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September 10, 2007

One Lump or Two?

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

Picket's Charge
West of Candy Mountain, the "Picket Fence" - a series of seven seamounts - stretches over 12 miles along the 100-fathom curve (about 600 feet of water) roughly 120 miles south-southeast of Calcasieu Pass. Captains usually access this region from Lake Charles, Cypremort Point, Cameron, Intracoastal City or Pecan Island.
 
"One seamount rises to about 260 feet, one to about 190, and one to about 210 feet," Gill says. "They're all generally in line. Once we put the baits in the water, we can troll down the edge and stay in a productive area for a couple hours at 7 knots. We've also anchored on the 32-fathom rocks and bottomfished."
 
The Picket Fence has produced blue marlin in the 600-pound range for Gill; he hooked an estimated 900-pounder there too. Fishing the bottom, he landed a 113.19-pound cubera snapper in July 1988. That fish holds third place in the Louisiana record book. In June this year, Marion Rose broke the state and world record with a 124.80-pound cubera    snapper he caught near the Picket Fence. Mike Hebert held the previous state and world record with a 121.5-pound cubera he caught in the same area in 1982.
 
Angler Prentiss Perkins landed a 23.3-pound marbled grouper at the Picket Fence in 2005 to establish a state record. On the same day, David Chad Cormier landed the number-two fish in the state, a 17.62-pounder.
 
"The Pickets always hold bait, especially hardtails [blue runners] and bonitos," Gill says. "We catch marlin in the area, but there's also an abundance of wahoo and blackfin. It's a little shallow for yellowfin, but we catch some at the southern end, around the 66-fathom rock."
 
For marlin and wahoo, Gill also recommends the 18-fathom rock, which sits in 600 feet of water just west of the Picket Fence. Slightly south of the 18-fathom rock, the Peanut and the Butterfly formations resemble their namesakes and offer excellent structure for snapper and other bottom dwellers. 
 
Anglers returning from the Picket Fence to Lake Charles might make a few drops at Calcasieu Rock, which sits in about 40 to 60 feet of water about 40 miles south of Calcasieu Pass.

In the Gardens
The Flower Garden Banks, a national marine sanctuary south of Sabine Pass on the Louisiana-Texas line, lie 70 to 115 miles off the coast between Cameron, Louisiana, and Galveston, Texas. These banks derive their name from the colorful coral and sponge formations found there. Showcasing some of the most pristine coral reefs anywhere, the Flower Gardens provide a home to more than 170 fish species and 300 species of marine invertebrates.
 
Roughly pear-shaped, the East Flower Garden Bank measures about 40 square miles. The West Flower Garden Bank, about seven miles west, covers 46 square miles; depths range from 60 to 450 feet.
 
Bright Bank, another coral formation 11 miles east of the East Flower Gardens, rises to within 114 feet of the surface. Tales of a Spanish treasure ship that allegedly sank nearby led salvors to dig two large holes in the formation and scatter debris over the area.
 
Anglers fishing this general area might also try the nearby Rankin Bank, which lies in about 180 feet of water. About 29 miles northwest of the Flower Gardens, the Stetson Bank offers fish habitat in the form of scattered coral formations and abundant sponges. This bank became part of the Gardens' national marine sanctuary in October 1996. Claypile Bank, a low-relief, flat-top mound, lies just northeast. 
 
"I've fished in a lot of great places, including Costa Rica, Venezuela and Panama," Gill says. "In my opinion, the Louisiana coast from Venice to Lake Charles is as good as it gets anywhere.
 
"There are so many deepwater floating rigs in the Gulf now that we sometimes forget about these old favorite holes. Rigs sometimes move, but the natural rock formations have been there forever. They have always produced well for us."