SEWE in Charleston and a Trip to Venice!

Good day folks! 

Michael Sims here, President and CoFounder of Hook + Gaff.  I hope everyone's 2024 is off to a great start! I wanted to highlight a few events and trips we have recently undertaken with our crew here at H+G.  

First, the start of February brings about preparation for SEWE in Charleston here in our warehouse.  The Southeastern Wildlife Expo has become a city-wide event for Charleston, with vendors and artists spread out from Calhoun St to King St and over to Brittlebank Park.  Buses shuttle SEWE patrons around the city.  Food is set up at Marion Square and other locations.  Most restaurants around town are welcoming tens of thousands of folks to the city and many have live music.  Many non-profits like Ducks Unlimited or Quail Forever are hosting events and auctions. If you've never been to SEWE, it is a great time! 

This year many folks stopped by the booth in the Gaillard Auditorium to check out new watches and to speak with myself, my business partner Gash and his wife, and our photographer and content creator Justin Hodge.  We always enjoy seeing familiar faces and we sincerely appreciate the new folks who joined the H+G family over that weekend and puchased a watch!  Welcome!  We look forward to doing it again next year. 

This year, we also decided to take a breather after SEWE.  After trucking our stuff back home, we took a few days during the week to catch up on phone calls and emails and orders, and then Thursday we headed to Venice, Louisiana to target big tuna and wahoo with our friend Captain Eddie Burger and his mate Seth.  Eddie has been fishing in Venice longer than most folks down there, and about 8 years ago we decided to put a Hook + Gaff wrap on the two Contenders he owned at the time.  He has since upgraded to a new catboat and we put a fresh wrap on that about a year ago.  The name of the charter is Fish Venice Charters, and they have 2 boats. If Eddie isn't taking you out, Captain Aaron will be the other captain and he was born and raised in Louisiana, too.  Both are great at what they do.  

After a 13hr drive (yes, we caught some traffic in ATL and NOLA), we arrived in Venice Thursday night around 7:15.  We grabbed some food at the marina and made sure we were ready for the next day.  I packed for cold weather, but when we awoke the next day it was still 62 degrees outside.  I am not complaining!  It was fantastic, and I was happy I didn't need all the layers I brought.  We loaded up and headed out of Cypress Cove Marina towards the South Pass.  When we got down there, the waves were about 4-6 with short periods, so it was a little dicey as we motored past the jetties.  We took it slow for the first 10 miles and it eventually laid down for us in the open water a bit.  A lot of folks cancelled charters that day with other captains, but it ended up being a beautiful day.  

I spoke with Eddie about the plan for the morning.  I was shocked when he told me that we were doing anything other than trolling rigs for wahoo and fishing "the Lump," which is always what we do this time of year.  Apparently, the baitfish have been so thick off of Venice the last 2 years, that the tuna are moving around in open water and not staying put near the Lump like they usually do.  Our last big tuna trip we absolutely slayed 150lb tuna at the Lump, but Eddie told us that captains have had to improvise and change tactics.  It involves a lot more running and gunning from rig to rig and burning a lot more fuel these days.  

Our first few fish were all trash fish.  We hooked up with 5 or 6 jacks around the first few rigs.  Then about 9AM we overheard some captains saying big tuna were busting pogies in open water.  Eddie motored over and we arrived to see about a half mile of churning water with monster 150lb+ yellowfin coming completely out of the water.  As we pulled into the mix, two of our reels sounded off behind the boat and it was on!  A yellowfin that had to be 200lbs leaped about 200yds behind our boat!  Within a few seconds of fighting these fish, we realized they were not yellowfin.  On both rods, we saw 6' spinner sharks leap into the air.  We were ticked!  Damn!  We didn't want to lose those lures, so we spent 30 minutes getting those fish to the side of the boat.  By the time we were ready to troll again, the yellowfin were nowhere to be seen and had moved on.  We spent about 45 minutes trolling through the area and did see a few yellowfin on the screen, but none would come up or react to what we were pulling.  Talk about deflation!  Man.  We were right there among giant yellowfin and totally whiffed because of those damned sharks!  

Eddie, being the knowledgeable captain he is, put the throttle down and we motored to a few new oil rigs.  After a disappointing barracuda, we bounced over to another rig and hooked up with a nice wahoo.  We were thrilled to put a fish in the box! 

We continued bouncing from rig to rig all day, hearing over the radio that most captains were struggling to find fish.  Late in the day we hooked a second wahoo a bit larger than the first.  The way we hooked it was hilarious.  We'd been doing figure eights around a rig and Eddie decided to bring the lines in.  He put the boat in neutral and we were talking and not minding the rods just yet.  The lures we were pulling were floating to the top.  Right before one of the guys grabbed the rod to reel it in, the reel sounded off.  Wahoo!  Absolutely hilarious.  This wahoo hit a stationary bait that had just floated to the top.  I told Eddie he was a helluva captain, using tactics no one else in the world uses.  Haha!  And we were happy to get another wahoo in the box.  

On the way in, with about thirty minutes left to kill, we arrived at one last oil rig and were pleased to see some tuna on the screen.  We got out the jigs and we were able to pull in 2 blackfin tuna to add to our mix.  Jigging for tuna has to be one of my favorite things to do out there.  It is so fun to pull up on that rod and feel the rod tip bend over against the force of your jigging motion.  It's on!  Then the next goal is to get that blackfin in the boat before a shark eats it.  So I don't mess around reeling it in.  I muscle it up and reel as fast as I possibly can.  

We motored back to Cypress Cove Marina, gassed up the boat for Eddie's charter the next day, and filleted those fish out.  One beautiful thing about Eddie's charter business is that he owns two condos right there where his boat lifts are.  When you're leaving and coming back, your accommodations are right there.  And at your request, Eddie and Cheri can get a cook in there at your condo to grill your fish or do some sashimi.  When we arrived back, Cheri had the cook prepare us some wahoo and yellowfin sashimi and we ate like kings!  Wow!  Amazing I tell you! 

Our content creator and photographer Justin Hodge was along for the ride, and the photos you see here are shots he captured during the trip.  Lastly, if you are ever considering doing an offshore tuna trip, please consider my man Eddie with Fish Venice Charters.  They are wonderful people, the setup is amazing from the accommodations to the convenience of the boats being right there at the condos, and most importantly, they are great at what they do.  We also have an inshore captain named Chris Wilson with Rivers End Outfitters who will be glad to help you out if you want to plan an inshore/offshore 2-day trip with both of these charter captains.  

Until next time!

Michael Sims

CoFounder/President, H+G


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