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  Reel Louisiana Adventures
Fly - Light Tackle - Marsh - Offshore Fishing
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“Fishing Adventures With The Most Professional & Productive Guides In South Louisiana"

Offshore fishing is so good out of Venice, it drew two Oregon anglers for weeks.
Susan Gros
April 24, 2007

The Puffin pulls into Venice Marina harbor after a long and successful outing at the Midnight Lump.
Photo by SUSAN GROS
The Puffin pulls into Venice Marina harbor after a long and successful outing at the Midnight Lump.

“Puffin - trip this year VENICE La.

“Taking the boat for a month of fish catching fun. Keta and me so far. Looking for a wing man or men more the merrier. March looks like the month. Cost usually runs $60-75 a day. weaklings need not apply. Tuna Amberjack Wahoo and so on.

“The original Salty dog

“If you fish the prediction you will never fish.

“You can’t cook it if you don’t hook it.

“If the coast guard says GO FISH we do.

“Weaklings need not apply - this is a real mans adventure.”

From posts on Ifish.net

During the summer months of April through October, Jon Arndorfer is a professional painter in his hometown of Portland, Ore. He toils many hours a day during those six months, tends a garden and lives off the land to save up enough money to take the remainder of the year off.

“After paying all my bills, in the winter I go deer hunting, then elk hunting, and if I have any money left, I plan an out-of-state fishing adventure,” said Arndorfer, a burly, shirtless 250-pound man of the sea.

In 2005, Arndorfer had planned a trip to a magical place he had read about on the Internet — Venice, La. — but unfortunately, Hurricane Katrina made an unwelcome visit before he could make the 3,000-mile trek south.

This year would be different. As Plaquemines Parish continued its rebound from the storm, Arndorfer recruited a crew of fishermen with a post on a fishing website he frequents.

In his online thread under Salty Dog on Ifish.net, he warned potential applicants to be aware that they would sleep in close quarters, be on the boat every single day all day, and they would have to “man up” if they got seasick because going in before the fish box was full was not an option.

On March 5, Arndorfer set out with $2,000 in his pocket, $500 of which he pegged as an “emergency fund,” along with Lee Putman, who accepted the online challenge.

They took extra travel and safety precautions, including signing up for AAA, loading up a supply of extra trailer tires, wheels, bearings, grease gun and spares for their truck.

It took the men four days to reach Venice towing Arndorfer’s 23-foot Edwing Puffin behind a 1990s model Dodge ¾-ton truck, which was loaded to the gills with all sorts of tackle, supplies and equipment.

With thousands of hooks, sacks of various lures and jigs, spools of leader material and rods and reel galore, the crew headed south.

“We decided if we broke down, we would just open a tackle store right there on the side of the road,” joked Arndorfer. “Lee brought 20 rods and reels ranging from spin to 50Ws, and I had nine, as we had no idea what all we would be fishing for, and we wanted to be prepared.”

A puffin, the boat’s namesake, is described as “a small, far-ranging bird; a fish killer who spends most of its time at sea.”

Arndorfer, compares his life to that of a puffin — at sea often and killing fish. He is not a hi-tech guy, and admitted he had never owned a cell phone until very recently.

“I’m not THAT important — it’s not like they’re going to hold up the shuttle launch if they can’t reach me,” he said.

Arndorfer finally surrendered to the wishes of his father, and agreed to carry a cell phone during his cross-country journey. It actually came in handy, as the crew made periodic progress reports to their fellow cyber fishermen back home, who would post the details of their adventures online:

“Re: Dogs of the road ... sliding into Venice At 3:30 pm PST Jon and Lee were attempting to exit NO, although they had been trying same for the last 3 hours. Expecting to be in Venice tonight.”

The duo arrived in New Orleans, and found this part of their journey to be the most frustrating of their entire trip, as they got lost over and over again, thanks to directions from locals telling them to take Belle Chasse Highway, which is not marked as such on any street sign.

Late at night, they finally found their way south down Highway 23 to Venice Marina, again without the aid of any signs pointing the way, where they chugged into the parking lot, and got a couple of hours of sleep inside the cockpit of the boat.

The next morning, they met up with their buddy Tom Gilbertz, who had flown to New Orleans and rented an SUV, which would later serve as his sleeping quarters.

The marina was a flurry of activity, as Arndorfer made his way to the Venice Marina office to let management know he had camped in their parking lot, and to seek permission to stay there “a few weeks” as their fishing budget would not support 25 days of hotel charges.

“We’re self sustainable, and just want to fish,” the Oregonians pleaded.

Bill Butler, one of the owners of Venice Marina, was sympathetic and told him, “No problem. You just go right ahead and make yourselves at home.”

Butler later admitted, he didn’t really think they would last very long in the dusty gravel lot, where swarms of biting insects attack every inch of a persons exposed skin at dusk.

Arndorfer and crew proceeded to unpack and create their makeshift home away from home, which included, among other things, a camp stove, solar shower, coffee pot, table, folding chairs and tarps.

“Usually when I go on one of these trips, I just find a little brushy patch at the end of the road and set up camp,” Arndorfer explained. “But after we drove 3,000 miles and I got to the end of the road in Venice, there was nothing but water on all sides, so we just set up our little camp next to the truck in the parking lot.”

On March 10, the group had planned to take the Puffin to the famed Midnight Lump, but instead was invited by a local named Perry to go along as guests on his boat. As they made their way down Tiger Pass, Perry pointed out, “You can take this pass to the Gulf … it has plenty of water.”

Arndorfer was mortified when he glanced at the depth finder, which read 8 feet.

“We’re accustomed to deep shipping channels in the Pacific, and to us, 8 feet is not deep. I thought sure we would go aground,” he admitted.

They proceeded to the Lump and then to Medusa, where Arndorfer couldn’t believe the amount of fish.

“There were fish swimming around the boat, under the boat, free jumping — they were just everywhere,” he said.

“We caught yellowfin tuna, kingfish, bonito — all sorts of stuff,” said Putman.

On its third day in Venice, the Puffin finally made it out to fish the close-in rigs, where its crew landed redfish and speckled trout, two more species new to them. They also found them to be pretty tasty for dinner later that evening.

Several days later, they were determined to make it to the Midnight Lump. Without the aid of radar, they followed a larger vessel out of South Pass. Shortly after they cleared the pass, their 130-horsepower Honda outboard motor killed, their GPS screen went blank and they found themselves dead in the water and adrift.

The three put on their life jackets, fired up their 8-horsepower kicker motor, and dejectedly chugged back up the pass.

With the boat safely back on its trailer, Arndorfer quickly determined that among various mechanical problems, the alternator had failed. Since Edwing is not a boat common to Louisiana waters, they headed 70 miles up Highway 23 to try and order a dealer part needed to fix the alternator.

Lucky for them they stopped at Roy Supply on Engineers Road, who agreed to install their special-ordered part. Additional problems were discovered with the alternator, and those repairs were also made. When Arndorfer went back to pay the bill, an employee sent them on their way, refusing to accept payment for the repairs.

“Just have a great vacation and catch some fish,” the employee told the grateful crew as they pulled out of the parking lot with Puffin in tow.

The next day, C.D. Johnson, another angler who Arndorfer met online, flew in and joined them in Venice to fish the Lump. As Johnson was letting a chunk of bonito back in the slick, his TLD 20 screamed, and the vintage Penn rod bucked. Johnson cranked the fish furiously, and after a 40-minute fight, big sickle fins came into view and Arndorfer planted the gaff in a hefty yellowfin.

“Mission complete!” Arndorfer shouted. “We tried to weigh C.D.’s tuna, but it bottomed out the 100-pound mark on our handheld scale, so we knew it was a good one.”

Arndorfer, Putman, Gilbertz and Johnson were elated.

“We could have stopped right there, knowing all the guys back home were going to be so envious that we had brought our little 23-foot Edwing down and caught a 130-pound tuna by ourselves,” Arndorfer said.

Putman, who once held an IGFA World Record for chum salmon, and has fished many places, found fishing in Louisiana better than anywhere else.

“Compared to other places I’ve fished, including Mexico and Alaska, this is banner,” he said.

Arndorfer was surprised the charter captains in Venice don’t freely share information when they are on fish.

“Back home, we’ll get on the radio and call everybody over when we’re hooking up. We WANT everyone to catch fish,” he said. “In Venice, most captains switch channels and help only their buddies it seems.”

“Originally Posted by Threemuch: I think John is a bit disappointed with the amount of information the locals are giving up to an out-of-town guest.

“Down in those parts if you claim to be from anywhere north of I-20, you are a Yankee. If you are from anywhere north of I-10, you are a suspected Yankee. And if you don’t drink Tabasco like water, you ain’t Cajun.

“Tell John to remove his license plates, practice his southern drawl, play lots of Zydeco music and start an IV drip of Tabasco, then claim to be friends with Thibedeaux & Beaudreaux.”

As anyone knows who runs the lower Mississippi River, it can be a treacherous place even for larger sport-fishing vessels. Arndorfer made the trek daily down Southwest Pass, as he didn’t trust running Puffin in “8 feet of water” in Tiger Pass.

Many times, Arndofer would converse with vessels in the river via VHF radio, and they would look out for the small silver Edwing as she chugged along. The skippers of large work boats and tugs would come off plane or even go out of their way to block wakes for the tiny Puffin, protecting her from harm like a mother guarding her young.

“These are the most professional river pilots and skippers “I’ve ever talked to — they make the profession shine,” he said. “We operate a lot around the Columbia River, and these guys are by far the best I’ve ever encountered anywhere.”

Putman shared that his best discovery during one of the trips downriver was a seat belt that had somehow been shoved down within the passenger’s seat.

“It made my comfort level go way up — no more slamming on the ride out as I was fastened to the seat,” he grinned.

As their journey neared the end, they made one last call back to their buddy Gilbertz, who lamented, “Why did I go home? I’m a heating man and it’s hot now in Oregon and I have no work.”

Gilbertz, who had returned to Oregon, posted this message on the Salty Dogs thread:

“Cell phone report from today at 5:00. 3/29/07

“They spent last night out on the gulf drifting large pieces of meat with good results. Big Jon was awaken by a SCREAMING REEL at 2:00am. A very big something had taken his bait. Quite a firedrill at 2:00 in the morning getting into a harness and fighting belt while a reel is SCREAMING out line. 45 minute fight with 20+ lbs of drag applied, when 80lb mono parted. Jon thinks his wire leader might have been too short and the main line got nicked.

“They hooked and boated two YFT last night and boated three more this morning. 20 to 60lb range.

“They are staying the weekend and leaving on Monday, or so the plan goes.

“Peace, Tom

__________________

“I’m wishin’ we were fishin’”

 

When Monday morning April 2 dawned, the crew packed up their makeshift camp, bid farewell to Venice Marina and headed north.

“We’ll be back next year if you’ll have us,” he shouted and waved to Butler as the truck rumbled down the dusty road with Puffin bouncing behind it.


View other stories written by Susan Gros
 

 

 


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