Pleasant surprise on Gulf


OK, so I admit it. I was one of those fearing the worst when the BP Deepwater Horizon exploded and began pouring oil into the Gulf of Mexico. I just couldn't imagine how there could be so much raw crude out there without seeing fish die-offs and fragile Louisiana marshes destroyed.

I was wrong. So wrong.

Several days spent in Venice at the mouth of the Mississippi River, probably my absolute favorite fishing area on Earth, proved just how wrong I was.

Over the span of my three-day trip to this mecca of fishing that produces redfish, trout, flounder, bass and offshore species of all kinds, I failed to find any evidence that the worst oil spill in U.S. history had occurred just off the Louisiana coast.

Not a single rosseau cane burned by oil. No weathered oil floating around. No sandy bottom stained by crude.

And if any fish died, it certainly wasn't a major kill. The cleaning station at Venice Marina was packed every day with anglers filleting reds, trout and bass -- often before 8 a.m.

The group of writers and outdoor manufacturers with whom I was lucky enough to fish during the week caught hundreds of redfish pretty much everywhere they went, and the river had yet to green up. That means the fishing is only going to get better as the river falls over the next couple of months.

The inshore action wasn't the only evidence that the oil spill had little impact on the area's fisheries. Offshore boats dragged monster tuna in by the dozen. Two-hundred-pound yellowfin weren't an uncommon sight, with the largest two tipping the scales at 221 and 214 pounds.

One boat flopped three tuna combining for 591 pounds onto the Venice Marina cleaning tables.

So what about the wisdom of eating fish from the region? Again, there was no evidence that any of the fish flesh was contaminated. No strong smells; no oil coating the scales of the fish.

Add that to the science that tells us fish cannot bioaccumulate hydrocarbons (in fact, only heavy metals accumulate within tissue), and it's clear that eating Gulf of Mexico fish is perfectly safe.

In fact, we writers proved that by feasting on fresh-caught reds, tuna and shrimp. Not one of us was sickened, at least not by the fish (the adult beverages were another story for a few who started the mornings a little slowly).

The bottom line is that Louisiana fisheries are in fine shape despite the oil spill. But don't take my word for it -- come on down and enjoy what is arguably the best inshore and offshore fishing in the nation.

Andy Crawford writes for Louisianasportsman.com.