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A Venice, Louisiana, Redfish Free-for-All

Dozens of anglers head in all directions into the marsh around Venice in search of bull red drum.

October 10, 2016
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Louisiana redfish free for all — a bull red
1 of 22 Doug Olander / Sport Fishing

The fish: A Large Bull Redfish
The place: Southwest Pass jetties downriver from Venice
The lure: A Z-man ElaZtech GrubZ tail with skirt on a Z-Man JigheadZ

Each year, usually in early fall, a few dozen angling enthusiasts convene at the Lighthouse Lodge near Venice, Louisiana. They’re invited by Eric Cosby, who heads up Top Brass Tackle, the organizer of an event now in its 18th year called Marsh Madness. most of these enthusiasts are in the tackle industry or fishing media, and enough tow down boats to accommodate one to three others so everyone gets out fishing for the three-day event.

Louisiana redfish free for all — map showing venice, louisiana
The mouth of the Mississippi River is a maze with seemingly infinite channels and passes, canals and bays, nearly of all it potential redfish habitat. Courtesy Google Maps

Let the Games Begin — Leaving Venice Marina

We certainly couldn’t fault the weather, as a few of the many Marsh Madness boats head out of Venice Marina on day one.

Louisiana redfish free for all — heading out of Venice
2 of 22 Doug Olander / Sport Fishing

Full Throttle Into the Marsh

Several boats roar into a canal that winds into the marsh. Quite a few Marsh Madness participants towed down their bass boats, well-suited to this fishery.

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Louisiana redfish free for all — full throttle into the marsh
3 of 22 Doug Olander / Sport Fishing

The Skunk is Off — Landing a Good Redfish

Seaguar’s Brian Evans shows how it’s done on the first morning.

Louisiana redfish free for all — landing a bull
4 of 22 Doug Olander / Sport Fishing

Redfish in the Boat

Brian Evans rejoices in the day’s first redfish; looking on is Hal Schramm who drove his boat to the spot.

Louisiana redfish free for all — a bull red
5 of 22 Doug Olander / Sport Fishing

Leading a Reluctant Bull Red into the Net

A trio of Marsh Madness anglers tries to lead an oversized redfish into an undersized net.

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Louisiana redfish free for all — landing a bull
6 of 22 Doug Olander / Sport Fishing

Big Fish, Small Net

The landing net barely contains the heavy redfish.

Louisiana redfish free for all — landing a bull
7 of 22 Doug Olander / Sport Fishing

Venice Offshore Cats Return to the Venice Marina Dock

Some anglers fished for tuna and swords out around the deepwater oil rigs. Big catamarans with triple or quad outboards make the run of 50 miles and more in good time.

Louisiana redfish free for all — offshore catamarans at the dock
8 of 22 Doug Olander / Sport Fishing

Venice Marina on a Busy Sunday Afternoon

Crowds gather around fish-cleaning tables (far left) and upstairs for a cold one on a warm October afternoon.

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Louisiana redfish free for all — Venice Marina
9 of 22 Doug Olander / Sport Fishing

The Mighty Muddy Mississippi

Though the breeze came up as second morning wore on, the main obstacle for anglers was the unseasonably dirty brown water that pretty much precluded many sight-casting opportunities.

Louisiana redfish free for all — fishing the muddy Mississippi
10 of 22 Doug Olander / Sport Fishing

Redfish Comes to the Boat

Z-Man’s national sales manager Glenn Young eases a redfish toward him, after he hooked it on a DieZel MinnowZ and one of Z-Man’s new EZ KeeperZ weighted hook. I took this shot while trying GoPro’s new Hero 5 black, on an extendable stalk (advising the camera by voice command when to start and stop taking photos thanks to its new voice-activation feature which really works!).

Louisiana redfish free for all — landing a redfish
11 of 22 Doug Olander / Sport Fishing

Redfish in the Marsh

Blind-casting (in the turbid waters) along the edges of the tall grass worked for Glenn Young, the marsh evident in the background.

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Louisiana redfish free for all — a redfish
12 of 22 Doug Olander / Sport Fishing

Big Bull Provides Light-Tackle Excitement

Our captain on day two, Eddie Permenter, found some water just clean enough for Glenn Young to spot a school of big reds. I cast quickly but missed a strike. Second cast brought another whack but I couldn’t set the hook. Quickly I reeled in and cast out to where I thought the school was moving and got nailed hard, this time to stay connected. On a tiny new Shimano Stradic CI4+ with 14-pound braid, I was in for quite a battle. We put the big bull over the side moments after this shot.

Louisiana redfish free for all — a bull red
13 of 22 Glenn Young

Got a Light?

A common part of the landscape around Venice is the sight of towers burning off gas, more or less constantly, as a refining byproduct.

Louisiana redfish free for all — burning off natural gas near the fishing grounds
14 of 22 Doug Olander / Sport Fishing

Fireball!

Although this was at least 50 feet above the ground, we felt the heat strongly as we zoomed past, below the (noisy) flames, on a canal.

Louisiana redfish free for all — burning off natural gas near the fishing grounds
15 of 22 Doug Olander / Sport Fishing

Cajun Cuisine to Serve 50

Ken Sherman tends to a humongous pot of “pastalaya” — pasta jambalaya — to feed the Marsh Madness participants.

Louisiana redfish free for all — Ken Sherman's 'Pastalaya'
16 of 22 Doug Olander / Sport Fishing

Pelican Party!

We made a run with Eddie Permenter to Breton Island where mullet and smaller baitfish seemed to be pretty much everywhere, that fact hardly lost on the pelicans.

Louisiana redfish free for all — a pelican party
17 of 22 Doug Olander / Sport Fishing
Louisiana redfish free for all — Breton Island
Breton Island, northeast of Venice, is at the bottom of the Chandeleur Islands chain, much of which extends north into Mississippi waters. Doug Olander / Sport Fishing

Reluctant Redfish

Easy does it — Myles Freeman, president of sales for sunglasses manufacturer Wiley X, tries to coax a reluctant redfish closer to the net, held by Bo Tidwell, on whose Skeeter Bay Boat we were fishing.

Louisiana redfish free for all — landing a redfish
18 of 22 Doug Olander / Sport Fishing

The Reluctant Redfish Tires

Freeman’s fish, one of the few caught on a tough day, fell for a Z-Man ChatterBait; the bright gold blade and chartreuse tail an eminently visible choice for such muddy water.

Louisiana redfish free for all — redfish on a Z-Man Chatterbait
19 of 22 Doug Olander / Sport Fishing

Happy Angler

After many casts over the course of the morning, Myles Freeman is glad the efforts paid off with a good redfish in the hand.

Louisiana redfish free for all — a bull red
20 of 22 Doug Olander / Sport Fishing

Fishing in the Slop

Bassmaster editor James Hall (at the helm) and friends work the choppy east side of Breton Island — where shortly after this photo was taken, Hall had for a brief time a tarpon estimated at upwards of 200 pounds on his ChatterBait lure.

Louisiana redfish free for all — fishing choppy Breton Island
21 of 22 Doug Olander / Sport Fishing

Black Drum Surprise

Casting near a jetty rewarded me with this black drum after a brief but spirited battle.

Louisiana redfish free for all — a black drum
22 of 22 Brian Evans
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