Fishing Gulf of Mexico’s Offshore Rigs

The deep waters off Venice provide unmatched action for yellowfin tuna, blue marlin and more.

September 4, 2015

Hulking oil rigs and platforms far offshore the coast of Louisiana are the ultimate fish attracting devices, concentrating pelagic superstars such as blue marlin and yellowfin tuna. Inside the continental shelf, rigs in shallower water attract species such as amberjack and tuna. Hit the gym and consider this gallery fair warning of what to expect when targeting the tackle-busters of the Gulf of Mexico.

An Early Start

The backdrop leaving the Venice Marina for a day offshore. Freemans and Contenders are popular fishing boats down here, capable of fast runs to cover the long distances to floater rigs. Sam Hudson

Which Rig?

With so many rigs to pick from (the rigs looks like skyscrapers along a skyline at times), an experienced captain is vital to sorting through the structures that aren’t productive. Depending on water conditions, time of year and availability of baitfish, most rigs can hold fish. Pictured here is the Elf rig in about 2,800 feet of water. Sam Hudson


Yellowfin tuna are the trophy species that most anglers hope to catch when heading out to the rigs. Thankfully, yellowfin are available all year long and fishermen stand a good chance of hooking one. Yellowfins move closer to shore in the fall, allowing for shorter runs during the blustery months. Sam Hudson

Over the Rail

Deckhand Wade Wells pulls a typical yellowfin tuna (about 60 to 70 pounds) over the gunwale of Capt. Zach Lewis‘ 39-foot Contender. Sam Hudson

80 Miles from Louisiana

Eighty miles from the mouth of the Mississippi, angler Jonathan Zucker battles a species that eats yellowfin tuna for lunch. The mystery fish hit a live bonita (little tunny) within shouting distance of the Sevan Louisiana rig. Sam Hudson

Blue Marlin Surprise

Not as reliable or common as yellowfins, blue marlin make even experienced captains like Kevin Beach jump for joy. Pictured, Beach unhooks the circle hook from an estimated 300- to 400-pound marlin and helps revive the billfish after Zucker’s 50-minute battle. Sam Hudson

Tag and Release

Beach tagged the blue marlin before releasing the fish back in to the blue. The Billfish Foundation is currently holding a Gulf of Mexico Marlin Tagging Competition that runs until the end of September this year. Sam Hudson

Bring the Belt

Fighting belts are an important piece of gear for anglers targeting tuna. There’s no shame in wearing a belt to help prevent back pain and shorten fight time. When a yellowfin begins its slow circle of death below the boat, sometimes a belt and harness are the only tools able to help winch them to the surface. Sam Hudson

Only the Best Tackle

The captains of the Mexican Gulf Fishing Company prefer Shimano Talicas for the majority of their tuna fishing. Pictured is a Shimano Talica 25, spooled with 80-pound braid. Sam Hudson

Tuna of All Sizes

Gulf yellowfins range from small throw-backs to fish well over 100 pounds. This keeper went into the fish box. Sam Hudson

Fishing in Comfort

An angler aboard Capt. Jordan Ellis’ 40-foot Freeman shows off a nice tuna caught near the Medusa rig. Ellis’ Freeman features quad Yamaha 300s and full teak throughout the boat — not your ordinary center console. Sam Hudson

Seeing Red

Rigs closer to shore, sitting in 100 to 300 feet, attract an assortment of bottom fish. Paul Mandu dropped a hardtail down just 50 feet before this healthy red snapper nabbed it. The snapper was released after a quick photo. Sam Hudson

Get Jacked

Amberjacks so large you’ll wish you hadn’t hooked them hang at the same rigs as red snapper. Father and son duo Frank and Hoss Skapura show off a massive AJ pulled from a nearby rig. Sam Hudson

Other Fishy Attractions

Ever-present shrimp boats are another top fish attractor. The trawling boats often lead a pack of hungry tuna, just waiting for bycatch to be thrown overboard. Getting close to the stern of the ship and chumming heavily can actually pull tuna away from the trawler to your boat. Big blackfins, bonita and small yellowfins are common catches during the summer months. Sam Hudson

When the Day’s Over

Back at Venice Marina, various rentals and lodges are available for anglers to stay overnight. One of the top places to stay is the SWC Sportsmans Lodge, a two-story floating resort that features seven different staterooms with widescreen TVs. A giant lounge is located downstairs near the full kitchen and bar, where anglers meet after the day’s fishing. Sam Hudson

Dinner’s Ready

At the lodge, Richard Young preps delicious Louisiana favorites, with emphasis on fresh seafood such as tuna, redfish, seatrout and shrimp. And you’ll need the calories as you reinvigorate for the next day of fishing! Sam Hudson

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