|| |—| || |Illustration: Jason Schneider| Here’s something to chew on. Imagine tossing a keeper redfish in the skillet, washing down the Cajun spices from that last blackened bite, knowing full well that the fish was worth more than the average American’s yearly salary. It happened to angler Donald Gibson of Pasadena, Texas, and he still hasn’t gotten the taste out of his mouth.
Earlier this summer, Gibson took home a 24-inch tagged redfish. But the tag, he would soon find out, was more like a price tag than a research tag, because he had caught a grand-prize-winning redfish in the 16th annual State of Texas Anglers Rodeo (STAR) tournament.
Established by the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA), the STAR tournament lasts from Memorial Day to Labor Day and allows anglers to fish for more than $1 million in prizes. The top prize, though, comes to the first five anglers who catch one of 60 specially tagged redfish, each worth about $50,000 in goods: a new boat, motor, trailer and Ford pickup truck. To redeem the prizes, however, anglers must be registered in the CCA before the tournament Gibson wasn’t one of these anglers.
“It’s like missing the jackpot the one week you don’t play the lottery,” Gibson said. “My wife got a bit teary, and I kind of choked up because it would’ve been nice to have that boat and truck. But really, what can you do but laugh?”
STAR tournament director, Bill Kinney, said at least four of this year’s tagged reds have been caught, but none by registered anglers.
Now, with the Labor Day deadline fast approaching, those registered anglers had better hurry before any more grand-prize reds hit the grill. As for Gibson’s $50K fillet?
It tasted fine, but, in hindsight, he admits, “It was tough to swallow.”