around the end of October, or whenever the water temperature gets under 75 degrees.
“They’re a migratory fish,” he said. “We’re going back out as soon as this weather gets calm. We’re going to get that No. 1. We aren’t stopping.”