My son Lawrence was home from college and suggested we go fishing off the coast of Louisiana. He asks every visit home and I usually find a good excuse not to go. This time I thought about my age and the years left and decided to give it a try.
I did a Google search and found everybody booked for months in advance. That’s the nature of Google searches. Most people just Google “Louisiana fishing” and leave it at that. Not a good idea.
Discouraged, I went to the Venice, Louisiana, marina website where there was a list of local fishing charters. After considerable effort, I found an open Sunday slot with Home Run Fishing Charters. I felt lucky and the trip was starting to seem providential.
I checked with my buddy Bob Crisler. His son Robert at Ole Miss was eager to go. Add my oldest son John and we have a perfect crew of five.
Fishing off the coast of Louisiana may be the best fishing in the world. Venice is the southernmost point of land, a scenic 90-minute drive from downtown New Orleans. Venice’s nickname is “Tuna Town.”
From Jackson, it’s four hours and 15 minutes to the best fishing in the world. That’s a real trip. Mixing it with a trip to New Orleans is even better.
I was wanting to fish for tuna, a beautiful, muscular, sleek fish that tastes very good. Years ago, I caught a ton of blackfin tuna fishing behind shrimp boats. Blackfin are about 15 pounds — a perfect size to reel in.
Turns out “shrimp boat fishing” isn’t until mid-October, our guide Zack texted me. Instead, we were going rig fishing for yellowfin — four times bigger than blackfin.
The night before I was kinda dreading the long car ride, the long boat ride, the expense, the hotel room. Life is so comfy at home.
But to enjoy sitting at home, you have to have the memories of fun times and adventurers. It’s often hard work to capture those memories, but it makes the rest of your life richer.
The drive went by fast as we talked and listened to the latest music recommended by the boys. It’s amazing how human creativity never runs out of new songs to write from the same old notes and chords. There is so much talent out there.
On the drive down, Lawrence pointed out that our last fishing trip was so pathetic that we were due some really good luck.
We ate at a local Venice fish place called Changes. Just simple local fresh fish. Outside a chalk blackboard displayed Proverbs 3:5: Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.
It was Lawrence’s favorite Bible verse one year when he came back from Camp Ozark. That providential feeling was growing.
Zach and Kyle met us at 5:30 a.m. at the Venice Marina. We cruised for 30 minutes then stopped to catch bait fish. Another hour or so and we were next to a big oil rig.
We caught our first yellowfin on the first cast. It was about 65 pounds. It took every one of us tag teaming to pull it in. No way we could have done it alone. Within an hour we had five big yellowfins in the boat — about $2,000 worth of fish at the grocery store retail price. That theoretically more than paid for the trip.
I was eager to catch another $2,000 worth of tuna then Zack inquired as to how we were going to get all this fish back to Jackson. We already had about eight freezers full. “You don’t need to be wasting the fish,” Zach warned.
So we moved on to red snapper fishing at a special honey hole our guides knew. How you find a honey hole in the middle of the gulf is a mystery. Zach explained, “I’ve been fishing here since I was 10. I don’t need a GPS. I navigate by the oil rigs.”
Sure enough, we reeled in the red snapper as fast as the tuna. Four hours into our fishing trip, we had all the fish we could possibly transport home.
At one point I heard Zach describe our luck as “amazing” and another time “epic.”
“Next time I’m going to bring a trailer with 15 freezers,” I said. Zach responded, “Then you won’t catch a thing.” Funny how that works.
Back at the marina, Bob and I headed to the Dollar General and found eight two-dollar styrofoam coolers. The car was packed to the gills, but we were headed back to Jackson with 200 pounds of fresh fish.
I began texting my friends: “Caught 200 pounds of yellowfin tuna and 25 pounds of snapper TODAY!!! Be at our house (1447 Rebel Drive) at 6:30 pm tonight to help prepare and eat. Bring cooler to take some home. Eat the day it was caught. Now that's fresh fish!!! Bring favorite recipe, ingredients if you want it your way.”
You can say a lot about my friends, but they respond to fresh fish from Venice invites. If I had proposed pizza takeout, nobody would have showed up. But fresh fish produced a last-minute crowd of forty or so.
It was a blast. We had multiple grills going, wine and beer was flowing, the conversation was lively to deafening, music playing, peels of laughter non-stop. It was truly an awesome party which most everybody there confirmed.
I love an impromptu party. Ginny went nuts because the house was “as is.” I don’t care. My friends don’t give two licks what my house looks like, especially if fresh fish is in abundant supply.
The appetizer was sushi with soy sauce and wasabi. Man, it was the best, freshest sushi you can imagine. We couldn’t cut it up fast enough to keep up with the consumption. Mississippians have learned to like raw fish.
Then the grilling started. Several different cooks used several different recipes. Several of my friends were thoughtful enough to bring delicious sides. It was a true feast, and everybody had their fill of fish eaten the same day it was caught. It was beautiful.
And of course, my friends being my friends, not an ounce of fish was left in the coolers. How cool is that. Every bit of fish was consumed either that night or the next. What fun. That’s the way life should be.