The Amazing Offshore Oil Rig

Bobby Byrd & John Cochrane

The Amazing Offshore Oil Rig Nansen platform in Gulf of Mexico.

The oil and gas industry uses amazing technology to bring up petroleum from underneath the ocean floor. These offshore oil rigs, located off the Texas and Louisiana coasts in the Northern Gulf of Mexico, number in the thousands and extend from near shore to depths of over 6,000 feet of water. However, there is another amazing thing these "Islands of Steel" do; they concentrate baitfish and attract large ocean predators like marlin, sailfish, tuna, wahoo and dorado. Fish are attracted to stable objects. Anyone who has spent much time offshore knows that a buoy, a piece of wood or any kind of floating debris can attract fish. Savvy fishermen know to always check these floating objects for gamefish. Baitfish use this floating structure to hide in an otherwise featureless open expanse of water. A food chain forms as larger species prey on smaller ones. The offshore rig is one big fish attracting device and it has made a tremendous difference in the success of bluewater fishermen.

For many years, bluewater fishermen along the Gulf Coast relied solely on bottom structure, weed lines and visual signs like birds or surface feeding bait schools to find gamefish. These features were not always available and many times unproductive. Trolling for billfish was sort of like mowing the lawn, criss-crossing an area in hopes of running across a fish. With the placement of the first deepwater oil production platforms, the fishing immediately became more consistent and reliable. Many fishermen don't realize or have forgotten what a difference the rigs make in our fishing. We take them for granted. On a recent trip to the southern Gulf of Mexico near Veracruz, where oil rigs are just now being developed, it was interesting to watch what the local fishermen did. Even though they had great natural structure and great fishing, when a semi-submersible drilling rig moved in nearby to do some temporary exploration, they ran to the rig whenever they could. The fishing was just more consistent and productive, proving once more the value of these man-made structures. It's hard to imagine the Texas coast without rigs, the fishing success we have enjoyed for years, the Mexican bluewater fishermen in the southern Gulf are now discovering for the first time.

When fishing an oil rig it is important to understand what is going on around you. You should first establish which way the current is going. This will give you an idea of where to look for bait. Most of the time, the bait will be on the up-current side of the rig. If it's not, there is probably a counter-current of some kind deeper in the water column. Once you have found the bait, you know that area is the most likely place a big predator like a blue marlin or yellowfin tuna, is going to show up. So, you will want to concentrate your efforts in that location and watch the surface for signs of feeding fish. You may also want to catch some bait to use for live bait fishing. While close to the rig, be aware of oil field activity like supply boats loading and offloading. Be sure to be courteous and give them plenty of room. The last thing we need is to be prohibited from fishing the rigs due to problems caused by sportfishing boats getting in the way of oil rig operations. Recently, sportfishing boats have been denied use of the mooring buoy at Nansen, a floating platform 100 miles off the coast, owned by Kerr-McGee. This is an unfortunate situation since the buoy represents a convenient and safe place to tie off during the night. Mooring buoys used to be deployed around most of the deep rigs offshore, but now are few and far between. Most oil field supply boats have dynamic positioning technology onboard that holds the vessel automatically in one position. The cost, liability and maintenance of the mooring buoy have made it obsolete. This is unfortunate for us fishermen because when a mooring buoy is placed near a rig, it spreads the bait out and makes it an easier target for billfish. Many veteran bluewater fishermen have fond memories of the phenomenal fishing success these buoys have provided in the past.

Offshore rigs are now being deployed in deeper water at a rapid pace. Ironically, these structures that enhance our fishing so much are now becoming so numerous that it has been suggested the fish are getting dispersed between them. Any rig in 30 fathoms or deeper can consistently attract these larger gamefish, especially when located near the edge of the continental shelf. When there were fewer rigs, anglers had fewer choices on where to fish. Consequently, the fish had fewer choices also. Now that's not the case, trying to find the rig where the fish are is the real challenge. Fishermen use oceanographic data like current, water color, altimetry and sea surface temperature to determine which rigs to fish. All things considered, it's a nice problem to have. Without these rigs we wouldn't enjoy the enhanced fishing they provide. If you haven't tried it, take advantage of our unique situation here in the Gulf of Mexico and experience big game fishing at the rigs. Want to catch a blue marlin? Don't worry about hopping on a plane, they are right here in your own backyard!

For more information about big game fishing at the rigs or rigging your boat, give us a call at Byrd & Cochrane. Remember, Byrd & Cochrane is an authorized broker for Fox Yacht Sales, the Texas dealer for Cabo and Riviera Yachts. Come by the Fox Yacht Sales office at Tops-N-Towers and check out the line up of Cabo Yachts as well as Riviera Yachts, made in Australia. Fox has an extensive inventory of brokerage boats and we will be glad to help you find a boat or sell yours. We specialize in sportfishing boats and motor yachts. Come by and get a great deal on your next boat. For more information call our office at 281-291-0656 or check out our website at www.byrd-cochrane.com or www.foxyachtsales.com