Our water taxi for the week
After some less than ideal weather conditions in Florida our next stop to shoot The Kayak Fishing Show was Venice Louisiana. Jeff Pierce, with Mustad Hooks, invited us down for what he said would be some incredible and extreme kayak fishing. Well we have certainly heard this before so until it happens you can call me skeptical.
Will and I made the hour and a half drive from the airport in New Orleans to Venice, noting the marks on the landscape still remaining from Katrina and Issac, most notable the many wrecked boats laying along the side of the road. We had been told that if you are not in Venice to fish there is not a whole lot else going on there, and that proved to be true, but if you came here to fish you were in the right place. On that first night we had a, get to know you, dinner with Jeff and the guys from The Mexican Gulf Fishing Company. Captains Kevin Beach and Jordan Ellis along with a few of their friends brought the meal which consisted giant slabs of beef, venison sausage, and beer, no vegetables were injured during this meal. Sarcasm and friendly jabs were tossed around freely and I knew we would get along with these guys very well.
Though the area is known for incredible inshore fishing for Bull Redfish our plan on this trip was to target the bigger fish offshore, near the oil rigs and behind the Shrimp boats. Is this pure kayak fishing, No, there is just no way to fish these waters without having a boat to run you the many miles offshore to fish the rigs. Once on location though it is all kayak fishing except for the times you wanted to stretch your legs on the boat and maybe toss a few lures. I tell you if you have to have a taxi to take you to the fishing grounds there is none better than the Pale Horse that the guys from MG Fishing Company were running. This thing was super fast, stable, quite, spacious and oh yeah, FAST.
As our luck would have it a bit of the wind from Hurricane Sandy had also reached Venice and the first day of fishing was not quite what we had hoped for. The shrimp boats were not out on the water which meant the big tuna would be harder to find and the water around the rigs was a bit turned over. First days are always kind of a feeling out period when fishing with new people and Jeff, Kevin and Jordan had little to no experience fishing from kayaks. Not to worry they took to it instantly and that first day had us all pulling on good fish, mainly Blackfin Tuna and Amber Jack.
Day two had the wind really blowing with basically unfishable conditions offshore, which thanks to the endless estuaries did not mean an end to fishing for the day. We all switched over to our light setups and targeted trout and redfish with more than a few catfish in the mix. Even though we were sheltered the wind was an issue with drifting. We started out drifting with the wind along a breakwater but the only hits were bite offs from the many spinner sharks. Looking for a bit more shelter we moved to a more protected area and started tossing the lures. Jeff spotted a couple red fish, made the perfect cast and was on.
A lot of white seatrout followed and then Kevin got a red.
I paddled over to a beach to stretch my legs and make a few casts and was soon rewarded with my first red of the trip. Jeff and Kevin followed me to the spot and began tossing for what turned into hook up after hookup, with several break-offs and Jeff catching a large litter of cats.
After the kitty excitement we paddled around the corner to a very shallow bay and quickly noticed good numbers of better red fish chasing bait. Once again Jeff hooked up first and landed a real nice fish. It took me a while to finally hook a better fish and when I did this one really took me for a ride. The problem is it took me for a ride around a submerged branch that was stuck in the bottom. I fought this fish and branch combo for at least five minutes trying to get unwrapped and not break off in the process. Finally getting the line unwrapped the fish took off again but my Kanzen braid held and I landed my largest Redfish that went over 25 pounds.
Day three brought much better conditions for the offshore run but once again the shrimp boats were not out there working so we drove from rig to rig trying to locate some fish. Soaking live baits or using speed jigs was the method of choice around the rigs. When we pulled up to one rig we saw a good size boil right in front of the rigs support boat. We quickly unloaded the kayaks and within seconds Kevin hooked into a good size Blue Marlin, unfortunately the fight lasted just a couple minutes as the leader broke. I was trolling a hard tail when I heard screaming from the guys up on the rigs support boat that a fish was chasing my bait and within seconds I was on. It was a good fight and straight down so I knew I had a decent Tuna. I have to say it was pretty wild fighting a fish to the cheers of the guys up on that boat. When I landed what turned out to be a 50 pound Yellowfin, they cheered even more and took a ton of photos and video of me.
While I was fighting my fish Jeff hooked a Wahoo that also put on pretty good show for the guys in the support boat but with a fluorocarbon leader the fight didn’t last long. We landed a lot more smaller tuna around this rig, had to deal with a lot of sharks taking our baits and Jeff hooked what may have been the Kraken that dragged him into the oil rig, threatening to dump him before finally breaking him off.
When we got back to the dock we filleted up my tuna and packed it up to take home.
At this time we were also told our scheduled last day of fishing was not going to happen, there had been a miscommunication between us and the charter company and the boat was not available. I basically resigned myself to not getting the big tuna we had hoped for and called my wife to see if she could arrange an early flight home for me. I no sooner made that call when we heard from Kevin that though he could not fish the next day he could take us out the day after that. Will and I spent a good portion of this off day shooting sponsor promo videos and killing time. Later that evening we got the report that the boats that had fished that day had not done all that great so our hopes for the next day were not real high.
Day four of fishing brought calm seas and lots of bait, which Jordan expertly wrangled up for us with his throw net.
We made the long run out the inlet and were met by flat calm conditions and the sight, off in the distance, of working shrimp boats. If you are not familiar with this type of fishing, the way it works is this. The Shrimp boats are dragging the bottom which produces a lot of by catch which attracts the bigger fish which attract the bigger fish……..Also attracted to the food chain are sharks, and plenty of them. Sharks of all sizes are here and they are all pretty worked up into a feeding frenzy. So once you slide up behind the shrimp boat you toss out a few live mullet so see if they attract the right fish. If they are there you know it pretty fast as they attack the mullet with a vengeance. IF they are there you try and get some chum going to pull the fish away from the shrimp boat and get them going near you. Well for us that meant getting the kayaks up behind the shrimp boat, tossing in a bait and hoping the fish pulls you away from the shrimp boat and away from the sharks.
The first shrimp boat we came to appeared to be holding some good fish and we had the kayaks in the water quickly. The first one in the water was Jeff and within seconds he was off to the races, Kevin was in the water next and same thing, he is off in another direction. Next up was me and my first bait hits the water and is quickly devoured by a shark, goodbye bait, hook and leader. I raced back to the support boat re-rigged and boom same thing happened again. This time I am in the midst of some real worked up sharks, several of which slammed into the side of my kayak, which was a bit unnerving to say the least. The scene is hard to describe, but we had small tuna boiling, large tuna chasing bait out of the water and sharks swarming on anything that touched the water, including the kayaks. I re-rigged and this time I am playing cat and mouse with the sharks, watching to see if it is a shark chasing my bait, in which case I would yank it away, or one of the desired big Tuna. This time my bait is hit by the right kind and I am off to the races in another direction. Once I was hooked up the camera boat left me to go follow the first guys hooked up. We all carried Standard Horizon VHF radios to stay in contact with the boat so we could report the status of our fights. It is strange feeling being left in the ocean all by yourself as a big hammerhead shark gives you a fly by.
Kevin, who is not a small guy, had his fish up first and before the camera could even reach him had reached down into the fishes gills and lifted him aboard the kayak, quite a feet for someone who had never kayak fished before this week. This was not a small fish either going at least 120 pounds.
The next call on the radio came from Jeff that his fish was close and ready to land, taking Kevin’s lead, Jeff employed the gill grab leg lift method and soloed his fish as well and this one was even bigger, likely 140 pounds.
I unfortunately was not so lucky as my fish was tail hooked which made for a longer fight and much harder to land. Once up I gaffed the fish near the tail, because the hook was about to fall out. Because of the fins direction and the large sickle fins I just could not get him completely on my kayak and had to have an assist from the guys. Still another great fish again in that 120 pound class.
We hooked a few more smaller tuna behind that boat and lost a lot more hooks and leader to the sharks. We also had a nice pair of Dorado swim by, Jeff hooked the first one and kept it in the water until I could get a bait over there to hook the second and larger fish.
After a while we all needed a break to eat lunch and stretch the legs and did some jigging off the boat. Jeff was getting blackfin after blackfin and I got another 50ish yellowfin. The meter on the boat was showing plenty of fish down below us but we were all out of live bait, so we began chunking the bonita and small blackfin tuna. We soon had some big blowups near us so it was back to the kayaks. This time we got Jordan to jump in a kayak to join in on the fun. Jordan had never been in a kayak let alone fished from one. Within five minutes he was hooked up and shortly after that had landed his first fish from a kayak, a nice 20 pound blackfin.
During that time I hooked up again to what was a very large fish, presumed a big shark, that kicked my butt for about twenty minutes before breaking off. Meanwhile Jordan hooked up again and this time it is a real fish. I have seen a lot of sleigh rides in my day but this was, if not the fastest certainly close to the fastest I have ever seen. I was paddling as hard as I could and until his fish slowed down I couldn’t catch him, he was flying across the water. At about the 30 minute mark, Jordan said “something doesn’t feel right” and as quick as that his fish was sharked. Jordan just starts winding in line and brings in a large Tuna head that we think came from a tuna of 140 pounds or better.
Jordan was disappointed but wanted to try again so soon had a new chunk out in the water, once again only a couple minutes passed and he was on again. This was a very heavy fish. I stayed by Jordan’s side for most of the fight, adding extra drag when I could but this beast just took line when it wanted and kept Jordan’s rod pegged to the side of the kayak in a stalemate. Any time Jordan would get line the fish would take it back. Jordan was not messing around and was fishing a very tight drag and for much of the fight there was nothing he could do but hold on. The fight lasted at least an hour before Jordan finally started gaining line and bring the beast to the surface. Once in view we were all blown away, it was a shark and a big one. This is likely the biggest fish we have ever landed while shooting the show. I am not great on weights on these fish but it was agreed all around that it was at least 300 pounds. Later comparison of photos revealed the species as a Dusky Shark. I would say not a bad fishing session for someone that had never been on a kayak.
That was it for our day on the water, we had a lot of fish to fillet and process to bring home.
This was a fantastic trip with some great guys and I highly recommend fishing with them if you have the opportunity. After this trip my arms were aching from pulling on fish and my sides were aching from laughing all day.
My go to setups for the trip were these;
For Jigging I used the Penn Torque 15 loaded with 50 lb Seaguar Kanzen braid and a top shot of 60 pound Seaguar Fluorocarbon, the rod was a Penn Blue water Carnage jigging rod.
For bait fishing the large tuna I used a Penn International 12 VSX, the two speed made a huge difference when pulling on these big fish. The reel was loaded with 80 pound Seaguar Kanzen braid with a top shot of 100 pound Seaguar fluorocarbon. The hook was a Mustad 8/0 demon perfect circle 3x strong. The Rod was a Penn Carnage Jigging rod, I like these shorter rods for pulling on big fish in my kayak. To help keep pressure on the fish without tearing up your gut we used the Scotty Hammerhead butt cap on our rods. I think they really made a difference in being able to keep pulling on the fish for a long time.
When fishing for the red fish and trout my set up was a Abu Garcia Revo SX loaded with 20 pound Seaguar Kanzen Braid with a top shot of 20 pound Seaguar fluorocarbon. The rod was an Abu Garcia Veritas. My lure of choice was a Sebile 90mm stick shad.
Of course bright skies and blue water meant wearing my Maui Jim Canoes with the dark lenses to see all those sharks swimming below me and spotting to tailing red fish.
As always we were dressed in Exofficio to keep us warm, dry and protected from the sun and bugs.
A huge thanks to Jeff Pierce aka Dr. Fish from Mustad for putting this trip together and Captains Kevin Beach and Jordan Ellis of Mexican Gulf Fishing Company for getting us on the fish and for being so much fun to fish with. Make sure you look them up on Face Book.
Some will say this is not “Pure” kayak fishing and that is fine with me. All I know for certain is that it was about as extreme as it gets and as much fun as you can have. I would do it again in a second.