By Brandon Butler
Venice, Louisiana, is a fishing destination like few others.
Having been there twice, and having confirmed that the first trip wasn’t a fluke, I can honestly say the marsh at the mouth of the Mississippi River is hands down one of the greatest fishing destinations I have ever experienced.
Redfish can ruin you. It’s like fishing for largemouth bass, but catching 10- or 20-pound smallies. Fighting “reds” in the shallows, where they associate with structure, like points, weed beds, pilings and riprap, is an intense experience.
Like bass fishing, you target likely looking spots throwing Rat-L-Traps, soft plastics and spinner baits. But when a red slams it you’ll swear you’re hooked to the end of a runaway train.
Aside from offering some of the most exciting fishing you can ever hope to experience, the marsh is an overall ecological treasure. Countless fish, bird, mammal and reptile species call these waters home. You’re likely to encounter dolphins, alligators, stingrays, shore birds and waterfowl. In fact, an estimated 10 million migratory waterfowl winter or stop over on the Mississippi River Delta each year. This place is critical habitat for fish and wildlife.
The plant life in the marsh is mesmerizing, as a sea of grass dances in brackish air.
Once you have experienced redfish in the marsh, it’s tough to imagine not going back every year. The sunrise boat rides flying through narrow passages, the camaraderie among anglers, the Cajun culture, and the sound of a screaming drag as a redfish rips line while you do your best to weather the storm. These are just a few of the reasons why a redfish trip to Venice, Louisiana is a good idea.
Venice Marina is the heart of the local fishing community. Located literally at the end of the road, this is as far south as you can drive in the marsh. Venice Marina is the boat ramp, bait shop, restaurant, fish processing center and meeting place where captains connect with clients. It’s where the adventure begins.
Camps, some floating houseboats and some on more permanent structures, surround the marina. Silent shrimp boats fill slips, while 30-foot center counsels shuttle anglers towards offer adventure and bass boats head into the marsh.
When redfish are aggressive, they’ll eat just about anything you throw their way, from spoons to spinners, top waters to stick baits. But for consistency’s sake, few baits can out-fish soft plastics.
There are days when redfish just aren’t active enough to chase fast-moving baits. During times like these, anglers can still do well by switching to dropping shrimp under popping corks and working them to entice strikes. Popping corks make a popping, chugging sound when you give them a quick jerk. This activity on the surface attracts reds that run into and engulf your shrimp dangling a few feet below.
Louisiana allows anglers to keep a daily limit of five redfish, with a minimum length of 16 inches and not more than one exceeding 27 inches.
Redfish are excellent table fare, with smaller ones generally tasting better than larger. Many people blacken redfish, which consists of charring seasoned filets in a cast iron pan. Another excellent way to prepare redfish is on the half shell. This requires fileting the fish with the skin on and then grilling the filets skin side down and basting with melted butter and herbs.
See you down the trail.
Brandon Butler writes a weekly outdoors column for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at djsports@daily journal.net.