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A Great Fishing Guide and Coast Guard Captain

Article written by:
Outdoor Writer Jerry LaBella: Saltwater Fishing Articles




To call someone two-faced is generally an insult— unless you happen to be Captain Paul Gipson. His personification, contrary to the suggestion, is more like that of Clark Kent transforming into Superman. The only difference is Gipson's transformation is one of which takes him from distinguished professional guide fisherman to heroic Coast Guard Auxiliarist, and not necessarily in that order.

Like his counterpart, Gipson's reputation precedes him. Mention his name to any of his colleagues, and stand back and listen to an earful of commendations. "For the Coast Guard, he's an asset that we would have a hard time doing without. His area knowledge is invaluable to me," Senior Chief Ernest Mellow of the Venice (Louisiana) Coast Guard affirmed.

But Mellow has had the privilege of seeing the other face of Gipson as well. "He's the angler of anglers. Before coming here, I never caught fish. Now, since I've been with him, I'm catching fish for the first time," Mellow affirmed.

Gipson's two-faced love affair started over two decades ago when he decided to forego New Orleans city life for residency near Venice. Before long, Gipson had to learn the waterways out of necessity, after going into the crewboat business. Over the years, he eventually became an expert navigator of the countless watercourses that intertwine throughout the Mississippi River Delta complex.

Consequently, this knowledge has aided Gipson in satisfying two unquenchable desires: fishing and rescuing people. "I live to go out there to look for somebody," the energetic retiree confessed. "I guess I’m on the water four days a week, either fishing or rescuing someone."

Gipson not only knows the waters like the back of his hand, he knows where to fish them on any given tide or weather condition. That in itself is a real accomplishment, given the fact that fresh water intrusion affects delta fishing throughout the year, even for the best of anglers.

For instance, two of the most difficult challenges facing delta anglers are finding areas less affected by strong river currents and locating clean, fishable water. Gipson is one of the few anglers who has honed both of these skills to a fine science.

In the main spillway of Southwest Pass, located about 11 miles south of the Head of Passes, Gipson demonstrated how to overcome the first of the two objections. To appreciate his strategy, however, you must first be made aware that the delta's spillways are areas typically riddled with currents strong enough to sweep an adrift vessel out to sea or perhaps onto a coastal sandbar. Yet these areas are considered fishing hot spots because these same stirring currents also displace bait fish and crustaceans for feeding predator species that hang in ambush just off the dominate stream flow.

Proceeding to illustrate, Gipson steered his boat through the piling dam entrance of the main spillway, where forcefully twisting eddies tugged at his hull. "Drop the anchor over here," Gipson commanded. Just off the sandy shore and directly behind the bulkhead dam where water laid tranquilly still like a patient under sedation.

The two-faced angler went to work, routinely threading a 1/4-oz. bullet-type sliding sinker up his line, then tying on a 3/8-oz. white shrimp tail jig. For added enticement, he skewered a shrimp piece onto the hook.

"You wanna thump the bottom," Gipson said as he knocked on the side of the boat in simulation, "because every time it goes on the bottom, it's knocking on the door for the fish.

The fish are naturally enticed by the thumping sound produced by the weights hitting together as the rig is jigged up and down on the bottom.


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