Cocodrie Diva catches stingray; state record pending
By JOHN K. FLORES
Cocodrie diva catches pending state record fish during rodeo
Tired, exhausted and worn out from nearly 40 minutes battling a fish somewhere in the depths beneath their boat, Bebe McElroy said to her husband, “Vic, I just can’t — I can’t — I can’t.”
Victor McElroy had watched his wife throughout their marriage fight bull reds and stingrays with a rod and reel. These were the two fish the anglers always targeted when fishing rodeos together. Now, on cusp of landing what would become the pending new state record stingray, his spouse was spent.
In instances like the one the McElroys found themselves, words are often driven by emotions and seemingly lost somewhere between exuberance and admonishment.
In that moment, Bebe says her husband became fired up and said, “You don’t have any choice. You’re bringing that fish in. That’s the one we’ve been looking for 30 years, and you’re going to bring it in. Now fight — fight!”
Bebe McElroy is a petite 5-foot 3-inch woman who says she only weighs 120 pounds when she eats seafood for two or three days in a row. She admits, at 64, she is not as strong as she once was and had gotten to a point where she couldn’t land some of the bull reds she and her husband targeted, citing occasions where he wound up landing them for her.
Like Hemmingway’s character Santiago in “The Old Man and the Sea,” fishing has been a way of life for Bebe and her husband. But, age has a way of creeping up on everyone.
“I’m going to be 65 years old in December,” Bebe said. “I’m 64. I don’t feel it. To say the number seems ludicrous. It’s like my momma is 64 — not me. But, she was my size, very active and lived to be 95.”
At her behest to figure out something, Bebe’s husband and son rigged her up with a Penn International reel loaded with 100 pound test line, a rod holder belt and fighting vest — all designed for use in a chair — telling her she could bring in a whale with it.
The rig had its drawbacks at first that she would eventually get used to. It was too heavy for her to cast; therefore, she would have to feed line out with the tide.
And she would have to leave it in a rod holder because it was too heavy to hold. Other than that, it worked. But, to her husband’s surprise, his wife said she needed two.
Bebe said, “When they told me ‘this is what you need,’ I told them to get two. They busted out laughing and looked at me and said, ‘two?’ And I said, ‘we set out two lines. What if one is the new Penn and the fish bites on the other? I can’t fight it. How does the fish know to bite only on the Penn? Hello.’ When the reels came in, we rigged them up and went out. Sure enough, I pulled them bulls in — right to the boat. They came in easy — easy — easy. I love it.”
This wasn’t the first time Bebe and Victor McElroy have fought a big stingray. The husband and wife team have fished the Houma Oilman’s Rodeo for the past 25 years. Several years ago, Victor landed a 90 pound stingray that would win the miscellaneous largest fish category at the event — one of the reasons the husband and wife anglers target stingrays.
Victor McElroy finished his admonishments and turned into a coach, telling Bebe when she stopped to rest she was letting the stingray rest. What’s more, she couldn’t let it rest. And, she says at that point, something in her changed.
“I don’t know — midway — I just found myself holding the reel,” Bebe said. “And, I said to myself, ‘Bebe that’s it. Now either you put this fish in the boat or you’re going into the water. You’re going to do one of the two.’ Victor told me you got to put that fish in the boat. Well, he told me, and I believed him. So, I started reeling. That’s when he said look. Look at it. Look at your fish.”
Bebe McElroy’s stingray weighed 185.5 pounds and apparently shattered the state record that actually had been caught just days prior.
Louisiana Outdoor Writers Association Fish Records Chairman Steve McNemar said, “Evidently the stingrays have been eating well or nothing has been eating them. I just sent out a certificate for what was the new number 2 stingray on July 10. It weighed 133 pounds. I then received another application for the new number 1 that weighed 152 pounds. However, with the 30-day waiting period it may become the new number 2 if McElroy’s new application checks out.”
With so many big stingrays caught this summer, Bebe thinks what might be happening is a trend that she and her husband may have started, saying, “I can’t be sure, but for years, Vic and I have been catching these stingrays and bringing them to various rodeos for miscellaneous largest fish. People were scared to death of them. They wouldn’t get within 10 feet of a little bitty stingray. It’s not going to hurt you. I think that we’ve been to several rodeos and people have figured out you can bring these things in and you don’t have to be afraid of them.”
Bebe McElroy, who owns a safety training business called On-Site Training and Instruction Inc., caught her stingray July 13 during the Desk and Derrick Club’s Diva Rodeo in Cocodrie.
“That has been a target fish for almost 30 years,” said Bebe, who isn’t anywhere near retiring from rodeos with her new fishing gear after apparently landing a new state record fish. “I get all excited. I get ‘verklempt’ just talking about it. It was just a thrill of a lifetime.”