One of the greatest adventures on the Mississippi Gulf Coast is a Chandeleur Island trip, spending two nights out on a boat in the Gulf of Mexico and eating delicious food, and having the option to fish on the Gulf side of the island or the flats on the inside of the island makes this a trip of a lifetime in May.

Also you can fish from a skiff and/or in the waves on one of the most beautiful island chains anywhere in America.

"We fish around Redfish Point, Monkey Bayou and New Harbor because we have protected waters that allow us to launch our 15-foot skiffs in the water without having to fight rough seas," said Capt. George Pelaez of the "Joka's Wild," who takes up to 12 people twice a week out to the Chandeleurs to fish for 2 ½ days. "Most of the time, our anglers will be fishing in 2- to 5-foot-deep water over grass flats. We may find cuts in the island where there's deeper water, and you also can go to the front sides of the islands and fish in the surf."

 

What lures to fish

"We fish soft plastic lures primarily, but we also use MirrOLures and topwater lures," Pelaez explained. "I tell the people who come fishing with me, 'Bring your favorite bass lure because the trout and redfish will eat them up.'

"Our bread-and-butter baits are soft-plastic lures and grubs with 1/4- or 3/8-ounce jigheads and Bass Assassin salt-and-pepper grubs."

Chandeleur Island anglers should become accustomed to the fact that on any given day, the speckled trout, redfish and flounder will take different lures.

"The weather conditions, the water conditions and the water's clarity often determine the technique that will produce the most specks and reds on any trip," Pelaez said. "We usually tell our fishermen to try several tactics, including fishing topwater bass lures, a popping cork and either a grub or a plastic shrimp under a cork, swimming a grub just above the grass and/or bottom-hopping the grub.

"We also fish many Top Dogs and other MirrOLures. Also, we like the Rapala Skitter Walker and the Heddon Zara Spook."

Pelaez said the favorite color has been bone-, gold- or chartreuse-colored topwater lures, but on some days the fish seem to prefer chartreuse.

"I know I'm mentioning a wide variety of baits, but every trip to the Chandeleuer Islands is different and predicting what the fish will want is hard," he said.

On calm days with clear water, anglers can see the cuts and the ditches that run into the islands and along the front beach, and find big trout and redfish there. Also with warm weather and warm water, fishing the front beach can be outstanding.

 

What fish you'll catch

"Our main target is speckled trout, with redfish our second target," Pelaez said. "Flounder are incidental catches.

"We catch these fish inside the island, as well as on the front beach when the weather's calm. We've never had anyone go to the islands and just want to catch flounder, but no one seems to mind getting several nice-sized flounder while they're fishing for specks and reds."

He said ome people fish dark-green or avocado-colored grubs, and do well with them on flounder, speckled trout and redfish.

"But, generally, day in and day out, that salt-and-pepper color (white or pearl color with black flakes) and a chartreuse-green tail is hard to beat for productivity," Pelaez said. "We usually fish our baits at the Chandeleurs on 8- to 12-pound-test line and spinning tackle."

The average-size speckled trout you can expect to catch at the Chandeleurs will weigh from 2 to 2 ½ pounds, with an occasional 5- or 6-pound trout caught in the deeper holes.

As the weather warms-up in June or July, the average weight of the trout will drop down to 1 to 1 ½ pounds, but the frequency of your catches will increase.

You can catch slot-sized reds, as well as bigger bull reds. On the inside of the island, you're more likely to catch the 18- to 20-inch redfish. But if you fish the Gulf of Mexico side of the island, you can tie into big bull reds that will stretch your string, scream your drag and make your rod tip want to kiss the Gulf's waters.

"Some of these bull reds will be 36 inches or more long, and we usually release all of them," Pelaez explained.

The best wade fishing generally is May through the first part of June. Be sure to wear appropriate clothing, and don't forget sunscreen, sunglasses and a big hat.

I particularly like wade fishing at the Chandeleurs, since I like the cooler water, and enjoy locating the ditches and holes where the specks, reds and flounder will be biting. Wearing a long stringer that has a cork on the end of it on my belt, I can cover a lot of ground and make numbers of casts, which I believe increases my odds for catching fish.

 

Where to find the fish

"The wind determines whether most of our fish are inside or outside the island," Pelaez said. "On the slick-calm days, anglers can fish the outside.

"But when we've got a wind, inside the island along the flats is where most of the fish are caught."

Another advantage that the anglers who fish with Pelaez have is that each of the skiffs is equipped with a radio. When one boat finds a school of trout or redfish that's biting aggressively, other skiffs can be radioed to come and fish for them. Also, if one of the boats establishes a pattern that's producing specks and reds, it can be radioed to the other boats.

Water temperature is another factor that determines where you'll find the most specks and reds.

"When the water temp moves up to 70 to 80 degrees, the baitfish start pulling more into the flats on the inside of the islands," Pelaez said. "So fishing inside is usually more productive than fishing the beach side, then."

On an average day of fishing, two anglers fishing from a skiff often will catch 30 to 40 trout, five or six redfish and possibly one or two flounder.

Even though the fishing can be fantastic at the Chandeleurs, one of the big draws there for anglers also is the delicious food that's prepared on the boat, including a big breakfast, red beans and rice, freshly caught fish or shrimp po' boys, prime rib, shrimp and pasta.

There's just something about the salt air and being out at the Chandeleurs in the salt, the sand and the sun that really tickles the taste buds of most anglers.

For more information about fishing the Chandeleur Islands on the "Joka's Wild," you can go to http://www.jokaswild.com/, call (228) 392-0989 or email jokaswild2@aol.com.