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LOUISIANA DREAMING



Schunke Leadin

    What do you think about when someone asks you “What makes an incredible fishing trip?” When someone asks me that question I think of some of my favorite things: tuna, sharks, sailfish, wahoo, but most important is the adventure of the trip. And that’s when Venice, Louisiana comes to mind.
    We have traveled thousands of miles with our boats to fish destinations that are completely different from our home waters of New Jersey, yet when I think of all these places nothing stands out more to me than Venice. I’m not sure if it’s the giant oil rigs, giant yellowfin tuna, the great food, or if it’s the incredible people you meet along the way. It’s just a short 1,277-mile trip to Venice from our home port of Hoffman’s Marina in Brielle, New Jersey, and while that may sound like a very long distance to travel for a fishing trip, once you fish in Venice you will forget all about the ride!
    Whether you are fishing in your own boat that you trailered there, or you are fishing from a charter boat, one thing is sure: the fishing is top-notch.

    WHAT TO BRING
    There are so many different types of fishing in Venice it can be tough to figure out just what outfits to bring. Here is what we bring to fish the area, from inshore to the offshore oil rigs.
    First we load our rods for catching bait. We bring Connley 12- to 20-pound spinning rods with 4000-sized spinning reels spooled with 20-pound Hi-Seas Quattro braid. Then we load our inshore rigs and snapper rods, which are 6-foot-6 Connley 15- to 50-pound conventional rods with Seigler LG or SG reels spooled with 65-pound Hi-Seas Quattro Braid. These combos can tackle anything you find at the inshore rigs, from red snapper and cobia to black snapper and groupers.
    Then we make sure we have our multitasking spinning rods, which are 7-foot Connley 15- to 50-pound spinning rods with Baitrunner 8000 reels spooled with 50-pound Hi-Seas Quattro braid. We use these for anything from pitching live baits to the rigs to casting poppers to blackfins and yellowfins.
    Finally, we load our big guns, which are 6-foot Connley 50- to 80-pound conventional rods with the Seigler OS offshore reels with 80-pound AFW braid. We use these for throwing live baits to the giant yellowfins, the beast amberjacks, wahoo, and the monster groupers that live around the legs of the oil rigs.

    CATCHING BAIT
    This is possibly the most important part of fishing the oil rigs. There’s multiple ways to get bait around Venice. One sure way is to buy flats of pogeys (what we call bunker or menhaden in the north) at the dock. I wouldn’t leave without these. Next you can try to cast-net mullet around the docks in the marina, which isn’t terribly difficult. You can’t go wrong with mullet. Mullet are a hardy bait that all offshore species love.
    There is a technique we don’t often use in the Northeast: Sabiki rigs. These are jigging rigs with 8 to 10 very small hooks with a small tube or feather on each hook and a small diamond jig on the bottom. In Venice when we pull up to the towers that are the closest to any pass you leave from, we jig the Sabikis near the legs of the platforms. These structures are usually loaded and we fill the baitwells with small fish like blue runners, thorn bellies and another small bait called discos. We really like to black out the live wells with these baits because if the tuna do get finicky offshore, we can start live chumming with these small fish to bring the tuna to the surface.
    There are two different types of offshore fishing in Louisiana: the inshore rigs and the offshore rigs. Inshore rigs can be anything within 25 miles and the offshore rigs are usually 25 miles and farther.

    INSHORE OIL RIG FISHING
    For me, this is some of the most incredible fishing because I live in the Northeast where there are only one or two species you may catch as bycatch while targeting a specific fish. At the inshore rigs you can be dropping pogeys for snapper and hook up with a 65-pound cobia or 60-pound amberjack! You truly never know what you are going to hook. One of the techniques we employ at the inshore rigs is we pull up and throw some cobia jigs. We will throw 6-ounce bucktail jigs with long grub tails and let them sink 30 feet or so and then with a long fast sweeping motion retrieve them to the boat.

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