Fishing the Gulf of Mexico’s Islands of Steel

John Cochrane
Fishing the Gulf of Mexico’s Islands of Steel

Texas is blessed with an abundance of oil and natural gas. Drilling rigs, pump jacks, compressor stations and oil refineries are all part of the landscape and most of the fishermen here are familiar with oil rigs both on land and in the water. There are over 4000 platforms in the gulf waters, mainly off Texas and Louisiana. This concentration of so many man-made structures in our waters is a unique situation that we as anglers can take great advantage of. Bay fishermen know all about catching trout in the bays around rigs and coastal fishermen target snapper, grouper and amberjack around these structures. Bluewater fishermen take advantage of deepwater rigs for catching bait and large gamefish that are attracted to the habitat these "islands of steel" provide. An offshore oil rig is easily seen from miles away, so it provides a visual reference for navigating and while trolling. Manned rigs, standby boats, crew boats and helicopters that service these platforms also provide a degree of safety should you have an emergency on board.

The continental shelf extends out from our coast at a gentile slope until it reaches about 500 ft. then drops off rapidly. Many rigs on the shelf and along the edge of it can be fixed platforms, sitting on the seafloor. Once you get beyond the shelf the water gets deep very quickly and floating rigs and drill ships take over in this area. Some floating rigs (referred to simply as "floaters") are temporary drilling platforms that move from one location to another, punching holes in the sea floor, looking for oil and gas. Other floating rigs are more permanent in nature and are attached to the seafloor with flexible connectors and chains. All of these structures can provide great fishing and have enhanced the bluewater fishing in our waters for years.

At the moment some of the most popular rigs along the coast are a type known as a "spar." They are essentially a 600-ft cylindrical tube floating vertically with an oil platform attached to the top. The entire structure is attached to the sea floor with heavy chains. Used in very deep water, these structures attract schools of tuna, billfish, dolphin and wahoo, as well as many species of bait fish. Along our coast there are five of these rigs. Starting with the newest and most southern spar,
Perdido is located about 120 miles east of Port Isabel. Perdido attracted many boats this past summer and produced several tournament winners. Hoover/Diana is another spar located in almost 5000 ft. of water, nearly equidistant between Port O'Connor and Freeport. From either port the run is about 125 miles. Always a favorite, this rig has produced several winning fish in the Poco Bueno Tournament, one of the top big-money tournaments in the Gulf. About 25 miles north of Hoover/Diana are Boomvang and Nansen, twin rigs separated by about 8 miles. Freeport is the closest port at 100 miles and the water around these rigs is near 3000 ft. Given their proximity to each other and being the closest deepwater rigs to land, this is one of the most popular spots for night-time tuna fishing and billfish during the day. On calm summer weekends, especially during a tournament, this area can look like a parking lot with all the boats fishing there. Last but not least is Gunnison, located 135 miles from Freeport, again the closest port. A favorite for fishermen wanting to get away from the crowd, this rig is more remote and does not have many other structures near it, so if you go here, you are pretty much committed to fish it for the day.

As of this writing, the first blue marlin off Texas this year was caught on an outboard fishing out of Port O'Connor at
Boomvang on January 17, so the New Year is getting off to a great start! The wahoo bite is going strong near the Flower Gardens with Dan Logan's Cazadora reporting five big wahoo, a huge kingfish and some grouper. Swordfish specialists Shayne Babich and Mark Glassmeyer also teamed up one weekend to catch four swordfish in one night!

Texas has some great fishing and we can attribute a lot of our success to the offshore oil rig.
For information on the location of movable "floaters" and other rigs, as well as offshore conditions including water temperature, currents, altimetry and weather, go to Hilton's Offshore website; This website is a real asset to the bluewater fisherman and the information will help you save time, money and catch more fish.

To find out more about fishing at the rigs, visit us at our
Fox Yacht Sales office at Tops-N-Towersor see us at the Houston Fishing Show, March 3-7, at the George R. Brown Convention Center. At Fox we have an extensive inventory of brokerage boats and we are the exclusive Texas dealer for CABO Yachts. For more information go to or e-mail [email protected].