As we go through our gear and pack our bags for the upcoming TLA Venice, LA trip, anticipation grows as we set our sets on the unknown outcome of this adventure. With 2 days of fishing planned, both inshore and offshore, this trip promises to hold some firsts for many of our ladies.
One thing is for sure - Tuna is king in Venice and we are definitely hoping to land a few . . .
Louisiana's Tuna Fishing 101
The step-by-step process necessary for anglers to entice, hook and land Gulf of Mexico yellowfin tuna.
By Sam Hudson September 15, 2016
Capt. Wade Wells, of the Mexican Gulf Fishing Company in Venice, Louisiana, was itching to get back on the water. "We were off the water all last week, and you never know if the fish are where you left them," he said.
In late August 2016, treacherous rains and overflowing rivers flooded many residents out of their homes, causing FEMA to declare 20 different Louisiana parishes disaster areas. Although the floods didn't affect the entire state, the heavy storms sure did. Venice, located in Plaquemines Parish, didn't see the high rain fall or floods, but its waters were churned like butter.
Our fishing trip, as part of a Cajun Fishing Adventures Media Bash, was partly an exploratory mission to find out which oil rigs were holding yellowfin tuna after the storms. Thankfully, the Mexican Gulf Fishing Company has a fleet of captains that work together on and off the water, communicating with each other which rigs are producing. A number of boats headed offshore the same day we did.
I set out to record the day in full, capturing each step along the way. Capt. Wells and his deckhand Chris Fotta were the brains, while fellow anglers and fishing industry friends Reid McKinstry, Jay Harris and Brian Evans provided the reeling muscle. From gathering bait, to deploying the trolling spread, to running and gunning to different rigs — the whole process isn't too complex once you've done it as many times as Wells and Fotta. Check out the gallery below to get a true taste of southern-style Louisiana tuna fishing.
Baitfish Pit Stop
First stop on a trip offshore is to find live baits. Schools of threadfin herring are available some months of the year, but hand-size blue runners (hard tails) are more dependable most days. Mate Chris Fotta drops a sabiki near a platform to test the waters. If the rig has blue runners, he'll get bit pretty quickly. But catching four or even five blue runners has its downsides too. First, the baits can tangle with each other or sinker. Second, sharks quickly home in on the struggling baits and trash the sabiki rigs.
Capt. Wells positioned his Contender on the up-current side of the oil platform to mark fish on his finder. Spending a half-hour at the rig with nothing to show for it, we headed across the Gulf to a different one. Part of rig fishing is being able to adapt. Wells freely named each rig we fished, not trying to hide any secrets. Rigs don't hold fish day after day; instead, "waves" of tuna come and go to different rigs based on conditions such as water clarity, current, wind direction and water temperature. While Wells might prefer blue water, he catches plenty of fish around rigs in green water.
Seaguar's Brian Evans fights the first tuna of the day. A fighting belt is necessary for larger yellowfins that can battle for drawn-out periods.
But the fight is worth it! Brian Evans, center, took down this 105-pound yellowfin tuna with 80-pound braid, 80-pound top shot and 80-pound Seaguar Premierfluorocarbon. Capt. Wade Wells (right) and Chris Fotta (left) provided help with the boat handling and gaff shot.
One Last Gasp
Unless the yellowfin tuna is undersized, anglers who target tunas in the Gulf don't practice catch-and-release. Yellowfin tuna (ahi) is delicious just about any way it's cooked and served. Plus, captains like those at the Mexican Gulf Fishing Company are cognizant of daily boat limits. Fishing's done when the legal limit is reached. Many times, fishing is done before a limit is reached because there's already enough tuna on ice and anglers are damned tired of pulling on bullish yellowfins. This yellowfin tuna makes one last jump boatside before being stuck by a gaff.
Back at the Docks
Back at the docks, tuna are loaded up in a wheel barrow and taken over to the fish-cleaning station. If an angler wants, Venice Marina offers a scale to weigh your catch. Other charter boats nearby re-fueled and prepped for tomorrow's day of fishing.
Expect the Unexpected
Expect the unexpected at the docks. A boat that went deep-dropping for swordfish caught this pomfret. Pomfrets are a deepwater species hooked as bycatch when swordfishing or deep-dropping. The unusual-looking fish is safe and tasty to eat.