Just as my D.O.A. Shrimp hit the water, I felt as though my cast had landed on the caboose of a runaway freight train. The rod pretzelled, and the line came off the reel as the drag sang a high-pitched tune.

I heard my fishing buddy, Bo Hamilton of Ocean Springs, laughing.

"I think you've got a fish on, John," he said.

I consider Hamilton, who's fished these barrier islands his entire life, one of the best anglers to fish with at the Chandeleur Islands because not only does he know how to find and catch speckled trout there, but he's also entertaining. I've taken some of my most enjoyable fishing trips through the years to the Chandeleur Islands with Hamilton.
At the Chandeleur Island chain, you can fish anywhere, use any type of bait and catch numbers of a variety of fish. You also can fish effectively, whether you're wade-fishing or fishing from a boat. The Chandeleur chain holds plenty of speckled trout, redfish and flounder year-round.

Where to catch early

In the early morning glow before the sun fully rises at the Chandeleurs, Hamilton prefers to fish the 1- to 2-foot-deep grass flats because of the calm water, the lack of noise and the fact that he'll find the speckled trout and redfish still on their nighttime feeding patterns.

"That's when I fish a topwater lure like a Walking Stick, a MirrOlure Top Dog or a Zara Spook," Hamilton said.

He'll then switch from topwaters to soft plastics under corks.

"Generally early in the morning, I like to fish a shrimp tail-looking lure or the D.O.A. Shrimp under a popping cork over these grass beds," he said. "Then as the sun rises, I'll search for a little-bit deeper water like holes in the flats or drop-offs.

"When the tide's moving in or out, I like to fish cuts or ditches on the backsides of the middle islands, which are trenches that allow water from the Gulf of Mexico to run to the backsides of the islands on high tide or water from the grass flats to run out to the Gulf on low tide.

"I like to fish the Redfish Point area on an incoming tide with spinning tackle on 10- to 12-pound-test line. You get more fight out of your fish and have more fun when you're fishing 10-pound-test line."

Later in the morning, Hamilton fishes popping corks, D.O.A. lures and grubs in the deeper grass beds, 3 to 4 feet deep.

"I really like the Cajun Thunder-style popping cork with the glass beads because when you pop it, it gives off a sound like trout feeding," Hamilton said. "When the trout hear that sound and come to the area where the cork's located, they'll see the D.O.A. Shrimp or the grub, and they'll eat it. You can wade-fish the deeper grass beds, but I prefer to drift over these areas in a boat because you can cover more spots and fish more water quicker."

Wade fishermen think they can sneak up on the trout on the backsides of the islands better than boat fishermen can. Although Hamilton prefers to stay in the boat, if he realizes he can catch more fish by wade fishing, he'll hit the water like a Labrador retriever watching a mallard tumble from the sky.

"I like to stand on the deck of a boat to be able to see a big speckled trout blow up on a topwater lure or a big redfish pushing its giant head wake as it approaches a lure, but I will wade fish if that's the pattern the fish want," he said.

Hamilton fishes the backsides of the islands with a Heddon Lucky 13.

"When I fished the Chandeleur Islands with my dad years ago, he had an old, handmade wooden tackle box, and the only lures in it were Lucky 13s in every model and color," he said. "For some reason, I stopped fishing them and started fishing the bone-colored Zara Spook. Now, the Lucky 13 has become my favorite lure again for fishing inside the islands."

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