When Megalodon, a 45-foot Hatteras, returns late Saturday afternoon to Cypremort Point from the Gulf of Mexico, Dr. Eric Elias of Lafayette hopes fish fill the big boat’s huge ice chest.
Specifically, considering opening weekend of the recreational red snapper season starts Friday, Elias is counting on a limit of red snapper (27), a limit of mangrove snapper (90) and a limit of amberjack (9) for the nine-man crew. Of course, the outcome hinges on the fish, the fishermen and the weather for the Memorial Day Weekend.
“Yeah, we’re getting excited. I hope the weather cooperates,” Elias said early Tuesday afternoon while driving to his obstetrics practice in Breaux Bridge after delivering a baby in Lafayette.
The New Iberia native said the family’s boat has been serviced and is ready to go, weather permitting. Skippers and crews all across South Louisiana are waiting for Friday.
The state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries announced April 7 the recreational red snapper season would open May 27. The season, which includes four-day holiday weekends Memorial Day Weekend, Fourth of July Weekend and Labor Day Weekend, is scheduled to stay open until recreational landings approach or reach Louisiana’s recreational quota of 809,316 pounds.
The Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission asked the LDWF to take efforts to preserve the quota for Labor Day Weekend.
Elias, 44, a Catholic High School graduate, can’t wait. Ditto for his regular crew member and family friend, Marty Delaune of New Iberia.
“Bluewater fishing is one of my favorites. Other than that, it’s duck hunting,” Delaune, who also hunts with the Eliases, said earlier Tuesday. “Everybody’s looking forward to it. Oh, yeah, we’ve got a full crew. We’ve been having a full crew for over a month. We’re chomping at the bit, man. We need something to do since duck hunting ended.
“Hopefully, the weather doesn’t mess up opening day. If it does, we’ll go the first chance we get. That’s it.”
Elias and Delaune are pleased the LDWF raised the daily creel limit from two red snapper per person to three. There was hope during the process earlier this year the limit would be raised to four.
“I’m looking forward to it. I’m glad they gave us three snapper. I think it could have been four or five, honestly,” Elias said.
“I think four would have been better haha but three is better than two,” Delaune said.
The crew that has been assembled includes Dr. Darryl Elias Sr., Dr. Darryl Elias Jr., Matt Delcambre, Jed Inzerella, Coleman Inzerella, Dr. Michael Tarantino, Jean Pitre and Delaune.
“My father’s coming. He’s been fishing snapper in the Gulf since 1964. It’s so fun to go with him,” Elias said, remembering his early days and nights aboard the Snapper Tapper.
He said they plan to leave at midday Friday for the estimated three-hour ride to 100-foot depths in the South Marsh Island blocks. The Megalodon cruises at 20 knots, far slower than, say, a large center console boat that can get out there in an hour.
But he and the crew will enjoy the extra comfort provided by the long Hatteras.
Elias, who began fishing for red snapper in 1983, already has the bait necessary for the fast-approaching red snapper trip.
He went shrimping with Dr. Michael LaSalle of New Iberia two weekends ago and bagged, then froze the by-catch of croakers and pogeys, 100 pounds worth.
LaSalle just might make the holiday weekend trip to help run the boat, Elias said.
Delaune, a forensic investigator for Forensic Investigating Group LLC, Covington, believes they’ll have their red snapper limit of 27 red snapper, 16 inches or longer, in no time at all.
“Snapper’s fun. It’s not really a challenge to catch snapper. It takes a lot more skill to catch mangrove,” he said.
Elias said he plans to target mangrove snapper by fishing around the legs of oil field platforms with jigs, after liberally chumming the site. That’s why he’s bringing 200 pounds of chum, he said, twice the amount of bait for red snapper.
Elias can’t wait to go after the amberjack, which are suckers for live blue runners. Those baitfish, part of the jack family, are like crack cocaine for amberjack, he said.
Delaune, who retired as a training and administrative officer for the New Iberia Fire Department in 2011, ending a 25-year career, has his red snapper fishing equipment ready to go. He uses a circle hook, 6-ounce bead change and a 2 ½-foot long 150-pound test monofilament leader tied to a 50-pound test monofilament spooled on Penn 340 and Penn 345 fishing reels mounted on Berkeley or Penn fishing rods.
Louisiana offshore fishermen have preferred setups to target red snapper. Some use a 13/0 Mustad circle hook and an 8-ounce weight but if the current’s strong don’t hesitate to use an 8-pound weight.
The general consensus is the bigger the hunk of cut bait on the hook, the bigger the fish. Many skippers find bigger red snapper in deeper water.
They monitor the depthfinder to locate the red snapper. Usually, baited hooks are dropped 15 feet off the bottom and raised through the water column until connecting with red snapper.
Unless he’s fishing a saltwater fishing rodeo, Elias doesn’t want the 12-plus pound red snapper. Oh, no, he said, the smaller ones taste better.
“They’ve got spots you can go catch 20- to 22-pound red snapper but those aren’t the best-eating. I like to personally eat 8-pound snapper,” he said.
A skilled cook, Elias also craves fried snapper throats and can’t wait to cook some batches. They are called “bat wings” in New Orleans restaurants because of their appearance.
To prepare them, he said, filet and clean around the throat. Scale the fish on the outside of the throat and pull off the silver skin (with pliers as you do skinning a catfish) covering the inside of the throat.
With luck, Elias and company will have plenty of bat wings to dine on after the Memorial Day Weekend.