Fishing in Cajun Country with light tackle charters
Like the guy in the Dos Equis commercial, mosquitoes don’t bite me out of respect. For some reason, the mosquitoes in Bayou DeLarge have never heard of me. It was 5:30 a.m. and we were about to leave on a speckled trout and redfish trip in the flats far beyond the last roads and power lines at the end of Highway 315.
I began fishing in Louisiana over 20 years ago and I can honestly say, I’ve never had an unsuccessful trip there. I’ve fished in Grand Isle, Venice, Lake Charles and now I was fishing below Houma, Louisiana, with Josh Ellender, of Light Tackle Charters. Cherie and I were on a writing trip in Louisiana for the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association and we were guests of the Houma area. I was putting our gear in the van in the predawn darkness and the light was drawing mosquitoes. Without thinking, I left the doors open during the whole process and by the time we were in the car, we had most of the mosquitoes in the Bayou area riding with us to Josh’s boat house. We rolled down all the windows and the moving air kept them spinning out of control until we saw Josh waiting for us at the boat. Once on the water, I never saw another mosquito; we must have left them along the side of Highway 315.
There are so many great destinations for the traveling outdoorsman but Louisiana is probably my favorite of all. Truly a sportsman’s paradise, South Louisiana is a treasure trove of the best inshore saltwater fishing I’ve ever found. Planning a trip to Louisiana is only hard in that there are so many great outdoor opportunities and so many places to have a great fishing trip, it’s hard to pick an area.
Spring and fall are the best times for catching lots of fish for the table. While Louisiana has the most generous limits on fish in the Southeast, they also have the most abundant fish. My first trip was over 20 years ago and the fishing now is at least as good as it was then. If you’re worried that the BP oil spill ruined the fishing, think again. Almost everyone I’ve talked to there has told me the media hype over the spill did much more damage to the area than the spill.
I can’t really say any of the locations I’ve fished have been much better than the others. It seems the fishing is universally good almost anywhere there are guides. I’d suggest basing the choice on where to fish more on matching the guide to your preferences than the specific location. Choose a guide who specializes in what you want to accomplish. If you prefer fly fishing, look for guides who specialize in fly trips. If you have inexperienced anglers in your group, you might look for a guide who uses live bait. Some guides tend more towards catch and release and others are happy to help you fill a cooler. There is nothing wrong with keeping and eating fish you catch. I do consider it selfish to keep fish, put them in the freezer and throw them out the following year. Keep what you will eat and carefully release the rest.
Some guides also specialize in either redfish or trout. Don’t forget that the largemouth bass population is strong in the bayou area and you’ll find saltwater species like speckled trout and red drum in the same water as largemouths. This is an estuary system, the border of salt water and fresh, so you can catch a bass on one cast and a red drum on the next.
Advise your guide of how you want to fish and if he tries to influence you to change from your mission, talk to another guide. Remember though that certain types of fishing work better at certain times of the year, so this information may be to your advantage. Generally, we’re coming up on some of the best conditions and fishing, though later in the year, the wind can be a factor.
Almost all guides furnish tackle, but you’ll enjoy your fishing more if you use the tackle you use and like, but you should ask the guide for recommendations. Do not exceed two rods per person; there are a limited number of places on a boat to put rods and the guide has to have his own on the boat in case yours aren’t really suitable or serviceable. Feel free to bring terminal tackle, but limit it to one smallish bag. No guide likes a client who fills his boat with their gear, because most folks bring too much of the wrong thing. Don’t rely too much on your own terminal tackle though, what works in the bayou might not work in Carolina and vice versa.
Bring a slicker, suntan oil, polarized sunglasses, a hat, and bug spray, and make sure you know if the guide provides drinks or snacks. Also, don’t forget that it’s normal to tip the guide between 15% and 20%, better if the trip is spectacular.
Did we catch fish with Josh? Do the streets get dirty during Mardi Gras? Yes; we caught speckled trout, grey trout, redfish and black drum. Numbers? Lots of trout and several reds, with the biggest being about eight pounds. A Cajun Coast fishing excursion with a friendly and knowledgeable guide always makes a great trip, and that’s how it usually happens in Bayou Country.
Dick Jones is an award winning freelance writer living in High Point. He’s a member of the board of directors of the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association. If you’d like to have him speak to your group, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org