Burning Offshore Drilling Platform Was Louisiana Fish Magnet

The big drilling rigs that work in the deep water miles off the coast of Louisiana are attractive to both gamefish and the anglers who pursue them. When these huge floating cities, known as “semisubs”, set up in an area, the rig’s superstructure and lights attract both. But offshore drilling is an inherently risky venture, and on the night of April 20 something went horribly wrong on the “Deepwater Horizon,” a huge drilling rig fifty miles southeast of Venice, Louisiana.

From the story in the Terrabonne Parish, LA Houma Today:
Survivors of a thunderous blast aboard an oil platform off the Louisiana were being reunited with their families at a suburban New Orleans hotel early today as the search for 11 missing workers continued. About 100 workers who made it to a supply boat after Tuesday night’s explosion, arrived in Port Fourchon earlier this morning where they were checked by doctors. “I’ve seen a lot of things, but I’ve never seen anything like that,” said a visibly tired worker, who declined to give his name, as he got in a car to leave with a woman.

Seventeen people were injured and taken to hospitals, four critically, in what could be one of the nation’s deadliest offshore drilling accidents of the past half-century. The rig, which is owned by Transocean Ltd., was under contract to the oil giant BP and doing exploratory drilling. Company officials would not comment on the survivors’ conditions. Authorities could not say when the flames might die out on the 400-by-250-foot rig, which is roughly twice the size of a football field, according the Transocean’s website. A column of boiling black smoke rose hundreds of feet over the Gulf of Mexico as fireboats shot streams of water at the blaze. Officials said the damage to the environment appeared minimal so far. Adrian Rose, vice president of Transocean, said the explosion appeared to be a blowout, in which natural gas or oil forces its way up a well pipe and smashes the equipment. But precisely what went wrong was under investigation.

Field & Stream talked to several charter boat captains who regularly fished around the Deepwater Horizon in the days before the accident.

“We weren’t fishing next to it when it happened,” says Captain Brent Roy of Venice Charters Unlimited. “But we had been fishing the Deepwater Horizon last week. There are always alarms and sirens going off on those platforms when you’re out there fishing. It’s mostly routine stuff and you never really think about something actually happening.”

Captain Mike Gray of Cajun Odysea Charters in Venice says the Deepwater Horizon was a popular destination for the area’s charter captains. “We’ve caught a lot of fish off that platform,” says Gray. “All the charter captains have.” Gray says that with the increase in deepwater oil exploration along the Louisiana coast there’s been an increase in the number of the kind of huge floating platforms like the Deepwater Horizon. “There’s been a ten to twenty percent increase in the number of big floaters. There are probably fifteen to twenty-five of them working the area now, and guys fish off of most of them.”

“We saw it burning out there today, and it’s really going,” says Captain Mike Ellis of Relentless Sportfishing Charters in Venice. “Obviously a lot of captains have had to change their plans because of it. We all just hope they find those guys safely. We found a lifejacket floating on the water today and I sure hope it wasn’t one of theirs.”