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December 02, 2010

West of Venice

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

What's between Venice, Louisiana, and Texas?

Nothing, if you were to ask the many serious saltwater anglers around the United States aware of Venice's well-deserved reputation as a sport-fishing hot spot. From years of great media coverage, say "Louisiana coastal fishing," and most ­fishermen will think "Venice."

But Google-map Louisiana, and you'll see that in fact most of the state lies to the west of Venice. That includes Grand Isle, one of the few major fishing landmarks between Venice and Texas.

Clicking on the satellite view reveals something else: a zillion uninhabited islands and marsh sliced and diced into a staggering coastal crazy quilt of land and water. Beyond that is habitat galore offshore - a seemingly endless array of oil rigs, ­platforms and other related ­structures poking out of the Gulf.

Gearing Up
I could hardly criticize those ­unaware of the great fishing opportunities off western Louisiana, at least not without suffering charges of hypocrisy, since my numerous trips to fish Louisiana had all involved waters around or east of Venice.

Last June, I wasn't planning any trips to fish any part of Louisiana. After all, the waters around Venice remained closed to fishing, courtesy of BP. But I kept getting fishing reports via e-mail from Capt. Tommy Pellegrin who lives in Houma and operates his 39foot Gravois Reel Life out of Sportsman's Paradise in Cocodrie - about 75 miles west of Venice. The photos showed his anglers catching all sorts of fish (including some monster sow red snapper) in clean, oil-free, legally open water. Some days, Pellegrin acknowledged, he was running a fair distance to reach open water, but with decent weather it was not a problem. To me, the fundamental message was clear enough: Y'all come fishin'!

So I did. It seemed a great ­opportunity to fish the central/western waters of Louisiana and offer SF's national readers a look at some of Louisiana's coast they'd likely not seen. In addition, this offered me the chance to invite some leaders from the ­recreational-fishing industry to join me and show the world that, despite all the media coverage, Louisiana coastal fishing was not DOA. My company for some late-July days offshore included Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Coastal Conservation; Rob Kramer, president of the International Game Fish Association; Mike Nussman, president of the American Sportfishing Association; and Ted Venker, director of communications for the Coastal Conservation Association. And one other, rather notable angler joined us as well on our first of two days offshore - the governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal (plus his chief of staff and security staff), intent on helping spread the word that Louisiana's ­recreational fishing remains alive and well.