As Capt. Scott Sullivan steered the bay boat out of Cypress Cove Marina in Venice, Louisiana, I settled in for what I believed would be a lengthy ride. Being a newcomer to those parts, I assumed the prime fishing grounds would lie in some remote and pristine area far away. Little did I know.
Sullivan drove less than a mile downriver in one of the western tributaries of the Mississippi River before abruptly pulling back the throttle and lowering the boat’s twin Power Poles near the junction of the main canal and a much smaller side canal leading to a few houses. “We’re here,” he said.
The spot didn’t look very promising to me, but I’ve learned not to argue with local knowledge, so I grabbed a light spinning rod armed with a Gulp! shrimp tail, and fired off a cast toward the point. “Put it close to the shoreline, but not too close — there are some stumps and stuff in there,” Sullivan advised. I had cast right to the shore, so I assumed I had hung one of the stumps when my rod bent over after only two hops into the retrieve.I soon realized that this “stump” had begun racing along the shoreline, taking lots of line with it. I fought the fish as our crew began speculating on what it might be. “There’s only one thing around here that fights like that,” Sullivan said. “Bull red.” The fish made several strong runs before submitting to the pressure applied by the tackle, and sure enough, a nice bull red popped up from the murky water, right next to the boat. My first cast of the first day had produced a chunky redfish much larger than those I’m used to catching at home.
Business as Usual
But that’s Venice. While we Floridians oohed and aahed about the size of the fish and its rich coloration, Sullivan simply shrugged as he removed the hook and released the fish back into the water. Redfish like that one are a dime-a-dozen in Louisiana, and the locals don’t get that excited about them. In fact, as we came to learn during our trip, locals much prefer speckled trout over reds because they’re viewed as better to eat, and you can keep a pile of them — 25 per person per day.
Visitors like the reds just fine, and in recent years, Venice has become one of only a handful of spots in the U.S. where you can expect consistent action with big redfish, and lots of them. We had come to Louisiana to film an episode of Sport Fishing Television, and asked Sullivan to guide us. He’s more at home in the fertile waters offshore of Venice, but proved himself to be a worthy inshore guide as well during our time with him.
**Vast Habitat **
Fishing for redfish around Venice often involves a great deal of prospecting, although the fish do seem to hang around certain spots with regularity. Moving pays dividends, however, as Sullivan proved over the course of several days. We ran from spot to spot, and covered miles of creeks and waterways. These branches of the Mississippi seem to go on forever in all different directions, so local knowledge is essential when trying to decide where to stop and fish.
Sullivan favored points where two or more tributaries merged, a logical ambush spot where one would expect to find predators. The method involved setting up a stake-out point with the Power Poles where we could fan-cast the points on both sides and right on the extreme tip of the point itself.
We cast 4-inch GULP! shrimp pinned to Berkley BDS jig heads, and although we cast a wide variety of colors with varying degrees of success, the fish definitely seemed to prefer the New Penny Gulp! shrimp with the chartreuse tails. Those outfished everything else by a wide margin. Working the Gulp! lures close to shore, we caught fish after fish, and when we slowed them down and crawled them right along the bottom, we began picking up trout.
“At certain times of year, you can catch redfish, trout and flounder on consecutive casts,” Sullivan said. “And no matter what direction the wind blows from, you can always find fishable water in Venice.” It’s true that an almost limitless number of potential redfish spots exist, but several hold fish consistently.
Certain channels and bays along the edge of the Louisiana Delta typically produce large fish and large numbers. We fished a lot of those, including Redfish Bay, Garden Island Bay, Blind Bay and Octave Pass, all located to the east along the edge of the open Gulf of Mexico.
On our third day of fishing, we ventured west and fished along the beach and near barrier islands in the open Gulf, because a strong north wind made it difficult to effectively work other areas. But as Sullivan pointed out, there’s always someplace to find shelter, and even in the gale, we managed to find several nice schools of fish milling around close to shore.
Multiple Bait Options
We fished GULP!**** lures exclusively, but these fish will strike a wide variety of artificial lures and flies, and of course, bait always works well too, whether live or dead. It’s just more fun to catch them on an artificial in my book, and topwater lures are always a great choice. Seeing a huge bull red explode on a topwater is about as exciting as anything in fishing.
Our best fishing came at a junction right off the main channel of the Mississippi itself. Water flowed hard around a point where a lone cypress tree stood, and after anchoring up-current from the point in a strategic spot, we began bombing the water on both sides of the point as close to the mud bank as we could.
We hooked up almost immediately, and spent well over an hour catching and releasing one fat red after another. It was late in the day, and the sun sank and the shadows grew longer; we had to leave to get back before dark, abandoning biting fish for safety’s sake. That’s what Louisiana redfishing is like: fish in a great many places, and action from sunup to sundown. There’s nowhere else like it, a fact serious redfish fans have grown to depend on in ever-increasing numbers