Guide catches beautiful leopard red out of Cocodrie

Capt. Eric Pellegrin landed this 400-spot leopard redfish Saturday morning near Wine Island Pass out of Cocodrie.
Capt. Eric Pellegrin landed this 400-spot leopard redfish Saturday morning near Wine Island Pass out of Cocodrie.

400-spot fish bit a Berkley Rattle Shrimp Saturday

Capt. Eric Pellegrin was in the midst of a hot trout bite Saturday morning near Wine Island Pass out of Cocodrie when a redfish crashed the party.

But this time, the 33-year-old guide didn’t really mind.

“We were catching some beautiful fish — you felt like you had to grab the net for every trout because they were really solid,” said Pellegrin, the son of Capt. Tommy Pellegrin, who works with his dad for Custom Charters out of Houma. “The biggest one we had was probably around 3 pounds, but we didn’t have to throw a fish back, and we didn’t have to measure a thing.”

But around 10 a.m., Pellegrin felt the familiar tug of a redfish that hit his coastal candy-colored Berkley Rattle Shrimp he was throwing on a sliding cork rig in about 5 feet of water.

Capt. Eric Pellegrin with Custom Charters reeled in this spectacular 400-spot leopard red Saturday, Nov. 3, near Wine Island Pass out of Cocodrie.
Capt. Eric Pellegrin with Custom Charters reeled in this spectacular 400-spot leopard red Saturday, Nov. 3, near Wine Island Pass out of Cocodrie.

He didn’t realize it at the time — but this definitely wasn’t your run-of-the-mill red.

“I knew it was a redfish when I was fighting it, but I didn’t see it that good until it got to the boat,” he said. “When I saw it, I was freaking out.”

What Pellegrin and his clients Justin Langlois and Nathan Meiners saw was a spectacular bronze “leopard red,” covered in spots on both sides.

“I was like, ‘Oh my gosh!’ I couldn’t believe it. With all the fish I’ve caught and seen in my life … I never would have expected to catch something like that,” he said. “To me, that’s a once-in-a-lifetime fish that’s more precious to me than my nice buck on the wall.

“This one is definitely more of a prize to me than my deer on the wall.”

The spotted redfish was 26 inches long with a 14-inch girth, and tipped the scales at 5.5 pounds.

Catching it was the easy part — counting its spots wasn’t.

“The best I can say with a good accurate count is it’s right at 400 spots total. Keeping track of spots counting on a fish is hard to do,” Pellegrin said with a chuckle. “It’s not the easiest task in the world. But it was almost identical on each side — I think there was 198 one one side and 202 on the other.”

He’s still in the process of formulating a plan on how the leopard red will be displayed.

“I’m doing a table piece, or a floor piece with a pedestal,” he said. “To me, I would not be doing that fish justice if i just showcased one side of it and did a flat wall mount. I’m 100 percent doing some kind of mount with a scene, whether it be marsh grass with some mullets that it’s chasing … I’m going to leave it to the taxidermist at that point.”

Out of the hundreds and hundreds of reds he’s reeled in, he’s looking forward to getting back a mount he’ll cherish — to commemorate a day he won’t ever forget.

“I’m still trying to take this all in,” Pellegrin said. “It’s not something you ever dream about happening.”

Patrick Bonin
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Patrick Bonin is the editor of Louisiana Sportsman magazine and LouisianaSportsman.com.