“If you love something, set it free. If it comes back to you, it is yours. If it doesn’t, it never really was.”
— Richard Bach
J.W. Meche caught a redfish Saturday that is clearly his.
The Carencro angler was fishing Prien Lake, one of his favorite water bodies for easy autumn action, when something inhaled his Berkley Gulp and took his cork on an underwater tour. Meche set the hook and reveled in the fight, especially when the fish got close to his 18-foot Frontier.
It had a bit of ornamentation near its dorsal fin.
“I noticed the tag while I was fighting the fish, so I grabbed the net, put (the fish) in the boat, and I saw where it was tagged,” Meche said. “I tag mine a little different than other people, so I thought it had to be my tag. I looked it up on the phone app, and it didn’t come up, so then I wasn’t sure.
“I texted my buddy, and asked if it was his; it wasn’t. So I was a little disappointed.”
Meche really wanted the fish to be one he or one of his good friends had tagged, and his hopes were realized. After he got home, he entered the tag information at www.taglouisiana.com, and discovered the fish was, in fact, one he had tagged in the same area on Jan. 3.
The red had feasted during that time, growing from 16 to 22 inches.
Though it seems like impossibly long odds for an angler to recapture a fish he or she tagged previously, Heather David, who runs the state’s tagging program for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, said it’s happened many times before.
“There are several instances where anglers will recapture their own fish,” she said. “It’s fairly common.”
And it’s certainly not a surprise that Meche would accomplish the task. The state’s official tagging year ended Sept. 30, and during that time, Meche tagged 520 fish, ranking him among the most prolific taggers in the state.
That’s a remarkable accomplishment considering his work schedule limits him to fishing every other weekend.
“I try to do as much tagging as possible,” he said. “I’m more dedicated to tagging fish than I am to keeping fish.”
That was evident on Saturday’s trip. Meche tagged 24 fish that day, most of which were speckled trout.
“I prefer targeting trout, and they’re easier to catch at times, so I tag a lot more trout than redfish,” he said.
One of the speckled trout he tagged Saturday weighed 4 pounds, he said.
Because Meche tags most of his fish in the relatively enclosed water bodies of Prien Lake and Lake Charles, he has a higher recapture rate than most anglers who participate in the program. In the recently completed tagging year, Meche got recapture reports on 42 of the fish he had tagged and released, a rate of more than 8 percent.
The program as a whole sees a recapture rate of 6 percent for redfish and 3 percent for speckled trout.
To date, the TAG Louisiana program is responsible for releasing 183,213 fish in Louisiana’s coastal waters. A total of 6,527 of those have been recaptured and reported to the program.