Venice Louisiana Fishing Round 2

Capt Charlie Ellis and Capt Todd Malicoat - venice, LA yellowfin tuna

There are few destinations in the U.S where the fishing is so unbelievably epic that it puts nearly every other coastal state to shame.  Fishing in Venice, LA is one of those experiences, where returning to reality afterwards is more painful than sore legs, arms, and backs. This was our second voyage with Paradise Outfitters – the absolute best fishing charter in Venice, LA. Our last yellowfin tuna trip with Capt. Hunter produced so many yellowfins that we lost count, but the goal of this expedition was not quantity – it was quality. This time of year in Venice, LA is a unique season, when 200lb class yellowfins begin to appear in droves to feed on the cull produced by the shrimp fleet.

Arriving to New Orleans from Miami, FL is like stepping into another dimension. The heat, traffic, intensity, and hustle of Miami hardens you to the point where confrontation and hassle becomes routine.  One step into the big easy and everything slows down. Venice, LA is about 90 miles from MSY, which means lunch was in order before heading south. On a quick tip from Yelp, we stopped into Harbor Seafood and Oyster bar for a Swamp Platter.  That’s right, a swamp platter:

Swamp Platter at Harborside New Orleans, LA

Fried crawfish, frog legs, alligator chunks, alligator sausage, crawfish etouffe, and turtle soup for $18.50!?  How can you go wrong.  They certainly did not disappoint as the waitress carried out two monster plates brimming with food. We caught a few stares from other restaurant patrons as we were definitely a bit too excited for a plate of fried goodness.

swamp platter from Harborside Oyster House LA

One of the critical things you need to do before heading to Venice, LA is to stock up on groceries.  While there are a few restaurants down there, your best bet is to hit the local Wal-Mart super store to load up on all the provisions you’ll need for a few days in the swamp lands. Besides, where else can you load up on the motherload of Zapps VooDoo chips?

Zapps VooDoo Chips

The ride to Venice, LA is a tour through the countryside, a refreshing glimpse into the deep south.  Perhaps its my bitterness with Miami traffic, but it felt damn good to drive without another car in sight for an entire hour.

open road venice LA

We bunked down at Paradise Lodge, the official accommodations for guests of Paradise Outfitters.  The lodge is adorned in trophy photos from over two decades of legendary fishing in the Gulf of Mexico. Gashed wahoo lures, bill whacked skirts, and tuna munched rubber flying fish hang with pride amidst photos of Paradise Outfitters most prized catches.  The lodge is clean, comfortable, and fully equipped with laundry, kitchen, and first class grilling patio.

lodging venice LA

paradise lodge venice la

The plan for day 1 was to target a myriad of pelagics on the rigs, then push onwards to explore new areas for daytime swordfishing in Louisiana. On the way to the floating rig, we stopped over at a pumping station to load up on what the Louisiana fishermen call “hard tails” (blue runners here in Miami). The bait was so thick around the cavernous pipes that every drop on the sabiki produced stringer after stringer of healthy baits.  In about 20 minutes, we had loaded the well with hundreds of palm sized hard tails – enough bait to permit live chumming.

Capt. Charlie Ellis of Miami, FL

Sunrise at a pumping station in the gulf of mexico

We arrived to the floating rig under clear skies, just in time for the early tuna bite.

Capt. Todd Malicoat fishing in Venice, LA

The first two baits in the water got crushed, producing two blackfin – one of which popped off at the boat.  Hunter setup to the North of the rig and the port rigger gets crushed – thinking it was a small blackfin I was aggressive with the fish, hauling it to the boat only to discover it was a nice cow dolphin accompanied by a big slammer!  A bit of mild panic ensues as the cow snagged a bottom rod and the pressure sent the hook flying right back at me – the bull promptly took off after the commotion, but that was the wake up call we needed to know the bite was definitely picking up.  We reset once again, but this time we see a big fin roll on the starboard hardtail.  Todd grabs the rod and up comes mr Marlin snaking his way across the surface!  The bite was a bit too ferocious and the snake walk was too fast to catch up – he spit the hook but sent everyone’s heart racing.  Lines back in and the yellowfins begin to wreak havoc.  Todd’s up first and pulls a nice 30lbr in the boat.

Todd Malicoat with a Venice, LA Yellowfin Tuna

Another big slam on the port side rigger and i’m locked in for a fight with a 40lbr which was an awesome fight on the new Penn’s.

Capt Charlie Ellis with a Venice, LA yellowfin Tuna

The bite shut down soon after releasing a smaller yellowfin and we decided to make the run to test our luck with some daytime swordfishing.  There aren’t many crews with the capability or experience to target broad bills during the daytime out of Venice, LA, but Paradise Outfitters has had a fair bit of experience.  Capt. Woody has fished with Capt. Nick on several occasions and has scored one nice daytimer to his credit so far. We made a few drops over some decent ledges with weak current and marked a bit of bait deep on the bottom.  A strike came on the second drop but it wasn’t acting very swordy – we all took turns hand cranking 1600 ft of line back onto the reel and up pops one of the stranger deep sea critters i’ve encountered to date – a Big Eye Six Gill Shark. With bright green eyes and a chocolate colored slimy skin, this was certainly a nightmarish site.

Big Eye Six Gill Shark caught while daytime swordfishing

Another drop, and yet again, another sixgill! Hard to believe but it appears they are in significant abundance down there!

Big eye six gill shark

We decided the Bigeye sixgill sharks were likely to keep chewing up the bottom baits before the swordies made an appearance so  we called it quits and headed for the dock with blackened tuna steaks on our mind.

Todd and Charlie with Tunas

Day 2 was a trophy mission. We decided to chase the shrimp boats first thing in the morning. When the shrimp boats begin trawling in the fall about 20 some miles south of the river’s mouth, large schools of tuna (all varieties) start showing up in tremendous numbers.  Enormous schools of bonitas and blackfins will blast the surface behind the boats while larger yellowfins lurk below.  It’s an incredible and unique fishery that keeps you waiting in anticipation for that one big fish (or wolf pack of huge tunas) to make an appearance.

Venice, LA in the morning

Arriving to the shrimping grounds as the sun rises is awesome to behold – tunas and birds everywhere, erupting in the slick behind the trawlers feeding on whatever comes there way.

Venice, LA Shrimp Boat Trawling the Gulf of Mexico

Woody Woods rigging rods

on the screen

As soon as our chunks hit the water there were hundreds of bonitas and blackfins busting all around us. After an hour of boating 25lb & 30lb blackfins with only a few smaller yellowfins in sight, we decided to press south for another round of daytime swordfishing.  Along the way we ran into a friendly shrimp boat that gladly exchanged a basket of cull for a tasty blackfin tuna.

Trading Tuna for Shrimp Boat ByCatch

Shrimp Boat bycatch

We made a few drops over ledges which looked PERFECT for swordfish.  Very similar to the structure off the coast of Islamorada in my opinion.  We fished hard and worked some good bottom, but time took its toll on our daytime swordfish efforts, which only produced ANOTHER big eye six gill shark.

daytime swordfishing venice LA

Big eye six gill shark

With the mid-day bite approaching and a report of a “monster” yellowfin being caught while chasing the shrimp boats, we hauled up the daytime sword rig and made the dash back to the shrimping grounds. We arrived to find tunas busting all around (bonitas and blacks) and knew there had to be some monster yellowfins in the mix.  We ran up behind one of the boats which seemed to have the largest flury of birds and bonitas and launched chunks into the water. On the second run we hooked two bruisers.  When I saw the first fish eat, I honestly thought it was a shark from its shoulders.  The width of the fish was absurd and the weight with which it pulled was crippling.  I called for the harness and went to work on him for 30 minutes before we got a glimpse of it -for a fleeting moment, we saw huge sickles and the broadside silvery yellow flash of an epic yellowfin. After sighting the boat, the fish ripped down about 100ft and put it in park.

Capt Charlie Ellis fighting giant yellowfin tuna

I did my best to keep my cool and remain calm, but my heart was literally on the verge of exploding with excitement. The drag was set to 27lbs, which Capt. Woody assured me wasn’t too much pressure for a fish this size.  We never fish that much pressure in South Florida, so part of the battle became a mental tug of war – talking myself out of backing down on the drag every 15 seconds. Sure enough, I slowly worked the fish up from the depths, adrenaline and anxiety boiling inside of me. This was the epic yellowfin I had chased for years and finally was just 100ft away.  Hunter prepped the harpoon while Woody moved the gaffs to the port side of the cat.

Capt Charlie Ellis fighting a tuna in venice, LA

 

Underwater image of giant yellowfin tuna in venice, LA

 

Our shot finally came and hunter sank the dart – I felt the pressure on the rod go light as Woody put the first gaff in the fish and held the beast to the boat. With the second gaff in place – one, two, three and over the side!

Capt Charlie Ellis of Miami, FL with a big venice, LA yellowfin tuna

Capt Charlie Ellis and Capt Todd Malicoat with a giant venice, LA yellowfin tuna

Capt Charlie Ellis of Miami, FL yellowfin tuna

Pelagic Pro Team Capts Hunter Caballero & Woody WoodsOnce the adrenaline wore off and the excitement gave way to exhaustion, my wits came back about me and the realization of success set in. I couldn’t help but smile all the way back to Venice Marina. Experiences like this are few and far between for South Florida anglers – true tests of strength, stamina, and angling ability. This was one of the fish battles I will always remember, but for the crew at Paradise Outfitters – it marks the start of yet another shrimp boat tuna season with many more giants to come.  There are few charter operations which can consistently put their crew on trophy tunas like this with impeccable consistency – Capt. Hunter and Capt. Woody are undoubtedly one of the leading teams fishing The Gulf.

paradise outfitters Venice, LA

While anyone can buy top notch tackle and boats, few can operate first class charter operations, and even fewer still have the experience to find, hook, and land giant yellowfin tuna in nearly any condition.

Capt. Charlie Ellis with a trophy yellowfin tuna caught fishing in venice, LA

Venice, LA Fishing with Paradise Outfitters is a truly world class experience. It’s rare to find unparalleled talent coupled with laid back attitude and perseverance.  Capt. Hunter is relentless in his pursuit of the biggest tunas in the gulf and there’s no doubt in my mind he will continue to be successful for years to come. If giant yellowfin tuna fishing is on your bucket list, do yourself a favor and make time for an expedition in Venice, LA.

Capt. Charlie Ellis

Capt. Charlie Ellis

Captain at Miami Fishing Charters LLC
Capt. Charlie Ellis of Miami, FL has 25 years experience fishing for big game species like Bluefin Tuna, Sailfish, Swordfish, and Sharks. Capt. Charlie is also an avid scuba diver, world traveler, writer, and entrepreneur.
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