Venice, Louisiana has a few monikers—The End of the World, Tuna Town.
It’s one of the few places in the United States where you feel like you’re in a different world. It seems to run on its own rules and its own ecosystem where fishing is life and captains are king.
We return every year for some good offshore and inshore fishing; every year we better perfect our tuna recipes. This year, our fishing crew consisted of two photographers, two marketers, and a writer/editor (me.) We set sail from Mossy Oak’s home of West Point, MS in an old work truck with a stripe of Break-Up Infinity on the side and an old covered trailer full of camera equipment and Mossy Oak Fishing clothes—the trailer, of course, patterned in an old desert brush Mossy Oak pattern.
The exact same group of us had gone on the trip last year, so we were looking forward to seeing old friends from nights spent telling fishing tales (some of them tall, sure) at the Venice Marina—the heart and soul of the town.
And as soon as we arrived and unloaded, we headed straight for the marina where our captain, deckhand and local friends gathered around. It felt like we’d never left. A cold beer waited for us with our name on it.
We had an early morning—Captain Jordan Ellis was to meet us at the dock in the back of our condo near the Marina at 5:30. We loaded up sandwich supplies, a whole box of Voodoo chips, and some cold Busch Lite for a day out in the blue water 90 miles offshore.
We'd picked Jordan's boat specifically for an important reason--his entire boat was wrapped in Original Bottomland. The perfect boat for us.
Old school 70’s and 80’s hits mixed in with some soulful country was the soundtrack to the day. We had an hour ride to the first oil rig that we hit for baitfish, like hard tails and threadfin shad. We used nets and sabiki rigs to catch 100 or so baitfish for the day, what we hoped would be plenty.
The next spot was an oil rig another hour or so away; this time we were slinging baitfish for tuna. We hooked up almost immediately; I was the first one up. I’d been offshore fishing before and knew the whole pump and reel routine pretty well. Everyone yelled and got ready to bring in the tuna; cameras were going, so the pressure was on. After about 10 minutes, I got the tuna to the edge of the boat and our deck hand Pokey was able to gaff it and bring it up.
We caught a few more tuna very quickly, then after a bit of a lull, we headed to the next spot where we caught three more.
It was us girls’ first tunas ever. And on the way down to Venice, we were informed that there’s a tradition when you catch your first tuna. We had to take a bite of the still-beating tuna heart.
We’re not ones to wimp out on a tradition, and we’ve got to be tough in a boat full of men, so all three of us, though we held our respective tuna hearts with a grimace, took our bites without hesitation to the cheers of the boat.
Later that afternoon we sat watching the poles. The music was jamming and everyone was in high spirits with six tuna on the ice. Suddenly, a pole bent over and Matt, one of our friends who joined us that morning, rushed over to jump on the pole. Something big was on the line—he shouted that he thought it might be a marlin.
After about two or three minutes of fighting the fish, we saw the head come out of the water for a split second—we had a blue marlin on the line. We put our photographer Fafa on the rod—he had never caught a marlin and it was his turn to catch something. The marlin came up and skidded on top of the water for a solid 30 seconds, coming right at us. I'd seen footage of this phenomenon but never could it have come close to seeing it in real life. The fish turned and began jumping over to the right; Fafa held on tight and bowed to the king.
After probably 30 minutes, Fafa got the blue marlin to the side of the boat and as Pokey went to bill him, the line broke. We had already planned to release the fish, anyway, and he was officially caught. The whole boat cheered and went wild. I've been a part of intense deer and turkey hunts that were successful and certainly celebrated, but there was so much more shared joy in a boat full of people where you can be as loud as you want.
We headed back to the marina so we could get started on cleaning the tuna. As we idled back into the marina, one of the deckhands put the boat's old, bloodstained blue marlin flag on the flag pole and worked it up. The flag cemented us as heroes for the night among the other crews and locals.
We gathered around the cleaning area and Pokey brought the tuna in two at a time in a large wheelbarrow. We shot the breeze and looked on as bag after bag of fresh tuna was piled into our cooler.
The captain, Captain Jordan Ellis, surprised Fafa with the beaten-up blue marlin flag as a trophy for his catch. Everyone who was on the boat signed it. I don’t think much of anything could have been cooler than that flag in that moment, and we were certainly all proud for him.
The day was long but our spirits were still high, and we had our crew and other friends over to the condo for fresh tuna for dinner. It was a good day for Mossy Oak and a bad day to be a tuna.