Over 15 years ago, I wrote an article in Marlin called “America the Bountiful” that highlighted all the best places in the continental U.S. where you could go and have a good shot at catching a marlin. This was before everyone had great big boats that could stay offshore for days at a time, with plenty of fuel to make long runs and still troll for days on end. However, the people I spoke to at that time who put forth the extra effort to make the long, 80-plus-mile runs out of the rigs caught a lot of blue marlin. I ended up calling the bluewater fishery off Louisiana the “most underrated blue marlin bite in the world.” Since then, the availability of bigger, faster sport-fishing boats pretty much proved that point without a shadow of a doubt.
When we made the decision this past spring to put on a Marlin U in Venice, Louisiana, as a replacement trip for an Australia session that wasn’t attracting enough students, I expected that our students would catch a ton of yellowfin tuna and wahoo, and they would be excited about the prospect of carrying home some meat. We never fish for game fish at most Marlin U sessions, so we figured the change of pace — and the stateside location — might attract some new students. I threw in a mini tournament to sweeten the pot. Luckily, the combination proved to be a good one, and it wasn’t long before we had 14 students signed up to attend.
Our fishing hosts for the event came from the Mexican Gulf Fishing Company; with their fleet of swift Freeman catamarans, we were able to fish as far as 80-plus miles from the marina and still get back in time for dinner each day. Our captains and crew — Kevin Beach, Billy Wells, Jordan Ellis, Zach Lewis, Colin Byrd, Wade Wells, Parker Rodrigue and Richard Draper — couldn’t have been more professional and accommodating than any crew on a mega sport-fisher. Their efforts really made our trip special.
The big surprise, at least for me, was the phenomenal blue marlin bite our students experienced! Our four boats went seven for 12 over the four-day trip, and our boat was luckier than most, going four for five on blues and zero for one on whites. We also jumped off a true beast that probably went 600 pounds when she chewed through the snell on the circle hook.
Although our captains said the yellowfin fishing was a bit off, our students still managed to limit out on a few days, and I think we caught somewhere over 50 nice tuna ranging from 40 to 137 pounds. I had four coolers and a 36-gallon trash can full of yellowfin when I pulled out of Venice for the 10-hour drive back to Orlando, most of it vacuum-packed by the fellows at MGFC. On the downside, we never caught a single wahoo!
The tournament prizes went to several of our long-time students. Eric Seidelman took home the top tuna prize money and half the wahoo money with a 137-pound yellowfin. Alberto Sedna took home the blue marlin money and half the wahoo money by catching two blue marlin, and “Beto” Canto took home the grand prize and trip to Marlin University in 2017 by weighing in two tuna weighing 224 pounds, a 117 and a 107.