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May 27, 2011

Oil Rig Tuna Fishing On Louisiana Gulf Coast

Louisiana's offshore fishing has come back with a vengeance.

Instant Success
Almost immediately, blackfin tuna and little tunnies swarmed beneath the boat, attracting a considerable number of sharks, and then the kingfish showed up. The action came fast and furious, and we caught numerous smaller tunas and big kings on the chunks.

Then Newman’s rod went down hard, and we knew he had hooked a huge yellowfin. He fought the fish for 20 minutes or so, making some headway but not much — it was a very big fish — and as suddenly as it had taken the bait, it was gone. We all figured one of the bigger sharks made a meal of it.

While we kept catching fish with the chunks, Pierce began fishing with Shimano jigging tackle and heavy braid, working a Butterfly jig up and down within a few feet of the bottom. He got one bite after another, hauling up gag grouper, a scamp and numerous small red snappers. This particular reef area was covered with fish throughout the water column, and the bites came in rapid succession no matter which method we chose.

We did not land a yellowfin that day, but we did hit some of the close-by oil rigs that afternoon, and Sullivan caught a nice wahoo on a swimming plug as we trolled by a rig. We jigged some too, and Sullivan also hauled up a large gag grouper. These rigs teem with life. “Basically, we have the largest artificial reef system in the world,”

Covington said. We saw fish of all kinds around the rigs, including the largest school of jack crevalles I’ve ever encountered.

Going Deep
That afternoon as we headed back to Venice, we decided to go south the next day for deep water, where huge floating rigs usually hold lots of big fish. The next morning, we headed out of South Pass, bound for a rig 57 miles offshore.

“These floating rigs are off the shelf,” Covington explained on the way out, “sitting in water that’s from 1,000 to 6,000 feet deep. We use satellite data, including chlorophyll maps, trying to locate clean, blue water, which is generally warmer than green water. In the cooler months, we look for water that’s between 68 and 78 degrees, and in the summer, we want water that’s less than 85 degrees.”

After a speedy offshore run in Covington’s 39 SeaVee, we pulled up to the rig we had targeted but soon discovered that it had divers working on it from a huge crew boat, which informed us by radio we could not fish within a mile of the structure. This sometimes happens, as the commercial operation of the rig takes priority.

Next Rig
Covington made the decision to head farther out to another rig we could see in the distance (many can be seen for 20 miles or more). As we pulled up to it, we saw a large Viking with an angler standing at the transom, his heavy tackle bowed over hard. We thought the fish was a big yellowfin, but it turned out to be a 500-pound mako shark.

The tuna were there, though, as we saw bait dimpling the surface, with frequent busts as the tuna crashed the schools. We pulled up close to the rig and deployed sabiki rigs, filling the livewell with nice-size tinker mackerel and Spanish sardines in no time.