Beer and Loathing at Cypress Cove

image linking to 100 Top Captain and Guide Sites

After reading the offshore Venice posts on for the past few weeks and watching the Tuner sitting on her trailer since Memorial Day, I decided to break out of the summer doldrums and go fishing again. Eddie, Larry and Thomas said yes and my sweet wife gave me a free pass. I got two rooms at the Cypress Cove Marina and secured to services of one Speck-tacular, aka Eddie Burger.

We left Gainesville at 6am Wednesday morning and arrived in Venice, LA at 3:15pm local time. We got the Tuner launched, fueled, iced and tied up and went to Barbara’s for dinner. There are three places to eat in Venice, the Cypress Cove Marina restaurant….good food served rather slowly; Barbara’s….a shabby fried food juke with tasty grub and video poker; and Riverside…which I’ve never tried. The Cypress Cove Marina is a modern facility with dry storage, wet slips and a fully stocked ships store. The motel rooms are outstanding….clean and the beds are very comfortable. There is a continental breakfast for guests not out fishing. The marina is a bright spot in the middle of the ugliest piece of land in the south.

Thursday morning we left the dock at 5:30am, picked up some chum and hit the mouth of the Mississippi at 7am. Wind was from the east at 15-20 knots. NOAA was forecasting an increase to 25-30 knots as Tropical Storm Erika moved rapidly west. We ran to one of Speck’s secret baitfish spots and picked up three-dozen hardtails. At 9:30am we pulled alongside one of the floating oil exploration platforms. Seas were 5-7ft although we had very few breakers in the lee of the platform. The first bait went out and was immediately consumed by a smallish 12lb yellowfin. Over the next three hours we caught seven more fish in the same size range and lost three larger fish. At 2pm I got concerned about the winds shift to the north and suggested we head in soon. At 3pm we caught a yellowfin over 50lbs and everyone agreed to give it just a little while longer. The wind is a steady 20 knots and has shifted to the northeast. At 4pm we pulled the baits and headed in. Distance to the lighthouse was 30.9 statute miles. Compass course was 11 degrees, right into the teeth of what had become a really sloppy 4-5ft washboard chop.

The river has a 3 knot current flowing to the Gulf so we elected to run outside the levee to Tiger Pass and cut 5 miles and 20 minutes off the trip. After an hour of fish and boat cleaning, the flags at the marina are standing stiffly at attention. Larry brought a Foodsaver and spent a considerable amount of time vacuum packing the yellowfin. Dinner was at the Marina restaurant where the special was shrimp stew, pork chop, country ribs, fried chicken, fried catfish, fried potatoes and drink for $7.99……the Weather Channel is calling for Erika to pass 150 miles south of Venice and with no fishing on Friday, the crew decides to take full advantage of the enormous amount of food available.

It must be noted that Eddie and Larry shared one of the rooms and Larry’s snoring kept Eddie awake for most of the trip. Thomas and I had the other room with Speck saving his guiding money and sleeping on a cushion on the floor. Thomas did not snore but after a particularly large meal became a musical flatulation machine, waking me a couple of times with what can only be described as a triple flutterblast. At some point in the evening, Speck went down to the Tuner to get some sleep. Friday morning dawned clear and bright with winds at 20-25 knots from the east. Louisiana is a state full of insects and every morning the Tuner was covered with thousands of gnat-like carcasses. I spent a little while cleaning up the boat and fixing some problems that had popped up the previous day. We took advantage of the continental breakfast around 9am. Thomas is a boat broker by profession who has fished all over the world. It is hard to name a boat that he hasn’t spent some time on. We passed a pleasant couple of hours discussing the pros and cons of different hulls both large and small.

There are two marinas in Venice that cater to recreational fishermen so we left Cypress Cove and drove to Venice Marina to get the correct size sabiki for the bait we would be targeting on Saturday, look for a cool t-shirt and generally pass the time while the wind continued to howl. After a lengthy lunch at Barbara’s, we ran out of options and went back to the boat. A Michelob front began building immediately. About 3pm, Larry left to take a nap. I walked across the dock to help Speck diagnose an electrical problem with a Mako he would be chartering on Saturday evening. Thomas and Eddie continued their discussions while listening to some tunes on the stereo.

Somewhere around 4pm, I heard Thomas yell, “You’re fine, we’ve got you. Don’t try to crank the engines.” I looked up to see Thomas and Eddie standing on the gunnels of the Tuner getting ready to catch a brand new Cabo 48 named Special T as the wind blew it broadside toward my boat. A couple of seconds later a pair of big diesels roared to life and the Cabo lurched toward Eddie’s outstretched arms. Thomas was on the bow and the big boat’s momentum knocked him off balance and he desperately tired to jump to the dock. I heard him scream as I managed to get a large fender between the Cabo and Tuner and avoided any damage to either boat.

Apparently the Cabo was backing away from the fuel dock when both engines shut down. With the wind blowing him toward us, the owner panicked and tried to crank the motors without taking them out of gear. Once we got him alongside the Tuner, he could not shut the motors down. Without so much as a thanks, an apology or a kiss-my butt, he backed away and headed toward the river. Thomas was writhing on the pier holding his foot in the air. The wooden edge of the dock caught his right heel at the end of his leap. He had his cell phone out and was talking to his old college roommate, an orthopedic surgeon back in Charleston. The owner of the Marina, Sonny, walked over and offered assistance, allowing that the Special T’s owner was severely “overfunded”.

Somehow the conversation quickly became centered around Sonny’s contention that you can’t crank Twin-Disc transmissions while in gear and Thomas’ certainty that you can….he had seen it done before and just witnessed it again. One remark lead to another and the end result of the unfortunate conversation is that we are welcome to come back to Cypress Cove in the future….without Thomas. I’m betting that if Sonny knew the kind of pain Thomas was in during the episode, he would change his mind.

We actually did not know how badly Thomas was injured and he soaked his foot in a bucket of ice while I cut some yellowfin into strips and prepared teriaki and wasabi. Around 8pm the wind died out. Later we carried Thomas to the room on our shoulders. He announced he was up for fishing in the morning to our surprise.

We left the dock at 4:30am and headed down the Mississippi at 24 knots. Of my newly installed LED running lights, only the starboard green was working. The port and stern lights were blown after 1 day’s use. The advantage to LEDs is supposedly far lower power consumption and far longer life. The disadvantage is you cannot change a bulb, you have to replace the whole unit. The lack of lights presented no problem as the waning moon and Mars lit the river pretty well. We blasted past the lighthouse as streaks of the coming sunrise punched through the darkness in the east. There was a gentle 4ft swell from the east.

We got 2 dozen hardtails at Speck’s bait station and headed to the floating rigs again. Thomas drove the boat as we slowly circled the rig trailing the live bait. This morning we caught five more yellowfins, one close to 50lbs, and lost a couple of nice fish. As we were reeling our last fish, the Special T trolled directly in front of us 50 ft off the bow and forced us to turn to land the tuna. His actions would lead you to believe that the owner of this boat clearly has more money than sense or manners. He certainly has all the attributes of a FREAKING IDIOT, as defined by Webster’s. Later we did some deep dropping on some of the closer rigs catching a couple of undersized red snapper before heading in. A line of thunderstorms formed over land and marched southward towards us. The darker clouds appeared to be east and west so we ran right up the river and missed the worst of the weather.

We made it to the Marina by 4pm and saw no reason to spend another night in Venice. At 6pm, the boat, fish and crew were cleaned and headed toward Florida. As we pulled away from Cypress Cove, Speck was still trying to get one of the engines cranked on the boat he was going back out on that evening. I asked the crew to pretend they were 20 again and stay up with me. For the most part they bought into it and in spite of a steady rain from Mobile to Tallahassee, we pulled into my driveway at 4:02am.

The blush is off the trip and it’s time to examine what we learned.
1. Speck-tacular has packed a lot of fishing into his 21 years. He once again took a bunch of good-natured ribbing from us older guys in stride and had a few snappy comebacks of his own. He is absolutely worth the money if you ever head to Venice.
2. The 10-hour truck ride is over before you know it if you’re with folks you enjoy.
3. Occasionally the big tuna don’t feel like biting out there….we just happened to get there during one of those times. Our biggest fish only weighed 47lbs but 15 keepers in two days with several nice fish getting away cannot be defined as a bad trip.
4. The x-rays revealed Thomas shattered the calcanius bone in his right foot and will be on crutches for a minimum of three months. If it doesn’t heal properly, surgery and pins will be required with an additional three months of crutches followed by three months of rehab. In retrospect, I wish he had let the Cabo slam into the Tuner….I’d be picking through Awlgrip estimates and he’d be healthy.
5. According to the theory that you reap what you sow, the doofus on the Special T has got it spades. It couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

Copyright by Capt Wiley Horton