Capt. Lance ‘Coon’ Schouest has seen plenty of grown men struggle while hooked up in a battle with a big tarpon.
That made Saturday morning’s trip out of Grand Isle extra-special, as he got to watch 14-year-old Ivy Robichaux of Cut Off reel in a giant 188-pound silver king for a pending junior female world record with the International Game Fish Association.
“Let me tell you, I’ve been doing this since 1973,” said Schouest, inventor of the famed Coon-Pop tarpon lure and operator of Coon Pop Charters. “I’m so proud of that little girl. She never cried. She never quite pumping.
“She deserved that tarpon. She fought it like a grown up.”
Schouest was fishing with family friend Simone Robichaux and her two kids, Ivy and Roman, along with his grandson Hunter Schouest in the Terrebonne Sportsman’s League Fishing Rodeo. (Simone’s husband Ryan missed the trip because he was working at his deer lease.)
They left Sand Dollar Marina around 7:30 a.m., and hooked up with the tarpon between 8 and 8:30, he said.
“We weren’t the early birds, but we found the worm anyhow,” Schouest said. “We caught him 9 miles out of Grand Isle, right out of Barataria Pass. You could still see the island”
Each of the kids was assigned two rods as Schouest trolled. In Ivy’s age class, the current world record is a 128-pound tarpon caught in Honduras in 2002.
“Basically, the right size fish hit the right little girl’s line,” he said. “There was no doubt. I told everybody on the radio, ‘We hooked up with a good one. We’re going for the world record.’ And sure enough, it happened.
“When it came out the water on the first jump, I told them on the boat, ‘She’s over 180 pounds.’ And she was.”
Schouest is familiar with record tarpon, and he said everything was done by the books with Robichaux’s catch. The battle between teenager and tarpon waged for almost exactly one hour, he said.
“She has to pull the rod out of the rod holder herself, she walks to the front and we fight him off the bow of the boat,” Schouest said. “I’m telling you, this little girl fought that thing the way you’re supposed to fight a tarpon — like a grown person. She had a smile from ear to ear. She never quit.
“Every once in a while, she asked me, ‘What to do?’ I’d say, ‘When he comes up, pump. Pump. Pull and reel.’ And she did. She just never quit. As good a fight you can give a tarpon, that little girl did it. The fish was definitely twice as big as her.”
When the tarpon finally made it onto the deck of Schouest’s 31-foot Fountain, a celebration ensued.
“We were all screaming,” he said. “I think I was the most excited one on the boat because I knew what she had done. That little kid had a smile from ear to ear.”
At Sand Dollar, Robichaux’s tarpon officially weighed 188.4 pounds, with a 90-inch length and a 41-inch girth — good enough for first place in the Sportsman’s League Rodeo, and the pending IGFA junior female world record.
“She did an awesome job,” said Schouest, who reported Robichaux is getting a replica mount made from the giant fish. “You have to call it pending until you get all the paperwork, and that takes like two months.
“But it was a great tarpon.”