Tags Sunday Times Column

Fishing around offshore oil rigs

Fishing around offshore oil rigs

THE incredible potential of fishing around offshore oil rigs was amply illustrated by an memorable day’s fishing experienced by the Halco Tackle team in Louisiana.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about their time at the ICAST tackle show in Florida.

From there the trio of Ben Patrick, Tim Carter and Curtis Waterman headed to Venice, Louisiana to do some charter fishing in the Gulf of Mexico.

As we in WA, and Recfishwest in particular, grapple with the issue of convincing our decision makers about the benefits of being allowed to use decommissioned rigs as artificial reefs, the Halco boys had a stellar experience around the American rigs.

Whereas a 500m exclusion zone currently exists around all WA oil and gas platforms, in the States you are allowed to pull right up next to them and fish.

Indeed, the Halco guys had the crew on the rigs watching on as they experienced some incredible faction and there are even mooring lines provided for boats.

They were at what are called the “near-shore rigs” around 5-10 nautical miles offshore, enjoying frenetic action on ‘bull’ redfish (red drum), jack crevalle (trevally), ladyfish (giant herring) and cobia.

Fishing in only 10-15m of water, they started by deploying Halco Max 130s, with Ben picking up a 12kg redfish on the first drop.

The water was quite coloured due to the outflow from the mighty Mississippi River, but the fish were on the chew big time.

Curtis got the biggest fish on a Slidog heavy with a redfish over 14 kilos, or 30 pounds in Yank speak.

Many of the fish proved impossible to stop and they ran through nearly all their Maxs.

There were loads of giant herring happy to hit Twistys as well, often taking them on the drop.

After fishing the rigs, and also seeing a waterspout emerge from a storm, they headed inshore and caught more big redfish in 1-2m of water on Madeyes soft plastics.

They used a rig called a popping cork, which imitates a prawn by making a clicking sound.

The trick was to rip the lure a couple of times and then leave it sitting there, producing some spectacular strikes in the shallow water.

They were fishing with a local charter company on its 7m sportfishing boat, but this outfit also runs a large fleet of 13m vessels for trips farther offshore, each one worth $1 million and powered by four 400hp outboards.

The offshore grounds are renowned for exceptional yellowfin tuna fishing.

The money generated by fishing around these inshore rigs is apparently massive for the local economy and it has become a recreational fishing mecca.

People come from all over the world and spend huge money to live their fishing dreams in Louisiana.

At the end of the day, the Halco boys could only conclude that a massive opportunity to have a similar fishery in WA was currently going begging.

However, Recfishwest is continuing to work with a range of operators in the North-West and the State Government around delivering similar fishing opportunities in WA at obsolete infrastructure that already provides great fish habitat.

It is hoped the decommissioned structures around the Mackerel Islands, already home to huge fish populations established over decades, could become the first of hopefully many environmentally friendly artificial reefs in the next couple of years.

This would be a great step forward for the recreational fishing community and, judging by the experience in the United States, a massive win for the local economy of Onslow.

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