Fishing Paradise at the End of the World

Rob Chapman

We were about go back into time. Literally. A place that hasn’t changed much in 100 years and still has a fishery without a million boats hammering it daily and high rises on every corner. Venice, Louisiana. We took off around 10 a.m. after a quick trip to Walmart for some last minute food and drinks, and First Federal Bank of Florida for some last minute cash – we had big expectations for our trip to Venice, Louisiana. This was my first car road trip west of Pensacola, so I saw a lot of new things, but more importantly my wing man and business partner Ralph “Jimmy Buffet” Rowand drove the whole way. I was able to work on my laptop and cell phone for a solid 8 hours and plan out the next few days on social media and

As we passed through Alabama and into New Orleans the thing that struck me most was how much water surrounded the city and how low the city sits overall. Seeing reminders of Hurricane Katrina everywhere was heart-wrenching, but it was easy to see how it happened. It’s almost like New Orleans sits in a bowl, and even with the levees, sandbags, and everything else, there is just so much water and it’s almost like the water is above the city. 

It’s very eerie driving through New Orleans and south to Venice and seeing walls of water that literally look like they’re higher than the roads you’re driving. That’s what struck me most about the travel, but what struck me most about the trip overall was one thing. And, it wasn’t the fishing.

It was the people. It was the bigger than the life personalities. It was the energy. It was the life. It was the pure joy and happiness.

The residents of New Orleans and Venice are worth the trip alone. It’s like you’ve entered another world. Case and point. Our first stop at Venice was to buy our hunting and fishing licenses. So, what do we see? A 12-foot gator laying on the front of a flats boat of course! And the best part, the guide who killed the gator’s name is Captain Boola Landry! How much more cajun can you get than Boola Landry?!?! For the fans of Swamp People do you recognize that last name? We weren’t in Kansas anymore.

I talked with Boola a while and he was kind enough to let me get a photo — after he propped its mouth open with a “cajun trick” aka a beer bottle from his cooler. You know what they say … when in Venice … Ha!

But, the fun didn’t end here. We walked inside to buy our licenses and the guy running the store was the greatest Christopher Walker character of all time – except he was 100% authentic! He had a prosthetic leg, looked and talked just like a cajun Christopher Walken, told totally believable stories of impossible hunts and fishing trips – including guiding the mafia back in the day, and had the quote of the trip. 

Cajun Christopher Walken: “Is this your first trip to Venice, Louisiana?”

Me: “Yes sir!”

Cajun Christopher Walken: “It won’t be your last.”

He couldn’t have been more right. I’m already planning our next trip back with our Outdoors360 partners in the next few months!

Here’s the thing about Venice, it is NOT where you want to take your wife for a romantic weekend! It is 1,000% a fishing and hunting destination. Don’t kid yourselves and expect your wife to come along and have a good time at the spa and beach while you fish all day. You fish in Venice. You eat in Venice. You sleep in Venice. That’s it. Period! 

One quote I heard is that “it’s the nastiest, most beautiful place in the world.” That proved true the second we pulled up to the marina. The cleaning dock was covered with sweat, stank, and blood drenched fisherman, first mates and captains. It looked like a parade of fishing zombies and tuna carcasses. It smelled like a butcher shop. 

It was the most beautiful site I had ever seen in my life.

Well, except for my wife and 2 daughters (just in case they read this column!). Seriously, THIS was what fishing dreams were made of — giant yellowfin tuna, big snapper, fat dolphin, gnarly cobia, and long wahoo. And, this was in the first 2 minutes of stepping out of the car. When we stepped inside The Sportman’s Lodge I almost passed out. 

We were surrounded by the biggest and most delicious all you can eat seafood buffet on the planet. Fresh caught, seasoned to perfection, and zero formality about it! Just my style! I had high high expectations for this trip, but we hadn’t even fished yet and I was already living the outdoorsman’s dream. Following the most deliciously satisfying appetizers, dinner, and dessert of my life we went to be with visions of tuna dancing in our head. We wouldn’t be disappointed.

After waking up in Venice, Louisiana, feeling like I had the most delicious Thanksgiving seafood feast of my life, we were greeted with a giant cook to order breakfast from our private chef. The boat (A 36′ Contender with triple 300’s) was literally going to pick us up on the back porch – remember we’re staying on the Ritz Carlton of floating barges. And, again ALL of this for $225 a night! THAT is why Venice and Sportsman’s Lodge is “Fishing Paradise on a Budget.” 

Eggs, bacon, biscuits, gravy, omelettes, sausage … (note: As I write this story I feel continuous hunger pangs! Ha!) The funniest part of breakfast was watching Ralph carefully pick out what he would eat — and what he wouldn’t eat. 


Ralph gets sea sick in his bathtub. If there’s a ripple on the water Ralph turns greener than the Jolly Green Giant. Ralph said while scanning the breakfast, “It all looks great, and will taste good going down, but I’m more concerned with how it’ll taste coming back up!” He was right.

We put the throttles down and started cruising at mock speed through the river towards the oil rigs, tuna, and a potential swordfish. Our first stop was to bait up about 12 miles offshore. Captain Rene was young, but you could tell this guy was all fishing. No BS. He talked and acted like a 50 year old captain with the baby face of a high schooler and the build of a D1 Strong Safety. We always called this “country strong” when a guy was just naturally, freakishly strong and looked like he could wrestle a giant bull to the ground just for funsies.

His voice was as authentic as a Cajun straight from Swamp People, and it was obvious from his passion and drive he compressed 20 years of fishing knowledge like a Tuna Fishing Cliff-Notes into his relatively short career of 250-300 days of grinding it out on the water every year. We baited up on hard tails (AKA blue runners) within about 10 minutes at the first rig and we were going to make our run to the DEEEEP water!

Throttles down and I was ready for a 120 mile run….

But, something happened.

Instead we pumped the breaks about 1.2 miles away from the bait rig and put the lines out. Wait, what?!?! EVERYTIME I had ever fished for yellowfin tuna (unsuccessfully) we ran to the ends of the earth. Here, we were fishing roughly 15 miles from land.  And, guess what? There were tuna skyrocketing in all directions! And, guess what else? Ralph was already rocketing his breakfast in all directions as well. Allow me to pay Ralph the ultimate compliment. He KNEW 100% he was going to get sea sick and be absolutely miserable most of the trip, but he still went! So, to reward his bravery (or stupidity) we decided to give him the first tuna — if he could take a breaking from chumming the waters. 

First fish on was a screamer, the line ripped off the slow trolled hard tail and Ralph strapped on the fighting belt, the color came back to his skin, and the fight was on. And, the fight was on. And, the fight was still on. 15 minutes … 20 minutes … tick … tock ….

Here’s the thing about yellowfin tuna when they get over 50 pounds. They’re like fighting a Porsche at the start with blazing runs and excitement, and then it’s like fighting a Dump Truck. Slow, steady, digging, pulling, and ZERO give up. Eventually Ralph won the battle and a big, beautiful yellowfin tuna near 50-pounds was gaffed and thrown into the fish box. Ralph had won the battle against the tuna, and now had a plump, ocean filet mignon icing down. And, guess what, 5 minutes later Ralph had lost the battle to the waves again. But, in the end it was worth it for Ralph, and for the rest of the crew we still had more tuna to catch!

After catching more quality yellowfin tuna than I’d ever caught in my entire life of fishing combined, we arrived back at the dock. Then, my jaw hit the floor again. The fleet of boats kept lining up and bringing haul after haul of tuna, and the mates and Captains started a fillet train around the giant cleaning table. These salt-blooded fishermen turned into fillet ninjas. Tunas we’re getting sliced and diced faster than an Ardolis Chapman 103MPH fastball. In 60 seconds a 50-pound tuna would be chopped into perfect fillets, bagged, and ready to go in the cooler. 

Here’s the craziest part of this tuna train. Do you have any idea how much fresh, quality tuna sells for? Start at about a whopping $25 a pound! These tuna were slabs of delicious $100 bills scattered all over the blood stained docks and tables. Now I knew why everyone said the was the most disgustingly beautiful place on the planet! It was nasty. Fish carcasses, blood, guts everywhere, and from a fisherman’s perspective it was as glorious as Michaelango’s Sistine Chapel. I felt like had died and found myself in fishing heaven … except this was only the first part of the trip. 

Following one of the most delicious meals of my life – tuna sashimi as an appetizer, followed by seared tuna (both caught just swimming only a few hours ago), salad, and so much more, I went to work on Outdoors360 and then drifted to sleep with visions of redfish dancing in my head. 

That next morning we woke up and met our Captain. Within 30 seconds I knew it was going to be an awesome day — fish or no fish. We were fishing with an authentic Cajun that was right in my wheelhouse, excitable, energetic, funny, and full of personality. Captain Jay Raphael Quiros from On A Mission Fishin Charters. 

He told Blair and I that his nickname was Jackpot. Yep, Jackpot. He was built like a strong safety with sun drenched skin and an accent that was so thick I just wanted to listen to him talk and tell stories all day. I would have paid money for a Captain Jackpot stand up set for an hour — and we had him for a full day! Although I was about a foot taller than him, I had full confidence that he wrestled 13-foot gators for funsies. 

He also knew the water ways better than I knew my own house hallways. EVERYTHING looks exactly the same in the backwater of Louisiana. It’s miles after mile of waterways that look just like the first 30 left and right turns we had made since leaving the dock. It felt like Groundhog Day. He smiled and pulled up to an open bay to catch some bait. Again, another something new was about to happen. 

Captain Jay whipped out his mini-castnet – keep in mind I’m used to 12-foot, 30-pound castnets that can cover an area roughly the size of Rhode Island. This castnet was so small that it wouldn’t cover a picnic table. Could it be that this area has SO MUCH bait that all you needed was the Micro Machine of bait catchers to load up live well? We’d find out soon enough, but not before Captain Jackpot grabbed the new with one hand and like a Whirling Dervish flung it with the craziest technique I’d ever seen. He was a Cajun Castnetting David Copperfield (or David Blaine for the kids). He literally threw it one handed, and when he pulled it up …. 

Captain Jackpot hit the jackpot with his patented Cajun toss. The net was shining like a lit Christmas tree and we had a few dozen finger mullet, shad, whitebait, and … shrimp ?!?! We actually had shrimp in the castnet! Apparently there is so much “bait” in Louisiana that it’s the Holy Grail of permanent all you can eat seafood buffets for gamefish. Now for the crazier part. 

We set up to fish RIGHT there! I’m used to a bait flat, which is solely a bait flat. You catch.bait there and move to an entirely different area — sometimes miles away. This bait zone was apparently a redfish zone. It didn’t take 2 minutes to verify the Captains suspicions. Fish on! We were catching one redfish after another 1.3 feet(ish) from where we were just launching a castnet and banging around the like we were in downtown New Orleans. We started in the teens (in terms of fish size) and then they started growing. 

One after another. We were fishing with — wait for it — Cajun thunders. For those that don’t know a Cajun thunder, it’s essentially a bobber with a clicker on it to make a little more noise. About 18″ below that we used a 3/0 Mustad circle hook. I’m a big believer in circle hooks with almost 99% of live bait situations. Why? It takes any of the guessing out of when and how to reel, set the hook, etc. The “Bobber” sinks and then you wait a few seconds and reel. Easy, breezy, beautiful, redfish. (Sorry Covergirl). 

We could essentially count to 10 seconds or less and a redfish was on – or stealing our bait. I’m used to a 1 redfish per person limit in Florida so within 5 minutes we had blown by that number. We could keep 5 redfish per person with one over the slot. That’s one of the key elements to a fish eating carnivore that wants to fish Venice. In one trip you can keep what would take you 5 days almost anywhere else in the U.S. Talk about bang for your buck!!!

We started moving just a few hundred yards down the coastline and we’d repeat the same pattern. Plucking redfish by the double digits like we were in an apple orchard moving tree to tree – 10 here, 14 next, 18, then 11, and so on. Then we started getting the big fish. They started approaching 30″ and they were THICK. Think Rob Gronskowki in a 30″ redfish package of muscles, power, and speed. 

We had our limit in no time and fun fished for a while longer, and then went exotic fish hunting. We could have caught redfish for 8 hours, but we were content cruising, exploring, and learning about this amazing fishery with our own personal Cajun tour guide. We caught more redfish and then mixed in some trout for variety and were back at the dock by kickoff of the early college football games. 

We settled into another buffet of deliciousness and started telling fishing stories between boats — except they were all true this time! My first trip to Venice and the Sportman’s Lodge was a grand slam. The perfect fishery with the perfect hospitality and hosts. Venice, Louisiana proved to be the ‘Fishing Capitol of the World’ and fishing paradise on a budget.


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