Tagged for the taking

Sixty specially tagged redfish have been released for the 29th annual CCA Texas State of Texas Anglers’ Rodeo (STAR), sponsored by the Texas Ford Dealers, Tilson Home Corporation and Capital Farm Credit.

CCA Texas STAR officials released 60 redfish ranging from 20.5 to 25.5 inches in length. The tagged redfish were released throughout 600 miles of Texas coastal waters, from Sabine Lake to South Padre Island.

“Five of the fish are released in the Sabine Pass area,” said Mic Cowart, port manager for Sabine Pass Port Authority. “What they do is they truck those redfish to you via the CCA and you have a holding tank and then you schedule a boat to come in to transfer the fish out of that holding tank into a boat that will actually go out on the water and place these fish in certain areas.”

Locally, the fish are staged for release at the Sabine Pass Port Authority holding tanks.

The STAR fishing tournament drew over 50,000 participants to the Texas coast in 2017, making it one of the world’s largest saltwater fishing tournaments. The event began at sunrise on Saturday, May 26, and ends on Labor Day, Sept. 3, at 5 p.m.

Keeper-sized prizes can be claimed by STAR anglers who bring in the first 10-tagged redfish. The first five winners will drive home in a 2018 Ford F-150 “Texas Edition” pulling a brand new 23-foot Haynie BigFoot boat rigged with a Mercury 150L Pro XS OptiMax motor and Coastline trailer. The next five tagged redfish winners will each claim a 23-foot Haynie BigFoot boat with a Mercury 150L Pro XS OptiMax motor and Coastline trailers.

Last year, 19 tagged redfish were caught, but only nine anglers claimed prizes. The others, unfortunately, were not registered for the CCA Texas STAR.

Other fish can net big rewards in the tournament. STAR contestants who catch the largest speckled trout in the north, central and southern regions of the Texas Coast will each take home the legendary Mowdy 22 V, powered with an Evinrude E-TEC G2 motor and Coastline trailer. STAR blue water anglers who land the heaviest kingfish, dorado and ling (cobia) in the Offshore Division will each win the awesome Polaris Ranger Crew 570 EPS UVs in Polaris Pursuit Camo each with a Big Tex 35sa Trailer. In the Inshore Division the Shoalwater 19’ Cat boat, Mercury 115 ELPT 4S motor and McClain trailer will also be given to the anglers for netting the biggest flounder, gafftop and sheepshead.

In hopes of luring more youth to the sport of fishing, the STAR Scholarship Divisions offer a total of 10 college scholarships in $25,000 and $50,000 increments. STAR participants, ages 6-10, who catch the largest flounder, sheepshead or gafftop will each be awarded a $50,000 college scholarship.

Participants, 11-17 years of age, who catch the largest flounder, sheepshead or gafftop, as well as, the largest speckled trout in each of the three Texas Coast regions (upper, middle and lower) will each be awarded a $25,000 college scholarship.

In addition to these nine scholarship offerings, participants, ages 6-17 years old in 2018, are eligible for a bonus drawing that will net one lucky youth a $25,000 college scholarship even if the participant never wets a line or enters a single fish during the entire tournament.

Catching the tagged redfish also allows scientists to study the fishes’ swim patterns and other scientific data.

“Once they get the tags back it shows them information on where the fish move to, how much the fish have grown and things like that,” Cowart said. “They can extract that data to Fisheries Management” at TPWD.

Cowart said the tournament is a great economic boost for the area as well.

“Those who are going to participate in the tournament pay for the entry fee, and the entry fee goes into the Coastal Conservation Fund, and they use the fund to return back into projects to enhance the fisheries in the area, to improve existing habitats, and in some cases create new habitats. All of this helps continue to support the recreational fisherman, so that Texas Parks and Wildlife will have money, all the boating businesses in the area will benefit, as well as the bait shops. … This tournament reels in a lot of economic funding that keys into a lot of the pieces of the big pie.”

As a reminder, anglers under 18 years are eligible to win the scholarships and all other prizes (truck/boat packages and boat packages) offered by CCA Texas STAR tournament.

Visit www.ccamembership.org to get signed up. For more information, including a list of weigh-in stations, instant-entry registration locations in your area and weekly leader board updates, go to www.startournament.org.