Stalking wild bull redfish is fun on the waves

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 2, 2001


PHOTO 1: BRINGING HOME THE BACON or rather the bull redfish. Dave Marlowe holds up his catch after fighting the fish in on a light rid and reel. (Staff Photo by Daniel Tyler Gooden) GRAND ISLE – When that first bull redfish was finally landed in the boat, the group realized that all the trouble getting down to Grand Isle had served well as sacrifice to the fishing gods. The fish were biting and they were in for some fun. When Larry Roussel, of Convent, offered to set up a redfish trip at his camp everyone was biting at the bit. David Marlowe, L’Observateur publisher, had been fishing off the pier at the isle almost every weekend since he arrived from Arizona. Dean and his son, John Gooden, of Kansas City, had been awed by Roussel’s fishing stories when they met over gumbo during the Christmas Eve bonfire parties last December. Last week everyone was excited to get their first chance at fishing out of the Grand Isle passes under Roussel’s and his son Rudy’s guidance. PHOTO 2: A FLASH OF REDDISH GOLD in the morning light gets a fisherman’s blood going. Redfish like this 20 plus pound fighter have been caught at 60 pounds or more. (Staff Photo by Daniel Tyler Gooden) Roussel and his family had been fishing in Grand Isle for years. His account of the first bull red on his line still excites him to recount. His camp is named the Bullpen and his boat, the Bull Fighter, displaying his love for reeling in those feisty drums. Roussel’s record fish was heavier than 41 pounds, the state record sits at above 60 pounds. Through stories of tremendous fights, near misses and triumphs over equipment tragedies, Roussel’s love for bull redfishing infected everyone. The week before the April 27 trip, all that fun was on the verge of sliding under the waves. Vacation denied, came the word from Dean Gooden’s boss. “We need you to supervise a new job site on Friday.” PHOTO 3: CATCH OF THE DAY from left Rudy Roussel, Daniel Gooden, Dave Marlowe, Larry Roussel, and Dean and John Gooden display a fisherman’s prize. The fun part is catching the redfish, next comes the cleaning. (Staff Photo by Daniel Tyler Gooden) With flights booked full from Jazzfest, and a 13-hour drive from Kansas City, the trip would be too short lived to undertake if he had to work Friday. Monday his boss reconsidered and Dean breathed a sigh of relief. The next stumble was jury duty. John Gooden was told, “This could take all week, Monday through Friday.” The trial stretched through Monday and into Tuesday before finally being ruled a mistrial and Gooden stepped out of the jury box with his sights set on some fish. With their fingers crossed they hopped into a borrowed car and arrived in New Orleans Thursday night. The car made the long trip, but turned out to be the next roadblock for the trip. On their way to Convent to meet up with Roussel, the car’s ignition stuck in start and successfully turned the starter into a smoking piece of worthless metal. At 1:30 p.m. only two hours were left before departure time to the isle. With the car under warranty and a tow truck on the way, the group searched through Ford dealerships for a starter to fit the 2000 Taurus. LaPlace Ford had one left on the shelf. Larry Roussel met the group while they were waiting for the tow and followed, gear packed, for the trip. When the truck dropped the red Taurus off at the dealership, only 45 minutes were left in the mechanics’ day. Forty-five minutes until they were leaving and they were supposed to fix what? Marlowe, already on his way down to Grand Isle was informed of the situation. “I thought when they called and said they were at a dealership and would be on the road in a half-hour that was the end of it,” said Marlowe. What else would anyone expect? As the service department pushed the car into the shop, Roussel and the Goodens stood around talking about redfish. It’s hard to get that off the mind once it’s going. Soon salesman Gregg Clayton joined in. The next minute, Cliff Lubin, owner of LaPlace Ford, came out to say hi and was swept into the redfish discussion. Lubin brought the service manager out, Pete Daigle, and a load of pictures from his last redfish expedition. The group talked of where to fish, how to fish, what to fish with, how to cook fish and on and on. Then Roussel threw out a line. “Look,” he said to Lubin, “How big is your family? These guys are down from Kansas City for this trip. If we can get this car on the road and down there for the fish, we’ll bring you back enough redfish for a good supper.” Lubin’s smile grew bigger. “Let me check on the boys and see how they’re doing,” replied Lubin. He turned and headed for the service department, but it wasn’t necessary. “They’re bringing your car around now,” said the mechanic as he came out the door. Lubin and his crew had already been under the hood and replaced that starter in record time. The group was in awe. “It’s not service when someone helps you out because it’s convenient. When those guys went out of their way to help us out even though it was time to wrap up and head for home, they showed us what customer service really meant,” it was said later on, down in the Grand Isle camp. So the group left, just minutes behind schedule and made it down to do some fishing. Redfishing, like any fishing, can be a hit-and-miss adventure. Roussel explained that as much fun as he had at anytime behind the fishing reel, other days went without a fish in sight. The group prepared for the best. Friday night, crab traps were set out and mullet were cast for off the docks. By 5 a.m. Saturday, the group was up grabbing a bit of breakfast and checking the traps. By seven the group had unloaded the boat and were idling under the Grand Isle bridge for prime redfish territory. Roussel set the anchor in the pass and went to baiting and casting out the lines. Marlowe, with his lighter rods, sat in the front and waited for his first hit. It wasn’t long after Roussel has set the six rods into the boat that the clicker alarm on a reel machine-gunned out a warning. The first fish hit the line mad, bending the rod at right angles and dragging the line from the reel, but it fought against the inevitable. As it grew close the morning sunlight flashed off a row of red scales just under the surface. It was a redfish, just what they were after. The fish made a break for it by heading under the propeller behind the boat. Roussel ducked down and saved the line from snapping, but still the friction had weakened the line and as the fish again neared the rail, it broke free as the line severed in two. “With all the trouble getting down here and then just a glimpse of that fish before it took off, I thought that was it,” said Dean Gooden. But bad luck held no one back that morning. In the next two hours, each man had felt the tug of a fighting red under their grip. The fish came in with only one red under 20 pounds. The group was having the time of their life, high-fiveing and egging each other on as they fished. “You going to play with that thing or are you going to fish?” “If you’re scared of it, just say so. No shame in being scared,” they taunted. “I ain’t scared,” was always the reply. The group headed back through the pass, tired but overjoyed. After a long nap, the group checked the traps, boiled up some crabs and settled in for beer and bull (not always referring to fish). Roussel’s camp neighbor, Scott Caillouet, of Thibodaux, dropped by for the fun. More redfish stories poured out. It’s commonly known the line between fact and fiction is a razor’s edge when it comes to fishing. Here it was no different. Each pushed the realms of reality with a tale here and a proclamation of being a fishing demi-god there. In turn, each statement was countered with a side-long wink and a smirk to help point out the truth from alcohol-developed tale. By the end of the evening, the redfish group were ecstatic with how things had turned out. The fish had been cleaned and cut up, there was plenty for those who helped out along the way. The grins followed the guys to sleep as one more early trip could be fitted in before the trip home on Sunday. The next morning was almost the duplicate of the day before. Higher winds made the sea rougher, but the fish found their way in the boat just the same. With 10 minutes left before pulling anchor, two more reels screamed out, almost in a duet, and the last two travelers got a fish. Roussel stayed down to host more visitors Sunday, but the rest of the group took off. They took home unbelievable memories of a spectacular trip. Roussel was praised more then a few times, not just for his captain’s ability, but for the kindness in making such an event possible. Though Roussel may not think what he did was special because that’s just his fashion. What the group will remember was Roussel taking time out of his life to afford near-strangers with the chance of a lifetime. In retrospect the group gained some fish; Roussel gained four more names on a long list of those who would do anything in return for him.