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Upper Gulfcoast This is the area for spearfishermen in Panama City, Destin/Ft. Walton, Pensacola, Alabama, Miss., and Louisiana.

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Old 08-11-2003, 11:57 AM   #1
Dive4Blood
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Xtreme Misinformation. Venice, Louisiana August 8-10

This weekend I along with Spearboard members Bubblejunkie, Shooter Dan, Reef Raider, Merk, and Seastalker booked an overnighter rig spearfishing trip through Xtreme Charters which is a booking agent for many of the charter boats in Venice, LA. Halfway through my twelve hour ride home very early this morning I made a checklist in my head of the bill of goods sold to us by Xtreme partially to keep from falling asleep, and partially as a head's up for those that want to book a trip through them.

Price/Trip Length/No. of Tanks
Most of the people on this Board know I set up myself and help run 12-15 weekend trips per year to the Fla Middlegrounds aboard the Jolly Rogers 2, and have been doing so for a number of years now. I'd like to think that since I'm frequently in Xtreme's position as the "booking agent", that I would be pretty clear with my questions, and I would have the trip's expectations pretty well laid out with them. When I first called, I indicated that we wanted a trip similar to what we run, leave Friday night come back Sunday, at least six tanks. No problem I was told, $425 each including a $100 dep, and they'll even talk to the captain to see if we can bring an extra tank or two. Cool, I'm psyched, $600 check sent, I reread the book Helldiver's Rodeo, and now I'm chomping at the bit for the trip. I call to touch base a couple months before the trip. When I review the trip price with Xtreme (deposit cashed at this point) the price changes to $100 PER HOUR with the explanation that this is what ALL charterboats charge in Venice. I'm already hooked on doing the trip, and getting reeled in fast, so I bend, settling for a 30 hour trip @ $3000 ($500pp) leaving Sat morn, and coming back Sun afternoon. At the dock Sat morning our Capt Troy Wetzel (who seemed to take in stride getting caught in all this crossfire) takes a look at our gear, and says he was told this would only be a four tank trip. 1500 mile round trip, and 24 hours total drive time for four tanks? It almost came to some of the guys getting close to saying **** it, that Capt Troy Ok'ed the "extra tanks"

Food-During the initial call, Xtreme said they would take care of most of the food with cajun specialties like duck boudin, venison roasts and sausages being provided. Post-deposit it changed to just one meal. On the drive over to Venice, I was called and told that they would bring us some Popeye's chicken (no joke!!!). On the boat Capt Troy told us he didn't do any food, but considering the circumstances he brought along some venison/wild hog sausages which turned out awesome. Thanks to Bubblejunkie who brought some mini-season bugs, and Seastalker who picked up some last minute steaks.

Tuna Fishing- It was always understood that we would fish for yellowfin tuna during our trip. I even was called on the cell phone en route to Venice, and told that we would be tying up to Medusa, a deepwater floater rig, to fish all Sat night for tuna. As it turned out not one line was put in the water for yellowfins the entire trip. The crew explained that it would take too long out of the trip to effectively target them. The fishing that we did do consisted of deep drops in 250'. It was extremely slow, but Shooter Dan and Seastalker who had electric reels managed 4 beautiful American Reds between 18#-20# which was pretty much the sum of the hook and line catch.

Depths-In spite of most of the group being tech certified, Xtreme insisted that we keep a 130' max depth so we gassed up our nitrox appropriately. Capt Troy was expecting us however to dive deeper, and would have had no problem with us doing so. Our nitrox mixes became our undoing as you will soon read.

So enough bitching. What about the trip? I have to say that the experience of diving the rigs was awesome. They are everywhere you look in every direction, in all different shapes and sizes. After a 20-30 foot murk layer of dirty green water it opens up to unlimited blue vis. The diffuse light penetrating the network of support columns, cross members, and pipes combined with the ever present weird echoes, and constant clanging of machinery from above gave the whole scene a very cool sci-fi/ horror film vibe. The murk layer usually had good amounts of regular size mangos, and the upper blue water layer usually had swarms of big sheepshed and triggers. These triggers could kick their Middlegrounds brethren's asses. They are huge, and very aggressive, constantly trying to bite you even when on the stringer. Huge shools of bait, lookdowns, jack crevalle, and tropical fish were everywhere. Amberjack and cobia were sporadic, I was expecting monster schools of each on every dive. When we would dive to our max nitrox depths of 130-150 feet we would almost always see trophy grouper and red snapper at 200 ft plus in large quantities swimming below us. Bubblejunkie did manage to lure up a 36# gag and a 26# red snapper on the first dive, but that was really the only true trophies speared. Personally I shot three good size cobias which was cool since we don't see them that frequently in the Middlegrounds, some nice 7#-10# scamp groupers, average barjacks, feedove some nice mangos, a 30#ish aj, and an Igloo 128 cooler full of big triggers and sheepshead. I'm sure the other guys will post their personal catches.

The boat we went on (Kingfish) was a very basic, yet clean and functional boat. I like that they have a grill, and run A/C in the cabin at night, two things I need to work on to be standard on the Jolly Rogers 2. It has a huge deck area that lends itself very well to spearfishing. Capt Troy Wetzel proved to be very friendly and helpful after everyone cooled down from the initial miscommunication about the trip. He told us that this is is the tail end of the rig tank spearfishing season since most of the rigs have received heavy pressure all summer, and several large spearfishing rodeos had just recently occurred, a detail Xtreme must have forgotten to tell us. The prime time from what Troy said is early April to early June where alot of the fish that are now in the deeper depths are available, and not wary in the shallower portions of the rigs.

Am I disapponted? Bigtime. Would I go again? In a heartbeat. I just chalk up this trip as a learning experience. My next trip (Bubblejunkie is already in too) will be in late spring, and I AM GOING TO DEAL WITH CAPT. TROY WETZEL DIRECT. He offered to bring a compressor to fill air, and let us scrub with our 80% nitrox pony bottles to allow the capability to hit the deeper depths for 6-8 drops a day. Buyer beware if you deal with Xtreme. Standing by.
Shooter Dan, please post some pics, when you get over being pissed at us for ruining the last spot . Standing by.

AJ Suarez


Lousiana Offshore Fishing
Capt Troy Wetzel
504-834-5380
www.captaintroywetzel.com
troywetzel@cox.net

Last edited by Dive4Blood; 08-11-2003 at 03:30 PM.
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Old 08-11-2003, 12:08 PM   #2
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I'm over it & I'm working on those pictures now.

We did fish some at nite, but the take wasn't that spectactular.

I did manage up 3 American Reds around 20# and finished off my daily limit including the 14#er I shot earlier.

Seastalker had a nice 20# red as well. 200' drops, the electric Reels did the job and I would highly recommend them to everyone who goes.
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Old 08-11-2003, 12:09 PM   #3
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AJ,
you mistyped the website. it is www.captaintroywetzel.com

Damn, I am sorry to hear that you were so disappointed about the trip. I remember how psyched you were about going on it. I learned that same lesson when I went diving in Bali several years ago when I booked a charter through a "middle-man" who jacked up the prices so he could get a cut for linking me up with a dive charter. He charged me $100 for a 2 tank trip that actually cost $30 if I had booked directly through the charter.

Sounds like though you still had the chance to get some nice fish nonetheless. Looking forward to seeing the pics.

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Old 08-11-2003, 12:11 PM   #4
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Hmm..this is interesting. I am scheduled to go with Troy in late September. I'm a little concerned that the fishing will not be very good after reading your post.

What were the depths of the rigs that you dove? Do you know what rig block you were in?

I would imagine that you could probably settle the disagreements with Al Walker directly. He regularly posts on www.rodnreel.com

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Old 08-11-2003, 12:23 PM   #5
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I stand corrected Hector. I just typed the wesbsite address verbatim on Troy's business card.

LSU, the rigs we dove on were in 250-300 ft. I don't know what rig block we were in, but do remember that one of the one's we dove was MP299. I have nothing to settle with Xtreme, I will take my future business directly to the boat operator. Good luck, give a shout if you ever want to dive the Middlegrounds. Late fall and winter is the best time for steel slinging out there.

AJ Suarez
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Old 08-11-2003, 12:27 PM   #6
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The King Fish Set Up



Night Fishing
Seastalker and Shooter Dan

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Old 08-11-2003, 12:35 PM   #7
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Dive4Blood with some Scamps



Jerry's First Drop



I have to say that Capt. Troy is an outstanding Captain and the trip was a learning experience.

Free diving the saftey stop zone isn't that bad out of turn, but diving the upper 50 out of turn really turned the deco stop scrap shooting into real scrap shooting. I took a 10 mango on one stop and always loaded up on 7 & 6 lb trigs.
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Old 08-11-2003, 12:41 PM   #8
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Merk,

What's up with that shot behind D4B?
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Old 08-11-2003, 12:48 PM   #9
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MP 299??? I'm glad you guys are alright. There was a report recently of some Hydrogen Sulfide at 299 in high concentrations, way above the lethal level. We were five miles west of y'all at MP 72. 72 is in about 130 feet of water and 299 is in 200+

Did you dive the massive rig that is made up of about 10 structures with connecting walkways?
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Old 08-11-2003, 12:50 PM   #10
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The H2S at MP299 must be the reason why it looks like I have a possessed alien head growing from my shoulder in the scamp pic. Yes we did dive that big interconnected rig.

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Old 08-11-2003, 04:02 PM   #11
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Sorry about the problems with the dive trip.

Nobody up here dives with NITROX while speardiving the rigs. Someone should have thought about that one.

Tell me more about the dive trip. What size were the cobia? No big AJs? Any current to speak of?
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Old 08-11-2003, 05:58 PM   #12
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Damn nice fish Jerry.
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Old 08-11-2003, 08:18 PM   #13
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Great report D4b.

Nice Fkn fish, Jerry! Any dive you get out of the water with a 36 lb Gag, 26 lb Red Snap, and a big Sheepshead is a memorable freaking dive!

Sorry about the "surprises" you guys received.

Hector, I believe yer 22 lb "Clearwater" snapper is in danger dude.
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Old 08-11-2003, 08:39 PM   #14
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All good looking fish there.

Glad to hear that you guys made the best of it and found a way to deal direct for the next time.

Wish some of the LA guys would comment on whether your experience was typical in how non-locals are treated and any advice for planning a trip to LA. Sounds like they have some great shooting there. Would like to try it myself someday.
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Old 08-11-2003, 08:47 PM   #15
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Good job fellas....sorry you got f***ed by the middle man. Hope you have a better experience next time.
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