A couple of years ago, when my work schedule took me to New Orleans in the late fall, I made a call to friend Bill Butler, proprietor of Venice Sportsmans Marina, and stepped into three days of some of the most amazing fishing any angler could ever dream of.
I met Capt. Dan Skermetta at the fuel dock at 6 a.m. and donned every piece of clothing I had. “The temperature drop will put the trout off,” Skermetta explained, “but it won’t bother the reds at all.”
He took off for a breachway off the main river with a rock wall to try for a few keeper-size, or “slot,” reds. Using light spinning tackle, we started walking jigs dressed with Gulp! Shrimp down the rocks, and soon I got my first hit and disappeared off the spool of the small reel at an alarming rate.
“I thought these were smaller fish,” I shouted.
A while later, Skermetta slipped the net under a 30-pound redfish.
We next ran a few miles to a shallow bay. Skermetta dropped the Power-Pole to hold position and for the next few hours, a parade of big reds made their way into casting range, some falling for shrimp under a float, others smashing the plastics we sight-cast to them. I lost count of how many we caught, but my biggest went every bit of 40 pounds.
“It doesn’t matter what the weather does around here,” said Skermetta. “There is always something biting. The reds are the most resilient, but we can usually get on a great bite of trout, find mangrove and lane snappers, tripletail, even spinner sharks and tarpon. If its bull reds you want, August through December is when you want to be here.”
Change Gears for Tuna
Skermetta joined me offshore the next day with Capt. Will Wall of Pelagic Charters, and we headed out Main Pass to oil platforms that Wall said would hold bait. He explained that we should find wahoo as well as yellowfin tuna within 20 miles of the pass.
The spread was simple enough — four 50-pound stand-up rods with various colored Russell Lure plugs run straight off the rod tips. Wall circled the platforms, and two of the rods went off as husky tuna burned line off the reels. Skermetta jumped on one, and I grabbed the other. Thanks to Wall’s boat handling, we brought first one and then the other to gaff. Both fish were well over 100 pounds. A few more tuna later, one of the rods went off on a scorching run that could only come from a wahoo. We deferred to Wall, who fought the fish skillfully before bringing it to gaff.
This was supposed to be another day offshore, but the weather told us we should go to Plan B. We picked up some heavy spinning tackle and bait, and ran to the west out of Tiger Pass to target snapper. We started on shallow structure, where we caught a couple of nice mangrove snapper, and then Butler moved us to the edge of a ship channel, where we dropped our baits in 120 feet of water.
The sinkers had barely hit the bottom when the rods doubled over with 20-pound red snapper. Two in the boat, another drop, two more big ones in the boat, another drop, and we had limited out.
Butler remarked as he cranked up the engines, “See those two rigs out there? I’ve caught some pretty big wahoo off those. You wanna give it a try?”
A few minutes later, we were trolling diving plugs, doing a figure eight around the rigs, and a half-hour after that, a monster wahoo devoured one of them and tried to light up the twin drag on the Accurate reels. Sorry, but that wasn’t going to happen. A short time later, I was holding the biggest wahoo I’d ever caught, upward of 95 pounds. Then it was time to head back, pack, and drive to the airport in NOLA for my flight home, but I knew I would be back to Venice again soon — real soon.
Information About Getting to Venice
Venice lies 70 miles south of New Orleans. Take Highway 90 to Harvey, then Highway 23 down the Mississippi’s west bank to the end of the road. Make a left onto Boat Harbor Road and you’re there. Be forewarned — if you’re looking for nightlife, stay in NOLA. If experiencing one of the world’s top saltwater fishing destinations is your desire, you’ve come to the right place. Pressed to pick a time to plan an awesome fishing vacation, I would prefer late summer or any time in the fall.
The trout and redfish are plentiful and big. And when the season is open, you can get bonus red, mangrove and lane snappers, and even tripletail. The offshore fishing is righteous with** yellowfin tuna during summer and fall**, and big wahoo throughout the fall. Venice Sportsmans Marina offers launch ramps and boat slips, rooms, cabins and pads for campers and motor homes, plus fuel, ice, bait, and fish cleaning, freezing and shipping. It also has a restaurant on-site, and the top guides in the south ply their trade from the docks (venicemarina.com).
What: Inshore: trout, redfish; offshore: yellowfin tuna, wahoo, snapper
When: Late summer through early winter
Where: Venice, Louisiana
Who: Venice is a great place for DIY anglers towing their own boats, but you’ll want updated nautical charts of the area to navigate tricky rivers, passes and offshore areas. Or just charter a local pro to put you on fish.
• Capt. Dan Skermetta, 504-481-2320, [email protected]
• Capt. Jay Quiros, 504-228-5895, [email protected]
• Capt. Rok Rossignol, 504-481-7529, [email protected]
• Will Wall, 225-454-5365, [email protected]
• Eddy Burger, 985-788-5080, [email protected]
• Damon McKnight, 800-318-1720, superstrikecharters.com
SWS Tackle Box
Guides provide all the necessary tackle for your trip, but if you’re bringing your own boat or have favorite tackle, here’s what you’ll need to have:
• Inshore: 7-foot light to medium spinning rods with matching reels and 12-pound line for trout and reds, along with appropriate jigs and plugs
• Offshore: 50-pound stand-up rods with matching reels, plus an array of trolling lures, diving plugs, and rigged or live bait