Birth of the Blues— Marlins, that is!

Yes, Why Not a New Orleans Big Game Fishing Club?

South Pass Light Station Port Eads 1965 Photo by: Paul Kalman
South Pass Light Station Port Eads 1965
Photo by: Paul Kalman

Herman “Dutch” Prager
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]his was discussed over many toddy’s at River’s End Lodge dock on the River, after a great day offshore. Anglers and storytellers included the three Childress brothers, Bill, Al and Joe, also Lea Perez, General Ray Hufft, Clyde Hawk, Harley Howcott, Capt. Bob and old (young then) me!

Yes, much talk- but really no action, except offshore that day. I carried many tales home and thought about- why not? Why not try! – As a past President of the Dads Club and Cub Master at St. Pius X Church in Lake Vista, past Commodore of the N.O Power Boat Association and Region 9 Director of the American Power Boat Association, I had a fair idea of getting a Club off the ground- or rather out of the rip!

So, how can I successfully begin? I had seen and heard of Paul Kalman over the years and, as Commodore had met him at the Lakefront, when he was writing an article for Yachting Magazine on the N.O. Power Boat Association sponsored- Pan American Regatta, around 1955 or 56.

Paul had been one of the first offshore anglers when offshore Gulf of Mexico Fishing was initially started in July 1956. Paul and John Lauricella Sr. (Hank’s Dad) aboard his Dad’s yacht, the All American, were recorded to have boated the first two white marlin on rod & reel in the Gulf.

After this offshore venture, two years later- June 1958- Dr. Glenn Gibson of Baton Rouge landed the first blue marlin, 175#, while aboard the Jennifer Ann, captained by Bob Mitcheltree. A week later, the larger blue marlin was brought into Grand Isle by Jim Meriwether, 463.5#.

As mentioned in earlier article- this Meriwether Marlin is the one that caught my attention. Boy- there are fish like that off South Pass! This is a challenge. So, I joined the Bimini Big Game Fishing Club to learn how the “Reel” anglers fished and handled tournaments.

During the 1960 Christmas Season, I contacted Paul and asked if we might have a talk on Offshore Marlin Fishing and how we could promote this fishing with a Club Organization and how should we proceed.

Paul, as an outdoor writer and T.V. personality- came up with a list of names- which included the anglers that I had met at Rivers End Lodge mentioned earlier, and in addition- Dr. William Wagner, Jr, Dr. Don Peterson, Dr. Jim Burks and Richard Freeman.

So, with the list of potential members, I proceeded to send out invitations for our first proposed meeting, on May 5, 1961, at the N.O.A.C. Trophy Room. 33 men accepted the invitation and interest in a N.O.B.G.F.C. Of these 33, 21 men attended this initial meeting. (A limit of 50 members was set, and over the years, this has been amended several times.)

The Club was to require certain rules & regulations, and Paul and Harley Howcott were called upon, and accepted, the tough job of drafting the first set of angling rules.

In early 1962- the newly formed Club with the help and able assistance of many members, worked out a deal to have the use of a camp, or cottage, which had been vacated by the Coast Guard, when the South Pass Light Station went from “manned” to automatic operation.

The Parish installed fuel tanks in mid 1962, and the boat slips at the back of Port Eads’ front wharf were dredged to safely dock the fishing yachts out of the River and free of the passing ships’ wakes.

Herman "Dutch" Prager, Founder of the New Orleans Big Game Fishing Club President 1960-1990
Herman “Dutch” Prager, Founder of the New Orleans Big Game Fishing Club President 1960-1990

Off to a good start, the first Club tournament was on July 4 weekend in 1962. It was a great success with 90 anglers- 46 members, 44 guests, guests who were also potential members.

The Club in 1966 began scientific research and had on board a young graduate biologist- Joe Yurt- for measuring and examination of stomach contents of the day’s weigh-in fish: the early years, most fish were brought to scale, pictures taken, many by our Club Official Photographer, none other than hard working Paul Kalman and as stated above, scientifically used. Now, it is tag & release tournaments, with the exception of a Record or First Time Catch. This research was a cooperative Venture with the Club and the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission.

Paul and Harley Howcott set the Angling Rules based on IGFA, the International Game Fish Association. Harley is the Board and Club member, responsible for all of the Scientific Data passed on to the U.S. Bureau of Sport and Wildlife. Their Scientists were studying the ocean current and Loop Current in the Gulf and migration habits of Marlin and Tuna off South Pass.

After 3 years of hard, but enjoyable work, the Club was off and running and today the members are now benefiting from the initial work of the Past, and also of the present Officers and Board of Directors.

I had the Honor to be the Club Angling Champion in 1963 and 1965. My son, Kurt, at age 19, followed as Club Angling Champion in 1979. (Kurt passed on unexpectedly and was buried, this July 15, 2011 at age 51.)

In 1989, I stepped down as President, after 30 years of fishing off Port Eads, Pensacola, Orange Beach, and Panama City. Wonderful years.

Why at the Helm so long, because I loved the Sea and the thrill of a Marlin tailing the bait like a White or crashing the bait like a Blue or Tuna.

Another main reason- I had the support of our Vice President, the tournament chairman, the Scientific Committee and a very excellent board of directors supporting me. Thanks to all the Gentlemen, so many no longer with us. They may be gone, but not forgotten.

New Orleans Big Game Fishing ClubThey say- or call me- the Founder of the NOBGFC. Well, I may have had the idea and started it up, trying to put all the pieces of the puzzle together, but the late Paul Kalman was the “glue” that set it all in place. I consider Paul as Co- Founder and one Hell of a Friend and Sportsman, an excellent Photographer and Author of many articles for local and national sports publications.

All of the above mentioned members, along with Capt. Bob and Jessie Mitcheltree, owners of the yacht Jennifer Ann and Rivers End Lodge, and Capt. Happy Morse are now fishing the Big Rip in the Sky.

Joe Yurt, with 45 years of faithful service, is still with the club as Manager and Biologist, conducting studies in conjunction with the National Marine Fisheries Service. Many sons and daughters are new members. Paul Dennis Kalman and Joe Childress, Jr are prominent and active members. Sometime ago, they published a truly

great book on the Club- “The Early Years”- now out of print. I hope one day it will be refurbished, for it tells many stories with pictures, for all to enjoy.

The Club’s facilities were “Lost” in Katrina—only facilities left standing- the Old Reliable Light Station at Port Eads.

I wish President “Bo” Sanders—Club President, the Board and Members, and All Offshore Anglers, the very best. May all have many safe and wonderful years ahead, as we “Old Timers” enjoyed, oh, so many years ago. Thanks for your time. Be careful on the Water. Good luck—God Bless- keep a tight line and watch the backlash on the drop back!

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