Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while.
So it was with my first offshore fishing experience. I had no expectations of catching an exceptional tuna fish, but when I hauled a 211-pound yellowfin over the side of Captain William Wall’s boat, I accomplished something many saltwater fishermen dream of all their lives yet never realize.
Venice, Louisiana, is a fishing destination every serious angler has to add to his or her bucket list. It’s truly amazing. I have heard tales of the exceptional fishing for years, so when I finally committed to a trip there, part of me was prepared to be let down. How could a destination live up to such sensational hype?
But what I encountered over the course of three days was hands down the greatest fishing I have ever experienced.
On my first day, I fished with Captain Billy Wallbaum of High Tide Guide Service for redfish out of his 23-foot Skeeter bay boat. Scott Goodwin, the editorial director of BD Outdoors, and Kevin Polston, a regional sales manager for Skeeter Boats, joined me. We fished the beaches near Buras, Louisiana.
Early October is the beginning of the redfish spawn. This brings schools of “reds” into the shallows. What made our day so spectacular was the very rare occurrence of clear water. Normally, the brackish water of the bayou looks like coffee with cream in it. But because of a few days of consistent north winds, the water near the beaches was real clear and we could sight fish — meaning we could spot the fish first, then pursue them.
Once we spotted fish, we’d ease into position with the trolling motor, then cast to where the school was headed. When the fish closed to within a few feet of the bait, we’d start twitching them.
We were using Z-Man ½-ounce jig heads with a Trout Trick body. If one of these hard-charging hungry fighters would turn on it, all you could do was get ready to hold on.
My first redfish was 41 inches long with a girth of 23 inches. Capt. Billy estimated it weighed 25 pounds. That brute was a true bull red. It fought the way I imagine a 25-pound smallmouth would fight — if they grew that big. We each kept our limit of five fish apiece for a boatload of 20 reds, plus a flounder and a sea trout.
On day two I headed offshore with Captain William Wall of Pelagic Charters. We ran 40 miles out into the Gulf of Mexico. Our first order of business was to catch bait. We pulled up next to an enormous tanker and used little spinning rods outfitted with 10 or so tiny jigs tied on a single line. There were millions of bait fish around the tanker, so when we’d throw in, there would quickly be a half-dozen or more 3- to 5-inch fish on your line. It took no time to load the bait box.
Then we found the shrimp boats. The fish food chain follows these boats around waiting to gobble up the waste thrown overboard. Smaller fish up top, those that eat them just below, and those that eat those deeper down. We started chumming the water and it wasn’t long until we saw a giant shadow lurking below the swarm of fish feeding on our chum. Capt. Will quickly baited a hook and threw a live baitfish into the water. When the tuna took it, line burned off the reel so fast and the fish ran so far, I thought we’d never land it — but 45 minutes later, I did. It was the hardest fight of my life.
To put in perspective how special a 211-pound yellowfin is, this fish was the second-largest an accompanying captain on our boat had brought in in over 20 years of offshore fishing. The largest was only one pound bigger at 212.
Catching a 200-pound-plus yellowfin is like killing a free-ranging 200-inch whitetail. It’s just not going to happen for most folks, no matter how hard and how long they try. And I did it on my first trip. Everyone tells me I am ruined for life.
On the third day, I fished with FLW Tour professional bass fisherman Brian Latimer and Jacob Maples of a new rainwear company called Compass360. We fished just outside of the mouth of the Mississippi River at Southwest Pass. It was windy. The water was churned up and way off color. I thought my luck had run out. In these conditions, we threw Rat-L-Traps to attract the fish with sound and vibration.
We caught a redfish on nearly every cast. It was simply ridiculous. In just three hours we landed at least 20 reds apiece. We were worn out, and there just wasn’t a point to catching another, so we headed in early.
Aside from what was legitimately the best fishing I have ever experienced, I was up close and personal with dolphins swimming circles around our boat on the first day and had sharks munching our chum feet from the boat when offshore. I ate fresh seafood for dinner every night and surely gained a couple of pounds alone from the amount of fried oysters I shoved into my gut.
If you want to experience some of the most incredible fishing North America has to offer, put a Venice, Louisiana trip together. Get a hold of Captain Will and Captain Billy. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.
If you would like to see more pictures from my Venice trip, check out my Instagram account @driftwoodoutdoors.
See you down the trail.