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Offshore report: Louisiana, local outings yield plenty of rewards
By JAY MASTRY, Times correspondent
Published July 13, 2007
We fished out of Venice, La., for a week, fishing the oil rigs in 300 feet of water and deeper, seemingly catching every kind of fish that swims.
With guidance from Jackie Hehenberger and Rhett Dixson, who had made the trip before, we were able to catch on pretty quick. On our first day we landed a 300-pound blue marlin, wahoo up to 40 pounds, and a dozen mahi-mahi from 15 to 35 pounds. Fortunate to have good weather, each day was as productive as the first and we finished with night trip. We chose a rig 60 miles offshore and from sunset to 1 in the morning we released a dozen blackfin tuna and landed 14 yellowfin tuna in the 50- to 80-pound range.
Drawn by the rig lights, flying fish were everywhere and the tuna were on the surface in pursuit. If you get an opportunity to go, be prepared. We took a freezer with us and had to purchase another one to get our catch home. Venice Marina was destroyed during Hurricane Katrina, but it has since been rebuilt. There is a boat ramp on the property and plenty of dock space. The accommodations are no-frills, but considering what Louisiana went through, they are certainly adequate.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency-type trailers that are available on site have hot, running water, color TV and a couple of beds.
On the home front, snapper - red and mangroves - will be chewing even better with the new moon.
The Pipeline, in and around 130 feet, has been as productive for those able to get there. Springs, wrecks, and "the Pipe" in more than 100 feet has continued to hold decent numbers of amberjack. Grouper are going to be mixed in. With the exception of the outstanding shallow water grouper reported off Hudson, Bayport, and Crystal River, the majority of the Pinellas and Manatee county offshore crowd are traveling to triple-digit depths.
Though it's still a little early for the big numbers of mangrove snapper in the bay, grouper have picked up the slack. Those working the edges of the channel will weed through some shorts one, but those anglers will likely yank a couple of keepers out as well.
Schools of Spanish mackerel can be seen crashing bait pods from the Skyway Bridge to well inside the bay, and don't put those tarpon rods away yet. We have a month of outstanding tarpon fishing ahead and this weekend's new moon will have the crabs flowing.