Fishing has Terps' Mouton hooked



May 19, 2002|By CANDUS THOMSON

It takes a big man to make a 20-inch rainbow trout look like a guppy.

It takes somebody like the University of Maryland's 6-foot-6 forward Byron Mouton.

In hoops lingo, Mouton is a small forward. To us mere gravity-challenged mortals, he's small the way the Grand Canyon is just a ditch.

But there's no doubt that Mouton is a big fisherman. He tries to get out twice a week "on Friday and Sunday, especially if it's a nice day out."

This day, Mouton is standing along Lake Elkhorn in Howard County wearing a sombrero with Maryland-red trim, working the tiny spinning rig in his huge hands.

Is the head gear a gift from a fan, he's asked.

"Nah, it's from Chevy's," he said, mentioning the Mexican restaurant. "They give it to you for your birthday."

Mouton has just celebrated a birthday - his 24th - but the hat is on loan from a friend.

His fishing buddy most days is Rob Barrett, an exhibit specialist at the Smithsonian Institution historical restoration shop and a bass fanatic who lives near Scaggsville.

It's Barrett who introduced Mouton to the wonders of the rainbow last year.

"Trout fishing's new to him, but he's really taken to it," said Barrett.

They met through a mutual friend and try to sneak away to local fishing holes wherever time and schedules permit. Just a little power bait or a spinner on a light-action rod, a little talk and a lot of fun.

The big guy loves to cast, and he's pretty accurate, too. Must be from all those sweet jumpers he took playing for his high school team and Tulane University, where he first played college ball.

Mouton grew up in Rayne, La., just west of Lafayette in the heart of Cajun country. The town (pop. 8,552) bills itself as "The Frog Capital of the World," with 23 murals of frogs in the downtown and a fais-do-do Labor Day weekend dedicated to the amphibians, complete with a frog jumping competition.

He went to Rayne High School across the railroad tracks from his home, where his team, the Wolves, won 125 and lost 21 in his four years.

Heavily recruited, he went to Tulane, just 150 miles down the road in New Orleans. He grew tired of the party atmosphere and transferred to Maryland to be closer to a brother and sister.

But I digress.

Fishing was a family thing. Mouton learned when he was 8 years old, with his twin, Brian, from his older brothers Christian and Kevin.

"We just went out, me and my brothers, and caught 'em," he recalled.

His first fish was a brown perch, "a minnow. It was tiny," said Mouton, chuckling at the memory.

From the little fish, Mouton graduated to catfish and bass. He learned to rabbit hunt. Darlene, his sister, didn't fish. Mouton considers himself "the champ" among the menfolk.

Louisiana is the home of good food: gumbo, jambalaya, crawfish. His mother, Shirley, is a good cook, who knew how to fix whatever her boys brought home.

"I love catfish. I like 'em deep fried," he said. "With fries, baked potato or mashed potatoes. Or macaroni and cheese."

He also loves the peace that comes with fishing and thinks his coach, the wear-his-clothes-out-from-the-inside Gary Williams, would benefit from an outing.

"He needs to fish," said Mouton. "I would love to take him, but I don't see that happening."

Passersby at Lake Elkhorn recognize him. A small boy asks if Mouton will sign his T-shirt, and then runs off. He comes back with six to be autographed, which the Maryland star does with good humor.

He also finds time in his schedule to visit youth basketball leagues, sometimes three in one day.

Things haven't quieted down since the Terps' 64-52 victory over Indiana for the national title on April 1. Two days later, he was in Virginia at the Portsmouth Invitational, the first of two NBA draft camps.

Although he was Tulane's leading scorer as a freshman and sophomore, he made his reputation at Maryland by grabbing loose balls and cleaning the glass. Mouton believes that combination of skills will find him an NBA home.

Mouton played his heart out - is there any doubt he would - in a high school gymnasium before the pro scouts.

A handful of days later, Mouton was out fishing with Barrett.

Just before Christmas last year, someone shot 32-year-old Kevin Mouton in Houston. His killer has not been found.

Byron Mouton went home for five days to bury his brother and then returned to the team because his mother told him he should.

She also told him he'd better get his Maryland degree, so the art studio major will be back in the classroom this summer, trying to nail down those final credits.

Barrett knows his fishing buddy will move on soon.

"I wish he was a junior so we could have another year of fishing," he said.

Surveying the scene

If I had a buck for every time someone said "bad science" in response to the setting of bag, bushel or creel limits, I'd be half as rich as Capt. Buddy Harrison.

So, here's how you can keep me from getting rich: Take part in the state's summer flounder survey.

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