It is fascinating that inshore fishing across the Mississippi Delta could actually be this consistent. I’ve always been anxious to fish these waters for myself, so when the opportunity presented itself over the recent holiday break we were there!
Unlike remote locales that require complicated travel plans, Venice is painless to get to. Fly to New Orleans and an easy 90-minute drive past the Superdome and down Highway 23 brings you deep into the Mississippi Delta. Once you arrive in Venice, with a local population of 202, the marshlands continue as they transition into the Delta National Wildlife Refuge, however the road does not. This means the southern stretches of this amazing angling Mecca see very little fishing pressure when compared to more accessible destinations.
The massive delta is nourished by the magnificent Mississippi River and on Google Earth the area looks like an inverted tree, with a distinct main trunk, large branches and hundreds of small tributaries forming countless tiny creeks, bays and marsh ponds. While you can effectively fish intersections along the main routes by means of nearly any size craft, heading deep into the marsh requires relatively shallow drafting bay boats and skiffs. Low profile bass boats that you would expect to see on Lake Okeechobee are also common here.
Regarding the scenery in Venice, other than the occasional grazing horse and a pair of marinas lined with weathered shrimp boats, there really isn’t much to see. The entire region lives and breathes petroleum with little more than supply ship terminals, refineries, welding facilities, and busy heliports that fly crewmen to and from their respected drilling platforms. The hum of helicopter rotors is always in the air.
In case you’re wondering, we witnessed zero evidence and no lingering effect of any oil spill. Other than occasional property damage from a series of devastating hurricanes over recent years, the delta appears alive and well. Everyone is praying this doesn’t change.
While our scheduled plans included three days of fishing, two inshore and one off, Mother Nature never got the memo. Plummeting air temperatures and blustery winds kept our feet planted on terra firma for two of the three days. Thankfully, the day we were able to wet our lines was a real doozy!
After spending too much time studying area charts while waiting for the wind to stop howling, it was clearly evident that there are thousands of ‘spots’ here. You could fish a different creek, pass, point or marsh pond every day of the year for the rest of your life and still not hit them all. Additionally, the consistent fishing across the region is equally impressive 12 months of the year, with spring and fall generally offering the finest conditions.
Unlike Florida, where catch limits are extremely stringent, across Louisiana anglers are permitted to harvest five redfish per day, with an additional twenty-five seatrout per person per day. While we arrived with reasonable expectations, we proceeded to capture our redfish limit by 8:30 a.m. and went on to release another hundred fish by the time we called it quits. Doubles, triples and quadruple hookups were commonplace. With so much life, it’s clear the Mississippi Delta is loaded with a plethora of shrimp, crab, minnows and various other forms of forage required to sustain such healthy populations of rapidly growing resident fish.
Paddletail jig combos…shrimp imitations…frozen shrimp…it didn’t matter. Anything worked through the tannin water by means of a typical 7-foot medium action spinning outfit was clobbered. At one particular intersection off Main Pass—a primary tributary leading into the Gulf—I landed more than a dozen reds working nothing more than a 1/4 oz. chartreuse jighead tied directly to 20 lb. Diamond Braid. After that episode it was clear that Venice isn’t about fishing, it’s about catching!
Deep in the delta just ten miles from the boat ramp we worked current swept points lined with exposed pilings, distinct rozo cane fields protruding alongside main tributaries, and a number of intersections where small creeks spilled into larger passes. All produced equally impressive results with mixed size redfish ranging from aggressive 16-inch pups to beefy 40-inch brutes. Catching a number of these fish in the shadow of massive freighters roaring downriver was certainly out of the ordinary. While we never seriously went looking for trout, we did encounter a handful of black drum and flounder mixed in with the reds.
While near gale force winds prevented us from heading offshore, everyone who knows anything about offshore fishing knows the northern Gulf’s rich waters are teeming with a variety of highly prized predators. With its vast network of offshore oil rigs, rapidly descending depths and proximity to the nutrient-rich Mississippi River, Venice offers visiting anglers one of the most prolific offshore fisheries in the country. Local charter boats regularly put visiting clients on beastly yellowfin tuna, lightning fast wahoo and reel sizzling smoker kings. The bottom fishing here is exceptional as well, with slob red snapper and relentless amberjack consistently keeping rods bent and drags screaming. Between the reliable inshore fishing and limitless possibilities offshore, what more can an angler ask for?
While different from any other destination we’ve visited, Venice is certainly special. The entire Mississippi Delta and its occupants are extremely resilient. First Hurricane Katrina nearly wiped them off the map, and then the worst environmental disaster in history unfolded on their front doorstep. If any region on earth deserves a serious break, it’s here!
Today, Venice is continuing to rebound. There are numerous fishing tournaments and rodeos held throughout the year, the fishing is just as good as it has ever been, and the world-class angling destination is continuing to live up to its title as a genuine Sportsman’s Paradise.