Tuna, Mardi Gras-Style
I had the feeling I was in trouble when a mutual acquaintance said, incredulously, you and Falterman together!? At Mardi Gras!? You boys are gonna get arrested, guaranteed, after he learned that I was heading to the Big Easy with noted social theorist Robert Carroll for the annual foray into heathen decadence. (Oh yeah, we were also slated to do some tuna fishing in the Gulf, which is how I justify filling this space with a preamble of this sort.)
To make it all the more curious, I had never met Brett Falterman, but I had heard he was a hard-core outdoorsman and hell-raiser, which always makes for interesting copy and company. With his masters degree in marine biology, focusing on pelagic species marlin he followed the obvious path and now charter-fishes fulltime out of Venice, Louisiana.
As soon as Falterman picked me up at the airport, the party was on, and it didnt stop until several days later when I gratefully boarded a plane for Chesapeake Country, licking my wounds and vowing never to pollute my body in such a manner again. Talk about Gonzo outdoors sports. If I ever get around to writing a Hunter Thompson-esque version of my outdoors adventures, Ill only need a few characters like Falterman and the blank pages will fill up effortlessly.
A Louisiana native, hes as bayou as gumbo and gators, and he makes no bones about his role as a top predator. From elk in the Rockies to mako sharks offshore, hell chase any wild game with the intensity that Sherlock Holmes reserved for Moriarty. Thats a good thing if youre one of his fishing clients. But its a horse of another color if youre an out-of-town guest and hes your host: Keep up or get left behind. Could it be that my halcyon days of running hard and fishing harder are on the wane? Lord, I hope not, but 72 hours with minimal sleep, constant festivities and four-foot swells aint no walk in the park.
But Carroll and I soldiered on; after all, we had no one to blame for this predicament but ourselves. We left the peaceful confines of the marina and headed out of Tiger Pass toward the offshore grounds. We ran past huge oil and gas platforms, erupting from the water like metallic behemoths, a simultaneous testament to humankinds engineering genius and our ultra-dependence on fossil fuels. A continuous, distinct line of pea-green water on one side and coffee-brown water on the other marked where the Mighty Mississippis flow banged into the Gulf of Mexico.
At a place called the Lumps, we ladled chum overboard while drifting chunks of pogies or menhaden: what we call bunker up here. Soon the rod bent and line peeled off, and Falterman handed me the stick. The effects of my infirmity temporarily dissipated, the tug of the wild creature at the other end proving to be the perfect antidote. Falterman gaffed the 30-pound yellowfin tuna expertly, then bled and iced it quickly. Later, much of it was consumed sashimi-style. All told, we boated five small blackfin tunas and a vermilion snapper as well.
At the end of the trip, I didnt know whether to thank Brett Falterman or cuss him. But once the swells in my head flattened, I realized that any chance to fish the big water off the Big Easy, even at less than full strength, was well worth the temporary pain. And we didnt even get arrested.