They say it’s not how you start — but how you finish that matters.

That was the case last Friday, June 1, when Tyler Bourgeois headed out of Moran’s Marina in Fourchon around 6:30 a.m. for a red snapper trip during the Catholic High School (Baton Rouge) Alumni Fishing Rodeo.

Bourgeois, 24, of Raceland, was fishing with Team ABL Fabricators on Capt. Hunter Andras’ 38-foot Fountain, along with Chad Vining, Hunter’s dad Dwayne and Jonathan Lindley. 

But by the time they arrived at their first rig in the Grand Isle blocks a few hours later, Bourgeois was feeling several different shades of green.

“I’ve only been out four or five times, in good conditions and in rough conditions. But for some reason, we got to the first rig and I caught a migraine. We had 3- and 4-foot rollers, and it smoked me,” he said. “I was actually laying on the bottom of the boat for two hours.”

But early that afternoon around 1:30, Bourgeois finally felt good enough to fish — and wound up with the “red” snapper of a lifetime on only his second drop of the day.

“I got up and dropped once, had a nibble and he ate my bait, so I reeled up, re-baited and dropped again,” Bourgeois said, noting they were fishing with cut up hardtails. “It was basically my second drop of the day and I pulled up a white snapper.

“They were all like, ‘Are you serious?’ It kind of caught me off guard. I really wasn’t sure exactly what it was at first, and then when we got him to the top, it was kind of like a shock throughout the whole boat. They were like, ‘Man, a white snapper.’” 

Jerald Horst, a retired professor of fisheries with Louisiana State University and frequent Louisiana Sportsman contributor, said what Bourgeois reeled up from about 120 feet was actually a leucistic red snapper, which resulted from its parents both having a recessive pigmentation gene.

“In simplest terms, leucism is albinism without affecting the eyes,” Horst said. “It’s a genetic pigment issue.”

Bourgeois said while he was literally reeling in the white fish, Hunter Andras was pulling up a 28.86-pounder that would eventually take first place in the rodeo, which concluded on Saturday. Team ABL Fabricators also wound up in first place in the five-fish red snapper stringer division, with a total of 96.73 pounds. 

His white snapper got culled from the five-fish stringer, but weighed a healthy 13.34 pounds, and was 29 inches long with a 21-inch girth. 

The fish has black eyes with a light blue pigment around them, as well as flecks of orange on its sides, and Bourgeois is planning on getting a replica mount made to commemorate a great day on the water — at least the part after he was seasick.

“It almost reminds me of a koi fish. I love it. The orange gives him a little character … I’m blessed. I’m speechless to be honest with you,” Bourgeois said, noting again that he’s only made a handful of snapper trips offshore. “It’s just crazy. I’m glad I was able to bounce back. 

“I guess when it’s your time, it’s your time.”