If you are saltwater fishing in blue water and live on the Mississippi Gulf Coast there’s two choices. Either you ride or drive to the blue water. Obviously, if the vessel is a sport fisher the choice has been made in advance, but if your boat can be trailered, well then I believe the term is road trip. In most cases, either way, the trip is going to cost about three hours of drive/ride time. So when Capt. Mark Smith of Subdude Charters invited me to be the sixth member of the motley crew, the instructions were to pack light and to be at exit 53 at 3 a.m. The choice was to trailer the boat down to Venice, LA. Having had completed the trip the other way in a center console I was relieved with the choice of driving.
Our destination: Venice, LA. The southeastern fishing grounds of Louisiana are a special place. If someone has never used Venice as a jumping off place for either inshore, offshore or bluewater then this is definitely one of the places that should be put on your bucket list. Every species of fish that can be caught in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico can be targeted out of this village. Although, I’ve never been to Venice, Italy I can see why they are similar. There’s really no need to get in a vehicle except when you’re arriving or departing. The rest of the time you can step off the dock and do the most important thing to do while in Venice—fish.
Arriving basically at first light, we launched and started the one-and-a half hour ride to our intended fishing grounds. Heading southwest, our first targets was the Mars-Ursa floating platforms about 35-40 miles south of Port Eads. However, this day we would never reach our destination. The weather and seas couldn’t have been more perfect. By the time we were 20-plus miles out, the water started turning colors and before long we could see that beautiful sight of water so blue it was shaded towards purple.
Soon, the serenity of the trip was broken by the release of pent up excitement. The feeling of flushing a covey of birds and having to make a decision of which one to take first is probably the best way to describe the atmosphere of spotting a school of tuna striking the surface around a platform. Capt. Mark began the process of positioning the boat based on the current and location of the school. He barked orders setting up the rigs in a fashion suited for the situation and everyone jumped into action. Having made our passes and coming up short the crew commenced to scanning for another target of opportunity: another school, any floating structure or a grass line. Advanced scouting reports had the crew hyper alert for grass lines, however, most reports had the grass lines well south of our location.
Tides, currents and other factors having changed over the two to three days lapse between our trip and the scouting reports, we met the grass havens sooner than expected. No one on board needed any reminder once we hit what looked like acres of grass flats broken only by intermediate spaces of the deep blue-purple hued water that was so clear that the only limitation on visibility was how far down your eyes could capture the light of the sun. Top water action was going off. The flying fish were skying constantly in what seemed to be every direction at once. Chicken dolphin could be seen skirting the grass beds using the cover to dart in and out of the light. This is exactly why we made the trip from Mississippi. We knew that this was our chance to have a really special day. All the ingredients were perfect, we just needed to properly present our bait across the spread, manage the strikes and put our time into trolling the rip. It didn’t take long for our efforts to be rewarded. Strikes from mahi and wahoo made the trip interesting, however, we would soon discover they were just the icing on the cake.
Experiencing a slight calm, doubt began to surface if we were truly in our spot and spending our time wisely. As quickly as these thoughts surfaced they disappeared with the sound of the reels having line burned off like a freight train. We were hooked up and it wasn’t a fish south of 100 pounds. Before the captain was able to disengage and the decks were cleared, there was a second strike. The prevailing thought was that we had one yellowfin tuna and one blue marlin—mainly because the blue breached less than 20 feet from the side of the boat. It was a beautiful blue, breaking the water in atypical fashion with the head high and landing belly first. The picture is still engrained in my mind because as I was leaning down to secure the opposite rig I caught a completely unobstructed view of the marlin. Time seemed to stand still in slow motion, but was quickly snapped back into the moment with the reality of the situation. We were on a 30-foot center console and had two very angry fish hooked up at once.
About 30 minutes into the fight we caught color on both; confirmed—two blues! I was hooked into my first ever blue marlin, which was estimated to be around 250 pounds. What this fish lacked in size it made up for in fight. The fish attempted to spear my wireman, Danny “Reef Donkey” Peterson twice. Initially, when we brought the fish to the boat, the fish skied in the air sending everyone scrambling beneath the t-top for fear that she was joining us in the boat. The other blue was a bit larger, estimated to be in the 450-pound range. She was being fought by Angler Wade Wells. Trust me when I say the dance that ensued was nothing short of spectacular. Do the math—6 guys, two blues and all this on a 30-foot Contender. The saving grace is that we had some knowledgeable guys that were choreographing the experience.
Capt. Mark kept the dance alive by his master boat handling while Wes and I switched positions from bow to stern following the whims of the fish and attempting to keep them out each other’s lines. In the end we had an official catch on the smaller blue and a “would be” catch on the larger blue. Shannon shot some amazing photos. The photo of the marlin dancing on the water with Reef Donkey holding the leader was shot as Shannon fell backwards. The marlin had just tried to jump in the boat, sending all of us backward and Shannon shooting from his knees (notice the position of the horizon versus the angle of the fish).
To top it all off we returned to the dock with a nice mahi-mahi, a respectable wahoo, several blackfin tuna and a very nice yellowfin tuna. Tim fought the yellowfin for what seemed like eternity. Just as the sun was setting he landed the tuna and we snapped some great photos. All in all the trip was described as epic, without Capt. Mark Smith, Danny “Reef Donkey” Peterson, Wade Wells, Shannon Pyle and Tim Kennedy this experience wouldn’t have been possible. I would like to publicly thank the five guys that helped me cross one more thing off my bucket list!