They say records are made to be broken, but Tim Champagne’s giant 31 ⅞-inch mangrove snapper looks like it won’t just be breaking records — it could absolutely shatter them.
The Lafayette angler landed an 18.63-pound mangrove at a platform in Ship Shoal 222 out of Cocodrie Wednesday afternoon that — pending official certification — is more than 4 pounds heavier than the current No. 1-ranked Louisiana fish, and more than 1 ½ pounds larger than the current International Game Fish Association world record.
Champagne and some friends were fishing with Capt. André Boudreaux out of Boudreaux’s Marina when the big mangrove devoured his free-lined live croaker about 2 p.m.
“We were fishing with croaker on the top — no weight, no nothing, just floating. When I hooked on to it, I really didn’t know what I had. We had been fishing pretty much all morning, and I hooked into it and it really didn’t give that much of a big fight. It was just a typical mangrove battle, just like the rest of the mangroves we had caught,” said Champagne, who works as a safety consultant in the oil industry. “That’s what made it so funny. When it came up to the surface, the deckhand saw the size of the fish. He went to net it, and he had trouble getting it into the net.
“That’s when Capt. André saw the size of it. We took a couple of pictures of it and didn’t think a whole bunch about it, then we went ahead and weighed it. On the Boga-Grip, it was almost 19 pounds.”
Boudreaux told Champagne he thought the fish could be a potential state record, but there was no way to confirm his suspicions offshore with no Internet available.
When they returned to Cocodrie, they spoke with a Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries biologist, who met them and ultimately signed off on the catch after inspecting and weighing it at Tradewinds Marina Wednesday evening.
“One of the guys fishing with me said, “You might want to look a the world record stuff,” Champagne said. “So we got on the IGFA website and found an article on the guy who’s been holding the record since 1992 with the 17-pounder. The Internet down here kept kicking me off, so I just took their phone number and called them this morning.”
The IGFA representative confirmed Thursday the 17-pound fish caught by Steve Maddox in Port Canaveral, Fla. in 1992 is the current world record.
Champagne is in the process of completing the application for the IGFA, and has all of the paperwork completed for the Louisiana Outdoor Writers Association, which maintains the fishing records for the state. (The current state record is a 14.36-pound mangrove caught by Michael W. Lorio Sr. in the West Delta Blocks in June, 2008)
“It’s a totally different process for IGFA,” he said. “I have to send in the application with 50 feet of the line and the leader, along with the hook and pictures.”
Champagne, who was not registered for the CCA-Louisiana STAR Tournament, reeled in the monster with Boudreaux’s Penn Spinfisher 750 reel, which was spooled with 65-pound mono line and a 2-foot, 50-pound Yo-Zuri HD Carbon leader. A Mustad 5/0 Demon circle hook was hooked through the side of the croaker’s mouth.
“I had to pull him out of the rig,” Champagne said. “He headed straight back into the rig and I had to pull him up over a diagonal. I could feel the pressure and the rub on the line.”
Champagne, 47, said Boudreaux is assisting him in locating a taxidermist, but catching a potential world-record class fish hasn’t quite sunk in yet.
“You know, all the guys fishing with me are extremely pumped up. I guess it really hadn’t hit me — the attention this grabs being a potential world record,” he said. “I’ve fished and hunted pretty much all my life. I worked out of Galliano two years ago, and fished every day.
“But it’s not like I was going out to catch a world record.”
His wife, Carmen, could help keep him grounded as a potential record holder. Champagne said she wasn’t pleased when he told her he was getting the fish mounted — one more in a long line of mounts already in their Lafayette home.
“At first she went off on me,” he said with a chuckle. “But when I sent her the article from the IGFA they tweeted out Thursday, she said ‘I guess that’s pretty serious. I just thought y’all would have cleaned it and ate it.’”