Outdoors

Jon Chapman | Unexpected fishing treasures can lurk below the surface

John Bergeron recovered this pricey reel from the depths of the Gulf of Mexico while inspecting an oil rig. PROVIDED PHOTO
John Bergeron recovered this pricey reel from the depths of the Gulf of Mexico while inspecting an oil rig. PROVIDED PHOTO

Every time I'm traveling into the depths of the Gulf of Mexico, I wonder what could be hiding below. How many fish have we passed? What should-be fishing spots did we run by? What treasure was resting on the bottom?

John Bergeron knows better than most. He has the opportunity to see the bottom deeper than most anglers would dream imaginable. As an underwater robotics operator for Oceaneering, his job is to explore the depths of the Gulf of Mexico while inspecting and assisting oil rigs.

Working in such depths keeps Bergeron on oil rigs for weeks at a time. While on a recent job for three weeks, he found what would equate to a needle in a haystack on the bottom in 7,000 feet of water.

"We were 1,000 to 2,000 feet away from the rig when I saw something shiny," Bergeron said. "I went over to inspect it, and it was a rod and reel. I was able to grab it and bring it back up. It was not something I expect to see."

The reel, a gold Shimano Tiagra 30, had very little damage except a small bit of corrosion. At a retail price of $599.99, it was essentially a small treasure.

"It was in nearly perfect condition and worked flawlessly. I took it apart and cleaned it up, and other than a little corrosion on the plate you wouldn't know it was on the bottom in 7,000 feet of water."

The rod, however, did not fare so well. "The arm grabbed it too hard and broke it," Bergeron explained. "It has a lot of power behind it.

"I had a lot of friends jokingly try to get it from me and say, 'I dropped that, thanks for finding it.' I said 'You tell me where you dropped it.' On the rig everyone was trying to call dibs as well!"

Understandably people were trying to falsely claim it as their own, but it looks like the real owner was never found.

Man-made objects finding their new home on the bottom near oil rigs isn't extremely uncommon, but fishing tackle is something not normally seen at such depths. The typical cleanup is handrails from the oil rig or tools that were dropped during construction.

One of the best perks for Bergeron is the ability to fish on some oil rigs when he's not working. As you can imagine, world-class fishing can be had on oil rigs if you've never experienced it or seen it through media.

"If I'm allowed to fish, I do. We catch blackfin and yellowfin tuna, mahi and a lot of other fish."

With a little more luck he'll have even more fishing tackle to use in the future.

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