Just five days after a 287-pound Warsaw grouper that could be the state’s new No. 6-ranked fish hit the scales at Sand Dollar Marina, another fisherman 45 miles southwest of Grand Isle reeled in a 277-pounder that also likely would have cracked into Louisiana’s Top 10.

But you read the “would have” part correctly — the big grouper reeled in by Barry Henry of Lafayette isn’t eligible for the record books because more than one angler handled the rod during the catch.

Capt. Bradley Leopold, with Fish Commander Guide Service, said the big grouper swallowed a chunk of bonito in about 350 feet of water on his charter trip about 1 a.m. Wednesday morning.

“Around midnight we had enough tuna so we came in a little closer and tried to catch a big grouper — and we got one,” Leopold said with a chuckle. “It wasn’t a shark like it normally is.”

But after pulling out of Bridge Side Marina around noon Tuesday and battling numerous yellowfin tuna during an action-packed evening on the water, his customers were pretty whipped.

“Just about everyone was sleeping. Only two people were awake,” Leopold said. “My deckhand Joey Macaisz loves to drop down and he hooked one, and it pulled the hook. We hooked another one, and his buddy told him, ‘We might have your fish on.’ So the guy sits up and slowly walked over.”

The big grouper was caught with a Shimano 50-wide reel spooled with 300-pound Jerry Brown braid on a Talavera rod, with a 20/0 Mustad hook, Leopold said. 

The battle lasted about 35 minutes, but no one considered that the big grouper might have been a potential Top 10 fish at that point.

“I wasn’t thinking,” Leopold said. “I didn’t sleep a lick.”

But when the big fish hit the deck of the 32-foot Twin Vee catamaran, the captain had no choice but to head for home so the giant fish wouldn’t go to waste. They arrived back at Bridge Side shortly before 5 a.m., he said.

“We were going to stay all night and tie up and just roll in at daylight, but when we caught that it was like, ‘I guess we’re going in early,’” Leopold said. “We already had 11 yellowfin in the box.”

On the marina’s certified scales, the big grouper ultimately weighed 276.8 pounds, which would have made it the new No. 8-ranked Warsaw in the state pending approval by the Louisiana Outdoor Writers Association.