705-pounder could rank No. 6 in the state
Lots of things can happen in 13 hours.
That’s plenty of time to watch 26 back-to-back episodes of “The Big Bang Theory.”
You could easily hop a flight from Newark, N.J. to Beijing, China, or maybe watch the Saints win Super Bowl XLIV almost four more times.
Or, if you’re Ben Bernard of Lafayette, you could fight and eventually land a 705-pound blue marlin this past Saturday in the International Grand Isle Tarpon Rodeo.
Bernard, 33, was fishing in Green Canyon about 100 miles south of Grand Isle with his friend Keith Richardson, on Richardson’s 58-foot Jarrett Bay, appropriately named the “Whoo Dat.”
They cruised out of Grand Isle Wednesday afternoon, and had a productive day on Thursday, catching some tuna, wahoo and dolphin in what Bernard described as a “good day of fishing.”
Friday morning started off a little slow with a few yellowfin, until the real excitement began early that afternoon.
“At about 1 o’clock, the left rigger just exploded and we looked out the back of the boat. It was my turn up in the chair,” he said. “I hopped in and the reel was screaming. As soon as I sat in the chair, she started greyhounding away from us and the fight began after that.”
That started an epic tug-of-war that didn’t end until about 2:30 a.m. Saturday morning. The big fish continually allowed itself to be brought right up to the boat, but would take off again each time First Mate Courtney Stanley attempted to work the leader.
“We must have had the wire at least 20 times,” Bernard said. “I lost track… But this fish kept us on our toes the entire time. They had to move the chair constantly from side-to-side, and continually reset the gaff to get ready. It was really crazy. It was just a a wild fight.
“She wasn’t giving up,” he said. “The fights would just keep lasting and lasting. You never knew when it would end.”
Finally, about 3:30 a.m. Saturday morning, the very tired crew got the giant fish on-deck.
“You’ve got to remember that everyone’s been fishing since 5:30 Friday morning,” he said. “Everybody’s been on their feet all day long in the seas with very little or nothing to eat.”
So they wrapped her up as best they could in a fish bag and iced her down before heading out at sunrise for the long ride home.
News of the big fish reached Grand Isle long before the anglers arrived early Saturday afternoon, and a crowd had gathered to see what many thought might be a new rodeo record.
“Everybody was just excited to get to the dock. That was something in itself,” Bernard said. “I guess I wasn’t prepared to see everyone that excited. That was a lot of fun.
“We thought we had a 750-pounder, but you just don’t know until you put it on a scale,” he said.
With the help of a forklift, the big marlin tipped the marina’s digital scale at 712.2 pounds, just shy of Louis Gotreaux’s rodeo record catch in 2004 that weighted in at 723.8 pounds.
The weighmaster deducted the weight of the dockline, and Bernard’s blue marlin went into the rodeo record books at No. 2, checking in officially at 705 pounds. If the catch is approved by the Louisiana Outdoor Writers Association, it will become the No. 6-ranked blue marlin in the state.
Bernard was quick to congratulate everyone on board the Whoo Dat for their hard work in catching the giant fish.
“I was the angler, but the crew, the captain and everyone on board lands a fish like this,” he said. “Everyone that catches marlin or any game fish understands that. It’s definitely a team effort.”
The crew included Capt. Chris Hood and Courtney Stanley from Orange Beach, Ala., as well as Stuart Billeaud and Keith’s son, Kaleb Richardson.
“I was just lucky enough to be on the rod,” he said. “These guys work hard at it, and they’re reaping the benefits of their hard work.”
Bernard said he used a Shimano Tiagra 50-wide trolling reel spooled with 80-pound line and a 500-pound leader to land the giant, along with a secret artificial lure that has bagged big marlin in the past.
As for the fish, which measured more than 125-inches from lower-jaw to tail, it remains in Grand Isle and will be examined by a biologist, he said. He doesn’t know if he has a wall big enough to mount a replica.
“I’ve never caught something this big, so I really don’t know what to do with it or how to handle it,” he said with a chuckle. “But we’re going to discuss it more with Keith and the crew and figure out exactly what we want to do.”