Kevin Schilling is only 33, but has popped up twice before in New Orleans area fishing news.
He is a leading character in “Team Camo,” a camouflage-clad team of fishermen whose specialty is whacking invasive Rio Grand perch (cichids) that have infested waters in and around the big city.
The organizers of the New Orleans City Park Big Bass Rodeo and Fishtival sponsor a category called “Rio Grand Round-up.” (Before Hurricane Katrina, it was a category in the “Bream Buster Division.”) Schilling and team have won the contest “about 14 times,” including eight consecutive wins.
Their best take was 969 in 3 1/2 hours for the eight-man fishing team. Schilling calculated that he and Scott Rauch (who is as competitive as Schilling) caught a fish every 30 seconds.
He explained the camo thing.
“We wear camouflage because we sight-fish every single one of them,” he said. “There are there bluegill, too. I don’t want to waste my time on bluegills.
“Camo allows us to blend in the background. The water in the City Park Lagoons is very clear. Those fish can see you.”
Schlling’s other headlines came when he caught a City Park record bass of 9 pounds in 2013.
“The record hadn’t been broken since about 1958,” he said. “My boat was broken and it was Mardi Gras day. Six months later, someone caught .05 of a pound bigger. Five-one hundredths! We’re talking a couple of drops of water here!”
The thought seemed to rankle him.
“The job that Wildlife and Fisheries, and (the University of New Orleans) have done in the park with stocking and water quality have immensely helped that place out,” he said. “I think it’s a world-class fishery in an urban area. I can’t think of any other public place of that size that you can go and have a reasonable chance to catch an 8- or 9-pound fish.”
Schilling’s fishing roots are deeply urban. He grew up fishing in the Mississippi River batture ponds of the city’s suburbs.
“I live close to Bonnabel Canal now,” he chuckled a little self-consciously. “It’s pretty good fishing in those canals if you don’t mind the passing motorists looking down their noses at you.
“Then they see you setting the hook on a 2- or 3-pound bass. My best day in the canals was 33 bass in three hours. The largest one weighed 4 1/2 pounds.”
He fishes them about 15 days a year, and also puts 40 “good days” fishing elsewhere.
The numbers are especially impressive considering he works on a job with no paid vacation and never fishes Saturdays, which he spends with his two young children while his wife teaches dancing lessons.