You'll definitely catch fish in Southern Louisiana. The only question is, how many?
The Chandeleur Islands are extremely fishy and if don’t want to slog out there by sea, just take the float plane.
When you mention Louisiana to the uninitiated, many of them cringe. Folks from far off places like Wyoming or Oregon or New Jersey only know what (dare I say it?) the Fake News spouts off. So they think of a low-rated education system, shady politics and gators big enough to swallow a cow in one bite. Obviously, they’ve never visited the great Cajun state. But, for those of us who know about the Sportsman’s Paradise, like most hard-core fishermen in the world, we dream of monster redfish, multitudes of trout and cuisine so delicious that, well, my mouth is watering right now as I write these words. No lie.
The rustic dining area of the Bourgeois Fishing Lodge in Barataria.
There’s a very long list of Louisiana’s high points. But the three I relate to mostly are as follows (in no particular order): fishing, eating and partying. In these areas, Louisianians are bona fide experts. That doesn’t even count the music—jazz, blues, Southern rock, zydeco—that has deep roots there. Living an easy three-hour drive from New Orleans, I tend to visit often. And when I turn south on Interstate 10 toward that colorful community, I put Pandora on the Little Feat channel. It’s a swampy collection of John Fogerty (Creedence Clearwater), Bonnie Raitt, Van Morrison, Government Mule, Little Feat, Allman Brothers—all soulful, all damn good music. Get’s me right in the frame of mind for gumbo, Bloody Marys and fishing. Oops, make that catching.
Eat dem bugs! Crawfish literally by the boatload.
This little preamble is to explain why I was fired up to make the cut for an invitation-only event in the tiny community of Barataria, about an hour south of New Orleans and right next to the township of Jean Lafitte—yes, a place named after the legendary pirate. The destination was Bourgeois Fishing Charters, run by Captain Theophile Bourgeois and his beautiful and extraordinary partner, Ginger Jenne. If you’re trying to figure out how to pronounce the good captain’s name, he tells it like this. “It’s like if your toe hurts and you can feel it,” he told me, “it’s pronounced toe-feel.” The last name is French so it’s “boorj-wah”. Break out your high school French book if you need help with that.
Signs of Mother Nature's wrath are everywhere.
Like everything south of NOLA (New Orleans, LA), the land around Barataria is low and flat and interwoven with a spiderweb of waterways. Everybody seems to have at least one boat tied in their canal or on a trailer. If you don’t have a boat, you’re required to get one before you can live around there. I think it’s a state law. This place is not what you’d call a beautiful landscape. It’s oil country so there are well sites of all sizes scattered randomly in marshes, mudflats and wherever they can suck sweet, black goo from the earth. Many of the wells are ramshackle structures of wood and metal, rusting and rotting and succumbing to gravity. Old, dead, half-sunk boats are littered all over the place—ravaged by storms and time—and never to be resurrected. Busted up concrete rip rap and rocks have been laid along long stretches of river to slow the steady onslaught of erosion. Massive barges and oil ships chug along waterways. And, to top it off, the water is brown, sometimes as cloudy as chocolate milk. Pretty? No. Full of life. You betcha, Boudreaux!
You don't have to go all the way to Venice to catch a lot of fish. Barataria is less than an hour from New Orleans.
Man’s imprint on South LA is only rivaled by nature’s wrath. Hurricanes have mangled once healthy oak trees, now with fractured limbs jutting skyward and clinging to Spanish moss. Boathouses have been twisted into dysfunctional art. Marshland has been flooded and eroded over and over and over. I’m just saying, this is a land that has been scarred by man and God. But we need oil, and so far, we haven’t figured out how to stop hurricanes. So, as they say, “It is what it is,” and the resilient locals don’t just survive...they thrive. Because, through all of the mish mash, it’s an unbelievably amazing place. There’s so much life, so many fish, infinite birds, tons of gators, scads of nutria, wild otters and on and on and on. And, the locals are the veritable experts at finding it, catching it, cooking it, eating it and washing it down with something cold, strong and good for the soul. Plus, once you get onto the boat and jet out into the endless marshland, away from civilization, the scene blossoms into true beauty. And heaven for fishermen.
One thing is for sure, Theophile and Ginger have got it all figured out. Some years ago, they bought an abandoned school house and converted it into a fishing lodge. It’s decorated in a hyper Cajun motif—rust-stained, corrugated aluminum ceilings, stuffed wild critters of all creation from bobcats to deer, old fishing gear scattered about, hundreds of photos of anglers holding fish and, to top it off, hanging from the ceiling is a giant inflatable crawfish holding a big ole inflated beer can. Ooo-eeee! Who dat! Out by the water, there’s five or so go-fast, center console fishing boats in the 20–26-ft. range, and the coup de gras is a four- passenger float plane. Theophile will fly you out to the legendary Chandeleur Islands where the fishing is stupid good. It’s less than an hour in the airplane as opposed to way too damn far to go in a small boat. So if you’re going by air, you can take your time in enjoying the real bacon, eggs, pancakes, hash browns, grits and such before you zip out to the islands, fish for four hours and make it back by mid-afternoon. If you have a big group, they have other float planes they can bring in. Like I said, they have it figured out.
There was no airtime for our event, but there was plenty of fishing, laughing, imbibing and even a few racy jokes in the late of the night.
Not only did we eat like Cajun royalty, but we slayed a mess of trout and redfish. In two days, my boat of four anglers caught 70 or 80 trout and some bull reds. Overall, I gained 6.8 pounds in crawfish, gumbo, jambalaya, fried shrimp, fried oysters, grilled fish, grits, bacon and beer. If you’re feeling somewhat jealous now, I don’t blame you. My wife put me on a cottage cheese and lettuce diet for a month and made me jog to work.
I’ve fished Louisiana for many years and I’ve learned a lot about fishing over there. Like the per person limit on speckled trout is 25 fish per day—a number of many out-of-staters just don’t believe. But, it’s been that way for many years and the specks just keep on coming. So when we came in with 30 fish after a three-hour trip, our guide told his fellow guides that we did “just okay.“ We anglers were all smiles.
Unlike other fishing trips, we actually did what you might consider work. The contingent I’d fallen into was a group of fishing writers who were paired up with representatives from fishing gear companies who were there to give us a sneak preview of their latest and greatest gadgets. In between eating and talking about fishing, we sat in the Bourgeois Fishing Charters lodge and learned even more about fishing. Here’s a taste of it.
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