Outdoor Corner: Grand Isle Tarpon Rodeo

Lyle Johnson

It’s time again for one of the most celebrated events in our Sportsman’s Paradise: the Grand Isle International Tarpon Rodeo. Established in 1928, the Grand Isle Tarpon Rodeo is billed as the oldest fishing rodeo in the United States.

This is what the beach is going to look like during the Tarpon Rodeo. Lots of folks having lots of fun.

All the festivities and weigh-ins will be at the Grand Isle Tarpon Rodeo Pavilion at the end of the island. This legendary tournament has evolved into a three-day festival with activities for all ages. 

This year’s event will be July 22–24 on the South’s most famous island, seven miles of sun and sand. If fishing is the only thing going on you think is going on, you’re quite mistaken. The fish catching is the center stage of the rodeo, but there’s lots for a spectator to do.

The biggest attraction is the fish display located in the pavilion. After the weigh-in begins on Thursday afternoon, the fish that are weighed are put out on display for viewing. It’s a great educational opportunity and a chance to see just what swims in our inshore and Gulf waters.

Britt Laiche poses with a cobia (lemon fish) he recently caught a little west of Grand Isle. Big fish like this will surely make it to the Grand Isle Rodeo weigh-in.

Food, merchandise and other educational booths will be the order of things after the 11 a.m. opening of the doors on each day. Crab races for children will be another highlight during all three days in the pavilion. At 7 p.m. Thursday, the President’s Shrimp Boil will be open to the public with live entertainment provided by “Shorts in December.”

The island will be crowded that weekend, but it will be worth the trip to be a part of the festivities. There’s even a rodeo parade at 11 a.m. Saturday that will start at Neptune Lane and end at the pavilion. Just take a trip to tarponrodeo.org for all the details and schedule of events.

July 23 brings more fishing, crab races for the kids and night time entertainment featuring “Louisiana Spice.” Make sure to bring your cameras for a photo opportunity with rodeo participants and special guest attendees. 

You just might see a catch like this on one of the rodeo days. You just never know.

More crab races for the kids are in line for July 24, with the award ceremony beginning at 3 p.m. for the children’s awards. Deadline to weigh in your catch is 6 p.m. 

Dance into the evening with live entertainment provided by “The Wise Guys” prior to the rodeo awards from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. After the rodeo awards, the grand prize drawing for the Blazer Bay boat will be given to a lucky person holding the winning rodeo ticket. You don’t even have to fish, just buy a rodeo ticket.

Then, the celebration continues with more live entertainment by Wise Guys. Visit the Official Tarpon Rodeo website www.tarponrodeo.org  for registration and requirements of this event.  

Grand Isle has been a family destination for years. My first memory of the island as a kid was a camping trip on the beach in a camper. It was the epicenter of charter fishing back in the 70s and still is today.

This is nothing new. As a couple of centuries age Grand Isle experienced a resort boom, with some predicting it would become the Rivera of the South back in the late 1800s.  One of the most famous of Grand Isle's 1890 resorts was the 160-room, Ocean Club Resort. You could only get there by boat from New Orleans. The hot spot was built in 1892, only to be destroyed in 1893 by a hurricane.

That’s been a pattern that has unfortunately repeated itself many times. The Island gets built up, then a storm rears it’s ugly head, bringing destruction. Sometimes it’s minimal, sometimes it’s medium but other times it’s total devastation. But the folks who love her always bring her back.

On a recent trip there, Deborah and I took a walk on the beach and were astonished by the amount of families there, especially the kids playing in the sand and water. We have a daughter with a couple of our grandkids who live in Gulf Breeze, Fla. We looked at each other and said at the same time, “It looks like the beach in Pensacola.”

Later on we were sitting on a bench at Bridgeside Marina watching the boats when a Zac Brown song came on the system. “I got my toes in the water, a** in the sand not a worry in the world, a cold drink in my hand life is good today, life is good today”… seemed very fitting.

So until next time, remember to keep the slack out and set the hook hard. Have fun in the outdoors, be safe and may God truly bless you!

Outdoor Calendar

  • Tuesday Evening Bass Tournament; St James Boat Club; Fishers of men tournament trail will be hosting. Through August, with a Classic. 5 p.m. until dark. All info on Facebook Tuesday evening Blind River bass.
  • Red snapper season: Open for private recreational fishermen and for state charter boat operations. Friday-through-Sunday seasons.
  • CCA Statewide Anglers’ Rodeo: Through Sept. 6. CCA Louisiana saltwater rodeo with divisions and numerous categories. Must be CCA member. Website: www.ccalouisiana.com
  • Grand Isle Tarpon Rodeo: July 22-24; Pavilion at the end of Tarpon Rodeo Drive. All info at tarponrodeo.org, email to info@tarponrodeo.org or call Heather Martin at 985-306-0535.

Need an event publicized? Contact Lyle at reelman@eatel.net