MAUREPAS -- Tammy Whittington decided some time ago she was going to skip this year’s Black Lake Club Garfish Rodeo.
Rather than sit helplessly on a small boat for hours on end waiting for hungry garfish to take the mullet bait, she instead chose to kick back on her boat house in Maurepas and watch her grandchildren while her daughter and son-in-law tested their luck on the local waterways.
Jolee and Brad Misner got in their boat around 5 p.m. Saturday afternoon, leaving behind Whittington and their children Carly and Jordan in search of gar. Twelve long hours went by before they returned, soaking wet from rain and a bumpy ride through Lake Maurepas.
Whittington was sure glad she stayed put.
“They told me the water was coming into the boat,” Whittington recalled with a laugh. “I can’t do that stuff anymore.”
Fortunately for Eddie and Sandra Balfantz, owners of Black Lake Club Bait and Tackle, others did.
Forty-seven teams scoured the waters of Lake Maurepas and other local waterways searching for hungry alligator gar during the Black Lake Club’s Seventh Annual Garfish Rodeo this weekend.
The rodeo began at noon on Saturday, Aug. 5, and ended at noon the next day. Participants fished the waters of lakes Maurepas and Pontchartrain as well as the Tickfaw, Amite and Blind rivers, but they all were searching for the same thing — long and slender, sharp-toothed gar.
“It’s a lot of fun, but it’s a lot of work,” said Jolee Misner hours before her and her husband took off in their boat.
Participants were required to pay a $50 entry fee per boat and an additional $5 per boat for “trash fish,” a fish that can be caught and weighed in addition to the allotted garfish with the exception of sharks, alligators and turtles.
But Sandra Balfantz, who’s been part of the annual event since it was first held at Hilltop Inn more than 30 years ago, said she and her husband weren’t interested in keeping any of the money.
“It all goes back to the fishermen,” she said.
Each boat was allowed to weigh its 10 biggest gar, and cash prizes were awarded to the three boats with the greatest accumulated weight as well as the boat with the biggest garfish. Another cash prize was also given to the boat with the biggest trash fish.
The winners for the biggest gar — and the recipients of a $1,000 cash prize — were Adam and Darren Hill, whose best catch weighed 127 pounds.
Gerald “Boy” McMorris narrowly nudged Buckwall and George Martinez by four pounds to win the total weight category (540 pounds) and walk away with $750. Buckwall and George Martinez’s 536 pounds of gar netted them $450, but they walked away with another $150 after winning the trash fish category with a 39-pound yellow catfish.
After the final weigh-in, participants sat around Black Lake Club and enjoyed music, drinks, free jambalaya, white beans and — of course — fried garfish. The food was prepared by the Amite River Christmas on the Bayou, a non-profit organization in Maurepas.