• Published:September 15, 2017
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No other body of water has the amount of structure found in the Gulf of Mexico.

Oil and natural gas discoveries transformed the northern Gulf's complexion from open water to a vast complex of metal titans. But while these structures generically termed "rigs" were built to harvest natural resources, they've created a unique fishery for anglers keen on leveraging these emergent reefs.
The deeper offshore rigs provide hunting grounds for yellowfin tuna, wahoo, dolphin and billfish. These headliners get most of the press, but they’re not the only game in town. Hundreds of nearshore rigs standing inside of 10 miles from the Mississippi Delta passes offer a bounty of angling opportunity well within reach of single-engine skiffs and bay boats.




From speckled trout, redfish and black drum, to mangrove snapper, Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, bluefish, cobia and sharks, these nearshore structures offer a great complement to the Delta’s traditional marsh and bay fishing. These nearshore rigs are well worth a visit for a number of reasons.

Food Chain    
From clinging sea growth, to progressively larger forage that ensures a constant supply of food for predators, oil and gas rigs and platforms present self-contained ecosystems that continuously attract new residents.  

Overhead Cover    
Shadows moderate water temperatures during warmer months, while also providing a nice break for sun-weary anglers.  

Fortress
Subsurface frames offer trout, redfish and others hiding spots in which to evade harks, dolphins and other predators.  

Water Flow 
When tides move Gulf water past rigs, the legs of the structure redirect the flow of current. The resulting eddies and slack water pockets create textbook feeding scenarios for predators that know just where the baitfish and shrimp will appear. Game fish generally hold tighter to a rig during heavy current, but they’ll roam the perimeter during slower periods.  

GETTING THERE  

Highway 23, the Delta’s major north-south road dead-ends at Venice, Louisiana, the region’s southernmost populated port. From here, it’s about 30 miles to the Head of Passes where the Mississippi River splits into Pass-A-Loutre, South Pass and Southwest Pass. South Pass is the main artery for recreational anglers, while Southwest Pass (the deepest and longest) handles the Delta’s commercial traffic.  

Recreational anglers can certainly run Southwest Pass to access West Delta rigs, but others such as Red Pass and Tiger Pass offer quicker access to many productive spots without having to deal with giant wakes. Anglers running out South Pass find East Bay, between South and Southwest passes, peppered with rigs and structure.  

On the east side, Pass-A-Loutre’s siltation issues makes it a tricky route to run, unless you’re familiar with the shifting sandbars. Safer options for reaching East Delta Rigs include (north to south) the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet Canal, Baptiste Collete Pass, Main Pass and Octave Pass.  

CONSIDERATIONS  

Because small rigs often get overlooked and under-fished, they may hold untapped gold mines. On the other hand, larger, more complex structures provide more cover, break up more current and attract more forage.  

Continuing with the previous thought, rigs with crumbling adjacent piers or docking platforms are particularly attractive because of their peripheral targets. Fallen structures mean debris in the water, which, along with the shell piles often used to secure the rig, harbor loads of crustacean and baitfish forage.  

Some of the delta’s nearshore rigs stand as shallow as five or six feet, but serious game fish opportunity generally begins at the 10-foot mark. Most small boaters can comfortably fish out to about 25 feet of water.  

Rigs on either side of the Delta can produce on any given day; but safely navigating to and from your destinations typically depends on wind direction. Excessive wind also impacts boat positioning and casting angles. Position the boat in the lee and fish the side opposite the blow.  

Schooling baitfish and small forage species like mullet, pinfish and croakers won’t go unnoticed by hungry predators, so watch for surface activity and use your side-imaging sonar if you have it to peak under the rigs and find the buffet line.  

HOW TO FISH THEM  

Consistently, 1/4- to 1/2-ounce jigs will be your most productive set up. Easy to cast, you can use a jig head and soft plastic for hopping, swimming and pendulum swing presentations. Experimenting with various tail sizes, shapes and colors is quick and convenient, so you can easily dial in the fish’s preference.  

Jigs also offer a compact hook/weight package for dropping shrimp or cut baits to bull reds and mangrove snapper. Knocker rigs also fit this plan.  

Slip Float Rigs: Set a bobber stopper for the depth in which you want to fish your live bait. This is a good tactic for trout.

Lipless Crankbaits: Pulling one or two of these vibrating lures around a rig’s perimeter often proves effective for finding where trout and other species are concentrated. A couple of bites in the same area should tell you it’s time to slow down and work that spot.

Spoons: Spanish mackerel and bluefish love shiny, fast-moving objects, so sling a silver or gold spoon around the rig’s perimeter. Target the areas with the greatest baitfish concentrations.  

Wherever and however you fish the Delta’s nearshore rigs, monitor FishTrack’s fishing charts so you know the water temps and can pull up a Buoyweather marine forecast. Once out on the Gulf, always watch the horizon for intensifying storm cells. The Mississippi Delta creates its own weather and brutally fierce pop-up storms can suddenly cut off your return route with monstrous winds and deadly lightning. The fishing is great out here, but not even a banner day is worth messing around with Mother Nature.

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