Offshore action out of Venice is red-hot

Bluewater action is on the menu this month with red snapper, yellowfin tuna and the most-colorful battler in the Gulf, dolphin.

If offshore angling is on your menu, this is the month to feast!

Red snapper season is open again, and that means great fun at the rigs; yellowfin tuna action has been extra-good around the deeper, offshore rigs in 1,300 to 7,000 feet of water on out, and June and July are the two best months for some non-stop action along the bluewater rip.

Grasslines and riplines

There is a big difference between a grassline and the bluewater rip line, though fish can be caught at both. A grassline occurs when strong currents collide in the green water just off the coast. The competing currents collect anything that floats along them, and that makes for forage for dolphin — Hawaiians call them Mahimahi, meaning strong or very strong, because of their fighting ability — tripletail and even cobia. So a grassline is essentially a strong current line with green water on both sides.

A ripline occurs when the strong bluewater offshore current meets the greenwater current, forming a very distinct and sharp contrast between the two currents: a “ripline.” The contrast in color is profound. The bluewater side is clear blue, allowing you to peer deep into its depths, and the blue water also has cooler, sometimes much cooler, water. The greenwater side is dull and opaque by comparison. And just like a grassline, the ripline current is a surface vacuum cleaner, collecting everything that floats past: grass, trash, lumber, debris, logs… anything. The floatsam serves as a shelter for a variety of small fish and baitfish, which are a tasty target for toothy predators.

When to go

Anglers who get on the right grassline or current rip will often be rewarded with a great catch of dolphin and yellowfin tuna, and there’s always bottom-fishing for snapper.
Anglers who get on the right grassline or current rip will often be rewarded with a great catch of dolphin and yellowfin tuna, and there’s always bottom-fishing for snapper.

According to John Pisa of Home Run Charters out of Venice (504-982-8862), a ripline can form at any time, but the best months for fishing them are June and July.

“We’re seeing a lot of good grasslines already forming up, and you can often find some dolphin along them,” he said. “Most of them are smaller fish, in the 20-inch size range, but the target will be the bluewater rip where the bigger fish will lurk, and the action will be fast and furious.

“If you really want to get somebody hooked on offshore fishing, few places offer more non-stop action than a good ripline. There are Mahimahi — large and small — occasional white marlin, blue marlin, wahoo, blackfin and yellowfin tuna (including some rogue big fish), occasional sailfish, and whenever I see a log floating in a rip current, I look for a nice tripletail beside it.

“Usually there are loads of chicken dolphin (smaller Mahimahi) that will attack just about anything you throw in the water, and they put up a heck of a fight, running and jumping and twisting like acrobats,” Pisa said. “And then there are the bull dolphin, averaging 25 to 50 pounds and even more. And nothing in the Gulf compares to the luminescent, neon-like colors of Mahimahi just out of the water.

“It’s just a great way to catch a lot of fish, because along the ripline, there’s usually not much down time.”

Pisa said the tactics are easy to learn and put in play.

“You can just troll the ripline on the bluewater side, pulling artifical shaky baits (Rapalas, Russelures) or dead ballyhoo or hardtails, and you can sight-cast Nomad poppers at them when you see them swimming along the rip,” he said.

“When you get one on the line, a group of others will usually follow them, so you can cast and catch a bunch.”

Locating a bluewater ripline

Mahimahi grow at an extremely fast rate; a 5-year-old fish can weigh 60 pounds.
Mahimahi grow at an extremely fast rate; a 5-year-old fish can weigh 60 pounds.

Finding the ripline can be tricky, because currents move and change. A distinct ripline today can be broken up, dissipated or miles away tomorrow. You want to find a distinct line, because that’s where the fish will be. A broken-up line holds less promise, and where the line between bluewater and greenwater is gradual and indistinct, don’t waste your time, Pisa said.

  • Subscribe to an app.

“Most offshore anglers subscribe to apps like Ripcharts or Hilton’s Realtime that provide real-time or near real-time satellite imagery, so you can look for those very distinct current color lines. Other free apps might be helpful, like MODIS,” Pisa said.

  • Call a friend, the marina you launch from, or an acquaintance who was offshore the previous day.

“They can tell you where it was that day, but it doesn’t mean it’ll be there tomorrow. There are no guarantees. Rips can vanish quickly,” Pisa said.

  • The other thing you can do if you’re fishing out of Venice is just head south.

“Generally speaking, you can just make the run south out of Venice through South Pass and hope you run into it. The rip could be 20 or 30 miles out of the pass, or it could be 50 to 70 miles. Sometimes you just have to try your luck,” Pisa said.

“Of course we always hope the ripline moves close in for the summer, and it generally does. And then by late summer, the big Gulf loop current takes it back out into the southern Gulf, and we say good-bye to it. That’s why you want to take advantage of the now.”

Summer bonus

Wahoo are extremely strong, fast bluewater predators that are often caught by anglers trolling the bluewaters of the Gulf of Mexico.

“We love June and July because whether we’ve fished the ripline or the deepwater rigs offshore for big tuna, we always hit the rigs for red snapper on the way in, and usually some mangrove snapper as well. It’s win-win,” he said

Reminder when rig-fishing: Amberjack season and triggerfish seasons are closed.

MahiMahi fast facts

  • Keepers all

There is no legal size or creel limit on Mahimahi, but many charterboats self-impose a per boat, per day limit. John Pisa of Homerun Charters in Venice tries to only keep fish big enough to gaff — fish the 10-pound range and up — and they like to limit their creel to 20 to 30 fish per boat per day.

  • Live fast, die young

Mahimahi grow so fast — the young ones up to 5 inches per month — that Pisa said you can afford to pass up the smaller ones early in the season because they’ll be gaffable by end of the season. Experts say the fish have a short lifespan, from as short as two to perhaps as long as four years, during which time the males, aka bulls, can grow to be 5 feet long and 50 to 60 pounds.

  • Voracious appetites

The only way Mahimahi can sustain their incredible rate of growth is to eat constantly. They aren’t finicky eaters, either, so they’ll readily maul almost any bait you throw or troll.

  • Louisiana record

According to the official state record, meticulously maintained by the Louisiana Outdoor Writers Association, the biggest Mahimahi ever caught in Louisiana waters was a 71-pound beast boated by Robert Prest IV in June 1976. All of Louisiana’s 10 biggest Mahimahi were caught in either May or June.

You can check out Capt. John Pisa’s website at www.homeruncharters.com.

Rusty Tardo
About Rusty Tardo 318 Articles
Rusty Tardo grew up in St. Bernard fishing the waters of Delacroix, Hopedale and Shell Beach. He and his wife, Diane, have been married over 40 years and live in Kenner.