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December 02, 2010

West of Venice

Louisiana's overlooked central coast - teeming with fish, not anglers

Red snapper

Lightning Rounds
Of course, Pellegrin has plenty of tackle, much of it appropriately heavy. But for hard-core anglers like Kramer and me, bringing gear is part of the fun. However, when packing up for a western Louisiana trip that will involve fishing rigs, you really need 80 to 100pound braid (or even heavier) and to keep that on the spool, a reel with a powerful max drag (and gloves to protect your helping hands). Even for 10pound mangrove snapper, this isn't finesse fishing; the real sport and challenge here are simply who will win the lightning-round tug of war. Either way, it will be decided in minutes or, more often, seconds. Fishing bottom in more open areas, 50pound gear should be fine. Summer is an outstanding time to fish rigs and "reef" areas for snapper, grouper, amberjack and kingfish galore, but much of the year, there's wide-open action for pelagics, especially yellowfin tuna, around deepwater rigs. Winter/spring wahoo action can be off the charts. Slow-trolling small hardtails or drifting to work metal jigs assures action. Try an overnight trip to experience three-digit tuna crashing your big poppers on top in the darkness.

While fishing anywhere may be a sure bet if the weather cooperates, catching is never guaranteed. But I think it comes pretty darn close for anglers fishing Louisiana, west of Venice.


Jigger's Jubilee
I would be remiss in failing to share my thoughts on jigging here. As a jigging ­enthusiast who's worked the enticing hunks of metal in a few corners of the world, I can honestly say that it's hard to find better action anywhere than the rigs and areas of irregular bottom relief off Louisiana. During two days, mostly spent jigging, I rarely went long without something ­trying to snatch the rod from my hands.

But, as Pellegrin pointed out, even here jigging may prove minimally rewarding. "You've got to do it right," he insists. "I've taken out a lot of guys who bring jigs - it's the rage now, you know - but then they don't fish 'em right and don't catch much." The "right" way means setting up an aggressive rhythm and keeping a jig coming up in fast, short pumps for 20 or 30 or more feet then dropping back fast to repeat. (The whole concept of creating the right rhythm is covered in the September/October 2008 Sport Fishing feature "Masters of Metal," in which some of the world's top jigging experts share their techniques.)

Bring  wire - and use it. To my surprise, I lost four jigs in a row just above bottom, every one bitten off cleanly through the heavy mono leader above each jig.

Fishing out of Cocodrie
About 30 or 40 skippers operate sport-fishing boats out of three Cocodrie marinas, about 15 of those fishing primarily offshore. To contact Capt. Tommy Pellegrin, visit customchartersllc.com, or call 9858513304. Pellegrin docks his 30- and 39-foot Gravois center-consoles at Sportsman's Paradise on State ­Highway 56. The New Orleans airport is about a two-hour drive. You'll find hotels in Houma.