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September 10, 2007

One Lump or Two?

Northern Gulf of Mexico salt domes create vast fishing hot spots.

Go West
About 48 miles west of the Midnight Lump along the continental shelf due south of Cocodrie, Louisiana, the Diaphus Bank covers about 20 square miles. Depths at the rectangular-shaped bank range from about 170 to 450 feet. A steep east-west ridge runs along the south side of the bank, while the north side slopes more gently.
 
 "On any contour map [Standard Mapping Services, www.standardmap.com], people can find various unnamed lumps, reefs, rock piles and other formations in a line from the South Pass of the Mississippi River west-southwest through the Gulf," says Capt. Tommy Pellegrin of Custom Charters in Cocodrie (985-851-3304, www.customchartersllc.com). "With good bottom-scan electronics, like the Lowrance LCX-113C, people can find those spots. There's a small lump west-southwest of the Midnight Lump about 15 to 20 miles out. The next high lump is about 75 miles due south out of  Cat Island Pass."
 
 The "reef," as Pellegrin calls it, is composed of hard substrate with vegetation, sponges and other organisms. The uneven bottom, marked by several small trenches, provides excellent cover for fish. Many anglers fish the area for red snapper, cubera snapper, queen  triggerfish, amberjack and grouper. Captains also chum for blackfin tuna and troll for billfish, wahoo and yellowfin.

Candy Mountain
Off southwestern Louisiana, the continental shelf slopes very gradually. Anglers must travel as many as 100 miles offshore to find big fish, but those who do usually encounter little competition. Commonly, such anglers own sport-fishing boats  capable of running the distance and fishing several days and nights to make the trip worthwhile.
 
"Western Louisiana doesn't get nearly as much fishing pressure as Venice, Fourchon or Grand Isle because we have to go such a long way to find deep water, but it can offer excellent fishing," says Dr. Sherwood Gill, an avid offshore angler from Lake Charles. "We seldom see another boat out there, so we get our choice of spots. The disadvantage is the long ride. Sometimes, it's difficult to get out there due to sea conditions."
 
Lake Charles anglers must head about 100 miles southeast to transit to the Gulf from Pecan Island or Intracoastal City. Boats run south from Pecan Island about 70 miles to reach Sonnier Bank, also known as Candy Mountain. The bank  rises to within 65 feet of the surface. From the twin peaks at the formation's north end, the depth drops to about 170 feet. The softer substrate features small outcroppings and loose boulders.
 
Bottomfishermen catch plenty of red and vermilion snappers, amberjacks and groupers near Candy Mountain and other smaller features south of Pecan Island. Along the edges of the various reefs, captains troll for wahoo and dolphin.
 
"We fish a lot of salt domes roughly due south of Pecan Island," says Gill, who fishes from his 44-foot Topaz, Sea Dog. "We hit blue water about 85 nautical miles out of Intracoastal City. Candy Mountain is fairly accessible, even on a one-day trip. The surrounding water is about 240 feet deep, and the visibility is usually pretty good. In late summer, we can catch some white marlin, sailfish and even a few small blue marlin near it."