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Freediving the rigs in the Gulf of Mexico

Thread Status: Hello , There was no answer in this thread for more than 60 days.
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Just visiting...
Aug 26, 2001
Hey gang. Just an update on my trip to the rigs with rigdiver this past week.

Well, we only got out one day, but that one day beat all my trips spearfishing combined. It was pretty amazing.

I understand that most people scuba dive these rigs because freediving them's just plain difficult. I found out what they were talking about. However, w/ a bit of coaching from mr. rigdiver(Mike), I had a blast on my first rig in 150' of water.

These rigs act like any other structure found out there. Fish congregate to them for both protection and food. The legs of the rigs had quite a bit of coral growth on them and the food chain exploded outwards from there.

The top 30 or so feet had a greenish tint to it with a slight current, and... lots of huge barracuda. The vis was about 15 feet. My first dive ran me smack into a curious cobia(lemon fish as they call them) but the guys on the boat missed on the gaffing and ripped my cable out of it(poor shot on the fish because of proximity). The fish escaped recapture and swam back down out of sight. :head

My second dive brought me past the 30' mark and the vis opened up to about 40 feet. Small King Mackerel were swimming under me, but away from the rig. As I followed them out, I pulled up to line up a shot. As my feet dropped below horizontal, I noticed an entire WALL of Kingfish right in front of me! It was amazing. There were fish of all sizes, so I picked the nearest big boy and let 'er rip. I heard the impact on the fish, but in no time my floatline was screaming away from me. I surfaced in the direction of the departing line and luckily managed to grab the last 10 or so feet of its 130' length. The fish immediately sounded and soon I was fighting the fish directly below me. About 5 minutes later, I could make out the silver body of this smoker. After a few feable attempts to tail the fish only to watch it dart off another 60', I finally was able to wrap it up w/ my arms and legs. I was amazed at the girth of this thing. Swimming away from the boat, the guys read outloud "42lbs!" from their scale. Beat my pb by 12lbs. :D

Next dive followed a pretty long breathup. I had noticed how all the amberjack were deep and I wanted to check out their sizes. I dropped to about 60' and paused, still slowly sinking though. The AJ's waited a few seconds, then all came up to greet me. Most of them were around 20lbs, but 20 or so feet underneath the group was this darker figure. So, I kept dropping. This fish kept its distance and started swimming away, but as it turned to leave, I recognized it as an African Pompano. I immediately setup my profile on the fish and glided straight towards it because I knew I didn't have much time to squeeze off a shot. The fish never sped up and allowed me to close the gap quickly. I pulled the trigger at about 90' and never looked down after that.

I surfaced and saw my bouy dancing on the surface about 20' from me. This fish was nearly impossible to pull up! But, I realized it came up easier if I didn't pull so hard. The slip-tip-less shaft(tahitian) was planing the fish against my pulling, making it seem like I was pulling up a dumptruck. :blackeye The fish was a spectacle to admire up close. Its body was immensely tall, yet quite thin. The shaft had penetrated the entire body and had actually toggled the rear of the shaft back into the fish from the other side. The guys in the boat yelled out a "37lbs!". Wow, my first African Pompano!

We spent another hour or so at that rig and pulled in 2 more pompanos and a handful of amberjack. One of the pompanos made me follow him quite a bit below the 100' mark before allowing a shot. That one rang up at 40lbs. The guys on the boat were thoroughly entertained waiting the eternal minutes after our descents just to see our bouys race off. They had never seen freedive hunting before, and I'm sure they're still talking about it today. ;)

On our way back (we were about 60 miles off Biloxi, MS) we stopped at one more rig. The guys were dropping lines off the back of the boat, but had no luck. After about 20 minutes, I opted to be dropped off up current of the rig where schools of bait had formed on the surface. I wanted to drift back through them to see if I could get another whopper of a kingfish. Ironically, my first drop through them resulted in a memory that will never fade from my mind.

I cought my breath and descended a bit away from the bait. I tapered my dive off to about 40 feet and instantly noticed all the hardtails swimming everywhere. I dropped about 10 feet below them and started seeing what was feeding on them. Yes, mackerel were everywhere, but nothing over 15lbs. As I debated taking a shot on one that looked to be pushing 20, I noticed the water color below me change. Instantly, the bluish-green went to bright red. A fish that I had never seen in the water before had swarmed in directly beneath me by the hundreds. They were so thick, I could barely make out anything beyond them. They were curious to my presence, but kept their distance. Luckily, they were just in range.. maybe about 15-18 feet away. I lined up on one, which was quite difficult due to the sheer number of them, and pulled the trigger. The school immediately scattered and I surfaced with my floatline racing through my hand. I let go of the line in fear of having the fish break off, but after a few bobs of the 35L rob allen float, I started pulling in the fish. I had placed a perfect securing shot and had the fish brained in no time. I had no choice but to accept this invasion of adrenaline. Yeah, I was pumped! :D I raised the snapper and gave a hollar. Wow, a Red Snapper! Another first for me! :eek:

We only managed a few more drifts before the current became unbearable. However, we landed two more of these tasty beasts. Our cooler now held 3 snapper, all over 20lbs. The largest at 21.5.

Well, that was it... We took our time getting back. The weather was beautiful and the seas were just a ripple shy of glass. It's been over a week since this trip and I can honestly say that I'm still on cloud 9. :)

Here's a pic of our catch back at the dock...
One of the African Pompanos...
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Rig Diving

Very impressive array of fish. Thank you for sharing the story with us, I enjoyed it immensely! It's good to see some freedivers having success out on those rigs. It seems that most of the guys that spear in the upper gulfcoast are using cylinders. It also looks like you had some very good hosts that really knew the area. It's great to be able to diversify your spearing setting; fresh water, gulf coast rigs, east coast/keys reefs, etc...

Nice post!
rig diving

Hi andrsn

One heck of a great spearo day, thanks for the post. The rigs are an incredibly special place. Every diver should get a chance to see them before they die. Nobody in Florida wants an offshore oil industry, for good environmental reasons, but I sure would like to have a few rigs within my range.
You were on or very near the same platforms I dove a lot of years ago. Wish I had had the knowledge and equipment to freedive them at the time. Sounds like they are pretty much the same, ain't it great!

Wow great story Ando, I was interested in your close up pic of that Red snapper, it looks almost identical to a fish that we call red emperor over here, a fish that is almost never caught above 100ft in our waters. Nice one :cool:

All I can say is I need to do some hard training so I can enjoy a day like that Anderson. It's going to be a hard road to make to 100 feet for me!! I probly never will but it doesn't hurt to dream!!

Rig is the usual kinda spearfishing you do, I will have take you up on your offer one day then!

BladeRunner OUT
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Originally posted by BladeRunner
All I can say is I need to do some hard training so I can enjoy a day like that Anderson. It's going to be a hard road to make to 100 feet for me!! I probly never will but it doesn't hurt to dream!!

BladeRunner OUT

Should I come over to Geogia right now and smack you around a bit? :confused: :D

Silly boy! Don't sell yourself short! I too thought the 3 digit mark was way out of my league. But a few years of practice and it's come to me. Those depths are at such a harsh environment. Our body's aren't comfortable there, but after a while, they start to feel like what 30 feet felt like when you first started. :)

I promise you that in time and as long as you stick with it, you'll get there.


ps. Glad y'all liked the details. It was an amazing experience for me. Kinda made me truly appreciate my desire to want to be in this sport/hobby.

My vacation starts on the 28th and I have alot of diving and spearfishing planned, Yeah Boy

Bladerunner cutting OUT
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BEAUTIFUL......AWESOME..I am out of words.

Nice story and fishes ....Anderson and Rig. I wish I could dive a rig like that in me country....:p
Originally posted by BladeRunner
All I can say is I need to do some hard training so I can enjoy a day like that Anderson. It's going to be a hard road to make to 100 feet for me!! I probly never will but it doesn't hurt to dream!!

Rig is the usual kinda spearfishing you do, I will have take you up on your offer one day then!

BladeRunner OUT


You and me are on the same road, I say we hold Ando down and force him to give us his 100ft secrets :D

Andy's secret!

Swedish protein injections! :king

Great story though Pastey! I'm thinking the Marquesa's are a tad too far East! :D
I think I will start charging for these excursions soon...;)

It really was a treat to see Andy hit so many firsts and PB's. He put on quite a display of skill. We even got a couple of guys to give it their first try ever...I might finally have some local dive buddies.

Blade, dont worry...his depth is out of my range too, but I still seal the deal occasionally:cool:

Ando thanks for the training mail bru.

Only prob no access to pools :(

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