One of the small pleasures the life of Luling fisherman Charles Bush, he finds, is the looks on the faces of people watching him throw back his catches.
Bush participates in Tag Louisiana, the state’s cooperative marine fish-tagging program. Tags used in the program instruct anglers to call a toll-free phone number to report recaptures. So once Bush catches and tags a fish, he releases it back into the water.
“It’s a funny thing to see their reactions,” Bush mused. “The look on their faces when I throw a fish overboard. They’re like, ‘what are you doing?’ I tell them, ‘I just tag the fish.’”
Boy, does he. Bush was recently recognized as the man who tagged the most fish of anyone in the state over the 2014-15 fishing season, finishing with a grand total of 2,086. Most of those—1,946, in fact, were speckled trout, which he specializes in catching.
Bush has been an angler almost all his life, beginning at the age of 10 alongside his father.
“He always believed if (a child) is busy with fishing or athletics, he’s not getting in any trouble,” Bush recalled. “I was a kid who stayed out of trouble, and years later I’d take my son fishing as well.”
Bush became used to staying busy. After retiring from the workforce, Bush began thinking of what he could do to keep himself occupied. It wasn’t long before he got involved with Tag Louisiana. In his first year, he tagged nearly 40 fish, by his estimation. And the more he learned about the process, the more his interest — and participation — grew.
“Helping with the research and data (for Tag Louisiana) has become a passion of mine,” he said. “When I let a fish go, and then I get a call and learn where it travels, how much it grew and how it changed, I really enjoy that.”
One interesting point about Bush’s approach: he does it all without the use of any live bait. Bush uses only plastic lures in his fishing expeditions.
“It makes it more fun,” he said. “The trickery involved is a big thing for me.”
He said speckled trout is his fish of choice because “there’s just something about that kick” when he catches one.
“When you know you’ve got it hooked, to me that’s what I’m after,” he said. “And hey, then I’ll throw it back. It’s just a matter of tricking that fish and making the catch that makes it enjoyable.”