The urban dictionary offers many possible definitions of “boondoggle.”
This one is most fitting: a journey filled with shenanigans.
One of those journeys is coming to Louisiana on Oct 9-12.
Kayak fishing continues to grow exponentially, and virtually any weekend of the year you can find a kayak-fishing tournament across the country. Some are high stakes/high competition, while others are low or no entry fee, fun tournaments.
However, for those who want to participate in a group kayak-fishing event without the rules, competition and stress of a tournament, there’s the Kayak Fishing Boondoggle.
Five dollars gets you in.
The three simple principles of the event are camp, kayak and fish.
The sole purpose is to gather like-minded individuals for a family-friendly camping and kayak-fishing event. The four-day Boondoggle occurs over holiday weekends twice a year across the Southeast.
And Fontainebleau State Park in Mandeville is the site of this year’s fall event.
Shannon Villemarette, a local sponsor for the Louisiana event, attended her first Boondoggle last fall in Merritt Island, Fla.
“It was awesome,” she said. “I could not get over the camaraderie between the hundreds of participants. If you want to know about kayaking, if you want to know about fishing, if you want to know about kayak-fishing, the Boondoggle is a must-attend event.”
Villemarette owns Bayou Adventure in nearby Lacombe. The shop is a full-service outfitter, and has most everything Boondoggle participants might need.
“We rent kayaks, bicycles, and sell bait and tackle. We’re helping the Boondoggle by serving as a local liaison for all things Louisiana,” she said.
Fontainebleau State Park covers 2,800 acres and has a large sand beach area on the northern border of Lake Pontchartrain.
Two of the other three sides of the park also border water — Bayou Cane and Bayou Castine.
In addition to access to great paddling and kayak fishing areas, the park has many land-based activities. Filled with wildlife, the park has a nature trail and a hiking/bicycling/in-line skating trail converted from an old railroad track. The ruins of a historical 1829 sugar mill also are located in the heart of the park.
Waterfront cabins, and improved and primitive camping sites are available for Boondoggle participants. There also is a bathhouse and dump station.
The first Boondoggle was held in Jacksonville, Fla., in 2011, and it set the stage for subsequent events in Florida, South Carolina, Georgia and Virginia.
Mark Watanabe, one of the founders and organizers of the Boondoggle, has attended eight of the nine previous events.
“The Vendor Village is a popular feature of the Boondoggle event,” he said.
Participants get to see kayak-fishing-related products first hand and get all their questions answered.
“Anyone wanting to learn more about paddling and kayak-fishing is invited to join the family friendly event, which offers educational workshops, product demonstrations and products for sale in the Boondoggle’s Vendor Village,” Watanabe said.
The official festivities begin Oct. 9 at 2 p.m. with the Vendor Village exhibits. Later that evening, a meet-and-greet allows participants to reunite with old Boondoggle friends and meet new ones.
Following the meet-up is a Boondoggle tradition: the Ro Sham Bo contest in which the crowd participates against Native Watercraft’s Woody Callaway in the rock-paper-scissors game until there’s only one person standing against Woody.
That person wins a Native Propel kayak valued at nearly $2,300.
“So you have this crowd of 400 people doing rock, paper, scissors trying to beat Woody,” said Watanabe. “It has been a lot of fun.”
The Vendor Village opens again Oct. 10 from 2-9 p.m. for a variety of educational workshops, kayak demonstrations, games and kids’ activities.
No one can argue that the main attraction of Louisiana to the Boondoggle folks is the fishing. The park’s location offers easy access to Lake Pontchartrain and the Causeway. The Frank Davis “Naturally N’Awlins” Memorial Bridge (I-10 Twin Spans), along with the Highway 11 and Trestles bridges, are all within short driving distances and have easy launch access via kayak.
Will the famed “World Series Trout” make an appearance at the bridges during the event? If they do, participants are likely in for a fantastic fishing experience that is unique to Louisiana.
Calm days on the lake make for great kayak fishing, but caution is advised, as it can get rough really fast if the weather turns sour.
The Lake’s bull reds and jack crevalle offer Boondogglers the chance at what might be their largest kayak-caught fish.
However, with no formally scheduled fishing events during the Boondoggle, participants are free to explore any areas of Southeast Louisiana they wish to fish.
Those with a penchant for freshwater species can find great action in nearby bayous Lacombe, Castine and Cane. Bass and bream will likely be hungry, and these protected waters offer safe kayak-fishing opportunities for even novice kayak fishermen.
In the reaches of the bayous nearest the lake, they might even encounter trout and redfish.
Already knowing that the few days of fishing during the official event won’t be enough for many participants — they surely won’t want to go home — organizers have planned an after-party for Oct. 13-14 at Grand Isle State Park.
Bull reds should be in full force in Caminada Pass. What a great way to cap off the Louisiana Boondoggle.
“Somehow, everyone who comes to the event becomes a part of the Boondoggle family, even if they’re a newbie,” said Adam Hayes, another Boondoggle originator. “It’s pretty amazing. We come from different states, but we’re like one big, happy family.”
While camping at the park is encouraged, it’s not required. There are nearby hotels for out-of-town visitors who want to rough it a little more smoothly. Also, local participants can attend the daily events and return home at night.
If this is your first Boondoggle, there’s a good chance it won’t be your last. Villemarette said there is only one thing she can think of to make the Boondoggle even better.
“It’s a great event, but now we’re going to do it Louisiana style,” she said.
For information, registration and camping reservations, log onto www.kayakfishingboondoggle.com.