Sizzling Summer Fishing in Venice, Louisiana

A group of anglers finds great fishing action from super-shallow marsh ponds to the offshore rigs.
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Yes, fall and spring offer fanastic fishing out of Venice, Louisiana.But — even if it’s a less-popular time — so does summer. For a few days in the third week of August, I joined three other anglers to prove that. By any standard, we did, posting a successful outing. And we managed to fish three primary habitats for a fabulous variety of game fishes — sightcasting the shallow marsh ponds; working lures around nearshore delta rigs; and casting/live-baiting the floater rigs far offshore in blue water. I’ll let the images that follow tell the story. Capt. Brent Ballay
Yes, fall and spring offer fanastic fishing out of Venice, Louisiana. But — even if it’s a less-popular time — so does summer. For a few days in the third week of August, I joined three other anglers to prove that. By any standard, we did, posting a successful outing. And we managed to fish three primary habitats for a fabulous variety of game fishes — sightcasting the shallow marsh ponds; working lures around nearshore delta rigs; and casting/live-baiting the floater rigs far offshore in blue water. I’ll let the images that follow tell the story. Capt. Brent Ballay
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Navigating the Marsh

Day 1 and our guide, Capt. Brent Ballay, powers his HydraSports bay boat through an endless maze of channels in the cane to reach quiet, shallow “ponds” where the water should be clear enough to sight-cast to cruising or feeding redfish. Doug Olander
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and find reds, we do. These red drum, from a couple of pounds to close to 40, are a strikingly bright copper hue, thanks to the fairly fresh water in the ponds. Doug Olander
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First Blood

The massive back of a trophy bull red fills the foreground as Brent reaches out for it. The angler, Hunter Cole, with Penn and Abu-Garcia, caught this and several other reds on a Silver Minnow weedless spoon in a New Penny color. (Taken from inside the boat with my GoPro.)
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Alligator Surprise

Brent starts the day not with a redfish but a large alligator gar that manage to get a hook from his surface walker into its bony, toothy mouth. (Another GoPro shot.) Doug Olander
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Handle With Care

Though at 25 pounds or so, this alligator gar was no baby, adults reach well over 200 pounds in some areas. Doug Olander
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A Pain in the Grass

We quickly determined that the sort of light lines one might use for big reds in the shallows of the Indian River Lagoon were disastrous here since the fish would dart under thick mats of the stuff and break off. With 20- to 30-pound braid, we stood a good chance of landing bulls despite the grass, some of which is evident on Hunter’s line, here.
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Making for a Crab Trap

Hunter tries to put the brakes on a nice redfish before it can rub his light Nanofil braid against a barnacled rope of a crab trap. Doug Olander
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Here’s Lookin’ at You, Kid

Looking a bit like a ventriloquist’s dummy, a redfish suffers the momentary indignity of a head-on pose for angler Hunter Cole.
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Locked and Lipped

Some reds were — thankfully — encountered in relatively open water (free of thick grass). Doug Olander
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A Double Handful

Some very large bull reds were cruising the marsh ponds this day. Brent said they should be offshore, spawning, but typical of fishing around Venice — one just never knows.I also took this shot from inside the boat, using my GoPro. Doug Olander
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Working Magic

One of the two top producers this day, the Sebile Magic Swimmer Soft worked well for me. With the bait scooted up the hook so the point was tucked in just below the top of the lure, and fished with no weight, it offered lots of action but sank so slowly I could keep it out of the shallow weeds. Doug Olander
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Old Black Gets Into the Act

Brent spotted this large black drum (which weighed around 30 pounds, though hard to see that here) sitting near the shore in a pond. I pulled the Magic Swimmer right past its nose. It snapped at the lure and rest is history. Hunter Cole
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Face to Face

Hunter admires yet another nice pond red that struck a Magic Swimmer. Doug Olander
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Fishing a tiny Penn Conflict 2500 spinner, Rob Wittman (right) and Capt. Brandon Ballay enjoy a moment of triumph before releasing a handsome marsh bull. Wittman is a U.S. representative from Virginia — and as an angler, he is the real deal (who consistently outfished the other three anglers on this trip!). Doug Olander
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Ready for a Long Ride

On our second day, we got a late start thanks to a storm cell that parked itself just off the Mississippi River mouth. Here, Capt. Damon McKnight of Superstrike Charters picks up (from left) Rob Wittman, Hunter Cole and Mike Nussman, president of the American Sportfishing Association, in his Freeman 33 cat** **for the 45-minute run downriver, then 35 more offshore to the first rig we’ll fish on this, our offshore day.
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Sabikis Down

Despite the driving rain, we put sabiki rigs over the side at the Noble Amos Runner rig, which is tethered to the bottom in about 2,000 feet. Doug Olander
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Tuna Candy

At least that’s what we hope this small hardtail (blue runner) and a dozen or so more like it going into our live baitwell will prove to be. We’re hoping to see the tuna on top where they should whack poppers, but if not, we’ll drop liveys into their zone. Doug Olander
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One of those live runners pays off for Mike Nussman who brought this 35-pound yellowfin tuna to boatside in short order. Doug Olander
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Hanging On for Dear Life

Damon, our skipper, holds on as another yellowfin registers its displeasure at being gaffed, as Rob Wittman handles the rod. (I took this photo from inside the boat, again thanks to my GoPro.)
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Comin’ Back!

Damon eases the big tuna back along the gunwale toward the stern, where the freeboard is lower, before attempting to swing it aboard. Doug Olander
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Big Tuna Proves a Handful

Damon struggles to ease Rob’s tuna into the cockpit. Doug Olander
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Primary Target Acquired

Our main objective this day: yellowfin tuna, so Rob’s landing this 90-pounder fit the program nicely. We spotted tuna briefly throughout the day, always near the rig (North Amos Runner), visible in the background. Doug Olander
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Monster FAD

Floating platforms like North Amos Runner, tethered in deep water serve as industrial-strength FADs (fish-attracting devices) for pelagic game fish such as yellowfin, but also billfish and at times dolphin (mahi), rainbow runners and other species.
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Some days, yellowfin will be busting on top for long periods. Unfortunately, this wasn’t one of those days, with the fish mostly staying down. Then metal jigs and live baits will get down to ’em Doug Olander
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Ready to Throw

Two proven tuna lures wait on large Penn Spinfisher outfits, ready to pick up heave out when tuna come a-busting near enough to the boat. The concave face of the red-and-white Sebile Splasher sets up a fuss on top, while the Sebile Fast-Sinking Stick Shadd work very effectively as a fast jerk-and-pause subsurface twitch bait. Doug Olander
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Tuna on the Twiitchbait

Throughout the day, we saw yellowfin explode just out of our casting range — and they seldom stayed up for more than a couple of minutes. Toward mid-afternoon, a few tuna busted momentarily within reach. I tossed out this Stick Shadd, and it landed right on the money. Three twitches and wham! Rob Wittman
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Reason to Smile

Finally, after watching tuna too far away to cast to, I got a shot. This yellowfin offered a great strike and fight on the Penn Torque 5 spinning reel with 50-pound braid behind me. Rob Wittman
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Ready for a Big Cobia

Cobia were our main target on day three, when we stopped at 20 or more different oil/natural gas structures in 40 to 180 feet of water in the Mississippi River Delta. But particularly around these vertical artificial reefs, one never knows what will strike a lure or jig.
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Hunter’s tough fight turned out to be not with a cobia but with this bruiser of a jack crevalle that slammed his Stick Shadd. Much like its close relative, the giant trevally, few fish fight more ferociously or stubbornly. Doug Olander
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One Big Jack Deserves Another

Another jack, the twin of that caught by Hunter, is brought to boatside by Rob in yet another GoPro photo. Doug Olander
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Even though the “GoPro effect” adds apparent mass to Rob’s cobia, it was in fact on the beastly side at 50 or so pounds. Doug Olander
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Face TIme with a Cobia

The ultra-wide-angle perspective of the GoPro makes Rob’s cobia — with an assist here by Capt. Alex McIngvale — seem a bit like a sea monster. Cobia can be around these Gulf Delta structures year round, but September and October are prime months to run the rigs (at least during the week; they tend to be pretty hard hit on weekends). Doug Olander
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King mackerel are an everpresent possibility around the northern Gulf at this time of year. Mike Nussman holds up a fine king that struck a metal jig near the oil platform in the background. Doug Olander
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Off Limits and Omnipresent

There’s no getting away from these guys. Fortunately this** red snapper** hit my slow jig in water shallow enough that it was able to swim straight back down. That’s a good thing since the season in federal waters is currently closed. Rob Wittman
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Cast a metal jig — like this Sebile Fast Cast — around nearshore delta rigs and platforms, and there’s no telling what you’ll hook. Here, Rob prepares to release one of two or three bluefish we caught that day. Doug Olander
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Cobia and gaffs just don’t get along. Mate Rene Luminais sticks it to another cobia for Rob and, typically, it goes wild. Doug Olander
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Return to the Marsh

On our fourth and final day, a stiff breeze consigned us to the marsh. No one complained at one more day of fishing the quiet shallows not far from the river-mouth jetties. Here, Rob (foreground) looks for cruising redfish as Brandon runs the trolling motor and casts, also. The non-functional lighthouse in the background has been around since before the 19th Century, according to Brandon. Doug Olander
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At the Edge of the Gulf

We moved out of the marsh, mid-morning, to drift past shallow rocks where the broad mouth of the Mississippi meets the edge of the Gulf of Mexico. Brandon took advantage of a large Sebile spinnerbait’s flash to entice this redfish in the turbid waters. Doug Olander
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Hooray for Spinnerbaits

Spinnerbaits accounted for many redfish on this trip, both this Sebile Pro Shad model and Berkley’s Beetle Spin. Doug Olander
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Dodging Freighters

Though that freighter, headed up the MIssissippi, isn’t quite close enough to hook on a backcast, it looks that way. Redfish often feed around the current-swept shallow rocks in the foreground. Doug Olander
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Ominous Drum

This isn’t really the redfish from hell, but it does have an ominous appearance as it swims just below the surface. Doug Olander
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Working a Pond

Keeping a sharp lookout for coppery shapes against the green grasses and algae, Brent and Mike watch off the bow while Hunter blind casts from the back of the boat. These ponds are not only productive but offer a quiet, wild respite for some very pleasant fishing. Doug Olander
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Weed Whacker

Brent lifts the trolling motor to clear some of the thick weeds. Motors and batteries get a real workout moving boat and anglers through the weed-choked shallows in the ponds. Doug Olander
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Crankbait: Nailed!

It’s nearly impossible to cast-and-retrieve a lures like this Sebile Crankster in the shallow ponds since its six points quickly collect a mass of weeds. But Brandon used it effectively by placing it near reds spotted cruising nearby; the first few wiggles were too much for several to pass up, and they nailed it immediately. Doug Olander