When Hunter Parra set out to fish the Houma Oilmen/Maison Du Chien Fishing Rodeo, he probably should have stopped at a local convenience store along the way and picked up a lottery ticket.
In less than 24 hours the angler caught not one, but two TAG Louisiana redfish.
Around 5 that Friday afternoon, Parra hooked the larger of the two fish.
“The first one was a pretty good one,” said Parra, a lifetime Houma resident. “It was 27 ½ inches long. And when I saw that it had a tag I immediately said to the other guys in the boat, ‘Oh my God, it’s got a tag.’ Everybody said, ‘Yeah right – that has a tag in it.’
“I said, ‘I’m telling you, it has a tag.’”
When it comes to tagged redfish in Louisiana, most anglers think of the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) Louisiana STAR Tournament. Participants who enter the annual tournament that runs through September 1 have the opportunity to win pickup trucks, boats and numerous other prizes.
“The they were freaking out saying, ‘Do you have a STAR ticket?’ But when I saw the number and tag, I recognized it was from the TAG Louisiana program from looking it up online before,” he said.
According to information received from Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, the program was started by CCA in the late 80s. By 2007, the program was extended across the Louisiana coastline and to date, more than 105,000 redfish have been tagged by volunteer anglers.
The TAG Louisiana program plays an important role in assessing fish populations, growth rates, movement patterns and habitat preference. And anglers have an opportunity to become ‘citizen scientists’ by providing data that can be difficult and expensive to obtain by other means.
Parra caught his second tagged fish around 8:30 the next morning.
Since it was a rat red only 14 ½ inches long, it wasn’t big enough to weigh in and was released, as was the big red he caught on Friday.
Parra’s 27 ½-inch tagged redfish was caught at the mouth of Raccourci Bayou entering Raccourci Bay. His 14 ½-inch rat red also was caught in Raccourci Bayou about one-half mile away at the mouth of Lake Mechant.
“The smaller one I caught on Saturday was tagged just a month ago in Lake Mechant. So, basically the fish didn’t move hardly at all from where it was tagged. The bigger fish I caught on Friday was actually tagged during an IFA Redfish Tournament held at Falgout’s Marina last October. It traveled 10.2 miles.”
Since catching the two redfish, Parra has become a TAG Louisiana volunteer and says he can’t wait to start tagging fish himself.
“I think it’s so cool to be able to track these fish. You never know when you’re going to get a phone call or letter that says, ‘So-and-so caught a redfish you tagged.’ But, to catch one tagged fish on a Friday and the next morning catch another one – it was sort of surreal.
“My friend Britt Cavalier who was with me said, ‘You need to buy a lottery ticket.’”