"Doc" Kennedy finally made it to the hallowed fishing grounds in the sky. His name will certainly be in the record books for a very long time, maybe even forever.
Jerry Lyle Johnson was my dad and was considered a way above average fisherman. We had eight kids in our family so a lot of his enthusiasm for fishing came from a need to provide food for our table. Don’t get me wrong, he loved providing as much as he loved the sport.
"Jerry Lyle can catch a bass in a damp dish rag," was one of the quotes attributed to his prowess for the knack of catching bass. All of us kids heard that more than once or twice. Both of my grandfathers liked to fish as well, but panfish were more in their wheel house.
It was only natural for me to grow up fishing fresh water for bass and bream, following in their footsteps. Practice makes perfect, so it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to say I became a pretty good angler, myself back in the day.
Our family didn’t have anyone that took an interest in saltwater fishing. My dad actually called redfish a saltwater choupique. I remember him catching a sheepshead in Blind River, and after Hurricane Betsy we caught a fair amount of flounder for several years. That was the extent of our foray into the saltwater arena.
All that changed when I met my wife, Deborah. Her family regularly made the trek to the coast for fishing. Goosie Guice, her brother and the co-host of Ascension Outdoors TV, became my mentor for the foray into new territory. Which brings us to the subject of this column, "Doc" Kennedy.
Goosie arranged our first trip together for six people. Six anglers was all that he was licensed to carry by his choice. He didn’t like an overcrowded boat, which was ok by me. I was introduced to "rig fishing" that day. The Gulf is covered by oil rigs that play a key role in our oil business.
No one ever thought about the amount of sea life those rigs would attract but that awesome, unintended consequence brought much pleasure to millions of anglers over the years and has become a multi-million dollar industry with jobs for lots of folks.
Back in those days charter fishing was in its early stages as there were only a few boats for hire in a couple locations. We fished out of Grand Isle from Martin's Marina at the end of the island. There were a few captains in the Cocodrie area, but nothing like today with literally thousands of charter operations all along our coast line.
When we had more than six guys that wanted to fish, we'd go with another captain. Tim Sebastian was at the helm of the "Sea Hawk." He put us on the fish numerous times. Mickey Ridenour hosted us on the "Kelty-O" for some great trips, as well. Charlie Hardison at Port Fourchon was another captain that comes to mind.
But our favorite, who became one of our best friends, was "Doc" Kennedy. Doc lived in our area. He decided to chuck it all in to fish for a living after putting in some time as a law enforcement officer.
Doc's real passion was trolling for game fish. He had a great reputation among all the charter captains for being one of the best. So it was only a natural progression after rig fishing with him many times. We decided to take on the open sea in search of the coveted billfish.
Along with our occasional rig trip with Doc, we started a 10-year ritual of annually fishing the Golden Meadow Tarpon Rodeo. Those trips were a little on the expensive side. Six of us would save up all year for a three day trip trolling the gulf with artificial lures.
Competing in the rodeo was lots of fun, and we won more than our share of trophies in lots of categories. But our main quest was for a billfish. Blue marlin was the main species we were after. White marlin and sailfish haunt both the Gulf of Mexico and our memories. We hooked many but never landed any of them.
Doc ended his fishing career teaming up with Captain Charlie Hardison, guiding out of Port Fourchon. His reputation as a world class fishing guide was cemented into history tied up to an oil rig fishing for red snapper.
The day was June 23,1996. Doc Kennedy was still fishing on the Wahoo when he burnt his name in the angling history books. Thirty miles out of Port Fourchon, Doc brought the Wahoo alongside Timbalier Rig 185 for a chartered party of snapper fishermen.
Often the captain would join in fishing with the anglers to add more fish to the box. He dropped his tandem-baited hooks down to the 60’ depth and waited for the strike that he knew was coming. And happen it did.
Doc was a master at catching two fish at a time, and this time was no different except he knew he had something really big on the end of the line. After a 20-minute battle, two giant red snapper came to the surface and wowed everyone on the boat.
One of the pair of sow snapper got off, but the disappointment didn’t last too long. Kennedy was sure he had boated a state-record fish. Sure enough, on the scales at Port Fourchon the big sow weighed 50.25 pounds and eclipsed the state record by over 10 pounds.
After a little more research, that weight also eclipsed the all-tackle world record by over four pounds. The 50-pound, four-ounce red snapper was over 40 inches to the tip of the tail and had a girth of 36.5 inches. The giant red snapper barely fit in a 120-quart ice chest.
"Doc" Kennedy finally made it to the hallowed fishing grounds in the sky. His name will certainly be in the record books for a very long time, maybe even forever. But the place he will certainly never leave is the hearts of those young guys from Ascension Parish that he touched for many years. It will certainly be in mine.
By the way, the Gulf of Mexico in Louisiana now holds three world records in the snapper category. Doc caught his fish in 1996. In June of 2007 Marion Rose’s gigantic 124.75 cubera snapper topped both and in July of 2015 Tim Champagne caught a 18.63 mangrove snapper for the third world record.
Doc, thanks for the memories.
Remember to keep the slack out and set the hook hard. Have fun in the outdoors, be safe, and may God truly bless you!
Lyle Johnson is a free-lance writer, co-host of Ascension Outdoors TV and Curator of the Louisiana State Fish Records. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
EASL Monthly Meeting: 3rd Monday every month, East Ascension Sportsman’s League meeting held at Chef KD’s on Highway 74 starting at 7 p.m. A meal served and special speaker will be in attendance.
Squirrel season: Oct 7-Feb 28 daily bag limit 8 possession 24.
Rabbit season: Oct 7-Feb 28 daily bag limit 8 possession 24.
Delta Waterfowl Banquet, Ascension Chapter: November 2 at Lamar Dixon Expo Center starting at 6 p.m. with dinner starting at 7:30. Contact Kristen Latiolais at 225-315-3023 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Delta Waterfowl Banquet, Baton Rouge Chapter: Nov 7 at 6 p.m., L’Auberge Casino, Baton Rouge. Tickets $25-$250 singles/couples, $650-$1,200 tables. Call Jonathan Walker 225-276-6380. Email: email@example.com.
Trout Challenge Kayak Tournament: Nov. 10, Eddies Kayak Rentals, Pointe-aux-Chenes. Bayou Coast Kayak Fishing Club event. Open to public. Fee $25. Heaviest 10 speckled trout stringer. Artificial lures only. BCKFC members’ Angler of the Year event. Website: bckfc.org.
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