Louisiana redfish well worth the drive


Drive to the end of the earth, and you’ll find a fishing village like no other.

Venice, Louisiana is in a marsh at the mouth of the Mississippi River where it pours into the Gulf of Mexico, a good hour and a half south of New Orleans. It’s a heavy industrial area, filled with hard people earning a hard living. Roughnecks fresh off oil rigs crowd the same bars as fishermen who are just as leathery.

To say fishing is taken seriously down there is an understatement. It’s a way of life built around some of the best fishing on the planet.

Redfish can ruin you. It’s like fishing for largemouth bass but catching 10-20 pound smallies. Fighting “reds” in the shallows, where they associate with structure, like points, weed beds, pilings and riprap, is an intense experience. Like bass fishing, you target likely looking spots throwing Rat-L-Traps, soft plastics and spinner baits, but when a red slams it you’ll swear you’re hooked to the end of a runaway train.

Aside from offering some of the most exciting fishing you can ever hope to experience, the marsh is an ecological treasure. Countless fish, bird, mammal and reptile species call these waters home. You’re likely to encounter dolphins, alligators, stingrays, shore birds and waterfowl. In fact, an estimated 10 million migratory waterfowl winter or stop over on the Mississippi River Delta each year. This place is critical habitat for fish and wildlife.

The plant life in the marsh is mesmerizing, as a sea of grass dances in brackish air.

Once you have experienced redfish in the marsh, it’s tough to imagine not going back every year. The sunrise boat rides flying through narrow passages, the camaraderie among anglers, the Cajun culture and the sound of a screaming drag as a redfish rips line while you do your best to weather the storm. These are just a few of the reasons why a redfish trip to Venice, Louisiana is a good idea.

Venice Marina is the heart of the local fishing community. Located literally at the end of the road, this is as far south as you can drive in the marsh. Venice Marina is the boat ramp, bait shop, restaurant, fish processing and meeting place where captains connect with clients. It’s where the adventure begins. Camps, some on floating houseboats and some on more permanent structures, surround the marina. Silent shrimp boats fill slips, while 30-foot center counsels shuttle anglers towards adventure and bass boats head into the marsh.

Screaming down a canal or through a narrow passage on the sunrise boat ride to the first fishing spot of the day, one hopes his guides knows the water as well as he thinks he does. Once the boat settles peacefully and you’re casting to a likely looking spot, you realize this guide knows the place like the back of his hand. Many professional guides and charter captains operate out of Venice, but this is also a place you can bring your boat and fish. Just make sure you have and know how to use GPS. It’s too easy to get turned around in the marsh.

Fish like this are reason you travel to Venice. Red drum, what most anglers refer to as redfish, aren’t all this size, but it’s “bull reds” like this beast that drive the passion for the species. Bull reds aren’t usually found mixed in among their smaller kin. These bruisers are usually found in a little deeper in open water.

Younger redfish are often adorned with spots. As they grow larger, the spots fade and are replaced with large, hard scales. While anglers hope to tussle with bull reds, there are going to be instances when a “puppy drum” takes your bait. It’s nice to catch a little one occasionally to reaffirm a bright future.

Like all fishing destinations, there are going to be days in the Mississippi Delta when the winds are blowing too hard to access certain areas of open water. Part of the beauty of fishing the marsh, though, is you can almost always find out of the wind locations holding fish.

You’ll find seafood is as fresh as it gets in Venice. Shrimp and oyster boats drop off at the docks. The center of the industry is around the marina. You can eat steak when you get back home; focus on fresh seafood while you’re in the marsh. You might gain a couple of pounds from the fried shrimp and oysters, but you can work them off tangling with big bulls.

See you down the trail …

Brandon Butler writes a weekly outdoors column for the Tribune. Send comments to [email protected]

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