Growing up with a dad and mentor that had a severe case of fishing fever was pretty special, but only in recent years has it really set in just how truly blessed I’ve been to fish Louisiana for all of these years. It should have dawned on me much earlier considering the state license plate reads Sportsman’s Paradise.
The saltwater fishery that Louisiana has to offer is one of a kind, and Venice is the epicenter for all of the action no matter the month of the year or target species. Located in Plaquemines Parish, Venice is approximately 75 miles south of New Orleans. A scenic drive along the west bank of the Mississippi River down Highway 23 brings you to the end of the road in Venice. While the area was nearly wiped off the face of the planet by Hurricane Katrina and once again hit hard from the Deepwater Horizon disaster, resilient commercial fishermen don’t ever give up and the coastal community is back and stronger than ever before. The fisheries off the coast of Louisiana also survived these disasters and the action nowadays is as good as it gets. Better yet, with a full-time population hovering just over 200, the area is largely unnoticed by those not interested in epic fishing adventures.
If you’re booking a trip, then it’s best to choose an outfitter that has both inshore and offshore options in case the weather deals a fatal blow to your offshore agenda.
One of the reasons Venice is so special is due to the mighty Mississippi River. Draining water through 31 states along 2,350 miles before reaching the Gulf of Mexico, the Mississippi River dumps nutrients into the marshy bayou and sustains the perfect habitat for a multitude of fish species and endless array of aquatic inhabitants. Established in 1935, the Delta National Wildlife Refuge encompasses 49,000 lush acres of wetlands that were formed by the deposit of sediment from the Mississippi River. Combined with constant flushing of warm water from the expansive Gulf of Mexico, the grassy delta is an absolute ecological gem.
Louisiana leads the nation in commercial seafood harvest in many different categories, so it’s no secret that our fish have abundant food sources. This is also why local species grow so large. Another reason Venice leads the way to such a hotbed of action is because of the area’s close proximity to the continental shelf. Venice actually has the closest deep-water access in the entire Gulf of Mexico, as well as being home to a vast network of oil and gas drilling platforms both near-shore and offshore. These rigs are a huge part of why our fisheries are so amazing and they create the best artificial reefs an angler could ever ask for. Since the first drilling platform was placed offshore of Louisiana in 1947, the development of oil exploration has grown to over 7,000 platforms installed across the Gulf. Furthermore, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has an artificial reef program that converts abandoned platforms into permanent artificial reefs.
With a major hub in New Orleans, visiting anglers have plenty to see and do before or after their visit to Venice. Bourbon Street is perhaps most famous and is known worldwide for Cajun cuisine, jazz music and the biggest block party in the world, so you should definitely tie in a little touring time during your visit. I also recommend you make a few pit stops at the fruit and vegetable stands on Highway 23 when heading to Venice. Plaquemines Parish is famous for its produce and depending on the season you may be able to sample fabulous Creole tomatoes and satsuma oranges. Once again, the mighty Mississippi has blessed us with some of the best soil in the country!
While the diverse inshore and offshore opportunities are endless year round, the only thing that can be a burden is the weather. If you’re booking a trip, then it’s best to choose an outfitter that has both inshore and offshore options in case the weather deals a fatal blow to your offshore agenda.
During the coming months near-shore fishing really heats up. We see a solid cobia migration in May when the fish are heading over from the Florida Panhandle, and once again in August when they migrate back from Texas. In the late summer and fall the river drops to its lowest level of the year and leaves the delta with higher salinity levels and improved water clarity. Bait is everywhere during the summer and the trout and redfishing is as good as it gets, with triple digit days common.
When heading offshore, crews departing Venice must first embark on the 25-mile run down the Mississippi River to reach open water, but from here the action is close by. The snapper and grouper fishing is incredible around the near-shore rigs and artificial reefs, where vertical jigging is a great technique that connects anglers with a variety of prized bottom fish. Louisiana is one of the few states that told big brother to stick it, so we have a statewide red snapper fishery that enables anglers to harvest American red snapper on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays throughout the entire year. Additionally, 6- to 10-pound mangrove snapper thrive along many of the near-shore platforms and provide visiting anglers a solid chance of squaring off with world-record class grays.
It is also during the coming months when the pelagic bite really takes off. The tuna are always here and can be captured anytime there’s a weather window to run offshore, with various options for getting connected. Chunking and live baiting around the rigs puts anglers on big fish, with trophy 150-pound class yellowfin tuna also taken during the fall behind the shrimp boats sorting their bycatch. This time of the year it’s also common to wear yourself out with 70- to 90-pound fish around the offshore rigs.
If you’re more interested in chasing billfish, blue marlin start to show in decent numbers with the warm water of the Loop Current and associated spinoff eddies. In the summertime, opposing currents and wind stack sargassum weed and create a distinct rip line with dolphin, wahoo and blue marlin all taken on the troll. Like most offshore fisheries, captains hailing out of Venice benefit greatly by studying satellite imagery detailing currents, chlorophyll and more. This time of year weather systems are relatively stable and besides dealing with afternoon thunderstorms, it’s not often we get blown out. Tropical systems spinning in the Gulf are the only real trip killers.
Within easy reach for Florida anglers looking for reliable inshore and offshore action with limitless possibilities, Venice, Louisiana, really is one of the most incredible angling destinations within the continental United States. As they say in NOLA, Laissez les bon temps rouler—Let the good times roll!