OUTDOOR CORNER: EASL?Kids Fishing Rodeo hasn’t changed much after nearly a half of a century

Lyle Johnson
Lyle “Paw Paw” Johnson unhooks one of Canaan Watts’ fish as Bella Watts looks at her catch in the bucket at the 49th annual East Ascension Sportsman League’s Kids Fishing Rodeo Saturday morning.

Another East Ascension Sportsman's League Kid’s Fishing Rodeo has come and gone but like always it went out with quite a bang. Aug. 1 marked the passing of the torch for the 49th time and tournament chair Wesley Johnson passed the responsibility to Dane Bourgeois for next year’s event.

I’m 56 years old and next year we’ll celebrate the rodeo’s 50th anniversary. I remember just like it was yesterday when my daddy took me to my first East Ascension Sportsman's League Kid’s Rodeo. I don’t remember how many fish I caught but I’ll never forget the door prize. I won – a watermelon that was big enough to feed our family and some of my cousins as well.

After taking part in the rodeos as a youngster, I took my turn and began to bring my three children Kaycee, Wesley and Gabrielle. As a long-time member of the East Ascension Sportsman's League it just sort of came natural for me to take on the job of tournament chairman and that lasted for four years.

After my kids became too old to fish in the rodeo I became sort of a spectator and mostly covered the rodeo for the paper and filming for Ascension Outdoors, seen exclusively on EATEL FiberEdge TV channel 4.

My son Wesley then became active in the East Ascension Sportsman's League so I guess it sort of fell in place for him to take on the role of tournament chairman and he did so for three years.

This year my grandchildren, Canaan and Isabella, or Bella as we call her, were in town and we got to bring them for their first East Ascension Sportsman's League Kid’s Fishing Rodeo. Both of them were very excited about fishing, although Bella didn’t like fishing too much because she didn’t like touching the fish.

But usually kids will surprise you and this day would be no different for us. Bella, who doesn’t like to be near a fish, stuck it out for the two hours and landed 23 fish. Canaan, on the other hand loves to fish but his love for bugs and creeping things overpowered his desire to fish. After about an hour and 13 fish, the entomologist, bug scientist, came out in him. With all the fervor of a CSI detective, the bug catching and examination was on.

Things were pretty much the same in this year’s rodeo which 138 kids took part in. “Pull, pull” could be heard nearly everywhere as parents and friends were encouraging youngsters to yank their poles to hook the fish that were biting on their lines.

And certainly the overly exciting shrieks of kids all over the two ponds at Twin Lakes that caught their first fish ever echoed time and time again. I thought back nearly 50 years ago and nothing but the names have changed.

Parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles everywhere with their kids fishing for a trophy for the fish caught and door prizes to be given away after the weigh-in. Next year the East Ascension Sportsman's League will celebrate a half century of putting on the kid’s rodeos and it would be well worth the few hours of your time to bring some kids fishing.

Alright, let’s talk bass fishing for a while. The group that’s known for fishing Wednesday evening bass tournaments out of Canal Bank Club didn’t give up their efforts after the hurricanes last year. With the enormous fish kills I wasn’t expecting much from these hardy anglers but I was pleasantly surprised.

They lowered the limits to three bass because they didn’t want to press the fishery too much and the numbers of boats decreased some for this year but that didn’t stop their efforts. Many limits were brought to the scales and the competition was pretty intense.

So we’re at the end of the season and it’s time for the Classic Tournament.  The fishing in the Amite River Basin has gradually gotten better over the course of the summer. Earlier in the season if you caught one fish you would probably place or win the tournament. Now, multiple 3 fish limits are common, which is a good sign for future recovery.

The annual Year End Classic will have some changes for this year only. It will be held Aug. 22 at Canal Bank on the Diversion Canal. This event will be open to the public that may have not qualified for the Year End Classic.  The Classic will be a five-fish limit, 12-inch minimum tournament.  Payback will be 100 percent.  Weigh-in is scheduled for 3 p.m.  Boundaries will be the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway Bridge. 

Entry fees will be $100 for those teams that have fished four or more Wednesday evening tournaments.  For those who have fished 0-3 tournaments the entry is $200.  Big bass will be $10 per team.  Anglers that have qualified (four or more evening tournaments) for the classic are able to get an alternate if needed. For all the info contact David Cavell at 225-937-0046.

It’s sort of hot but a great time to be in the outdoors. Speckled trout and redfish are hitting pretty good in a lot of places. Remember to keep the slack out and set the hook hard. So until next time have fun in the outdoors, be safe and may God truly bless you.

Patrick Rachel and Dustin Jumonville caught a three-fish limit at a recent Wednesday evening tournament from Canal Bank July 29 that weighed 7.80 lbs with a big bass weighing 3.40 lbs. caught on Blind River.