Mississippi Sportsman talked with Capt. George Pelaez, captain of the Joka's Wild, to get the best information on when, where and how to fish the Chandeleur Islands, a favorite destination for speckled trout and redfish anglers who leave from Biloxi.

The Joka's Wild, an 80-foot-long mothership, carries six 14-foot skiffs with 15-horsepower Yamaha motors on each one. Two people fish in each skiff.

"In March, most of the fishing will be in the bayous behind and inside the islands," Pelaez said. "As long as the water's colder than 70 degrees, the speckled trout and redfish will remain in the bayous. Once the water temperature hits the 70-degree mark, the fish will travel out of the bayous and feed on the grass flats."

Pelaez suggests that his customers wear waders and go into the bayous, leaving their skiffs on the beach, to wade-fish.

"The water in March generally is 55 to 60 degrees, and the specks and reds will be holding in the deep holes in the bayous in 7 to 10 feet of water," he said. "Most of our fishermen wade in 2 to 3 feet of water, casting into the deeper holes."

How to fish

Pelaez recommends fishing with soft-plastic lures like Cocahoe minnows and bouncing jigs off the bottom.

"The jigheads we'll use are 1/4- to 1/2-ounces each, and a wide variety of colors will work in Cocahoe minnows, especially chartreuse and green. For the most success, I'll use 8- to 12-pound-test line. The trout I'll catch in March are 18- to 20-inches long, while the redfish range from small rat reds to big bulls."

Recent storms have battered the area, but it continues to be productive.

"We've lost a lot of habitat, maybe as much as 70 percent of the islands, but they're still a great place to fish," Pelaez said.

To catch fish in the bayous on the back sides of the Chandeleurs, find the honeyholes holding schools of speckled trout and redfish. The locations of these honeyholes will change periodically. Fishermen must go to the islands and wade until they pinpoint deep spots with specks and reds in them.

"In March, we'll primarily catch specks and reds at the Chandeleurs," says Pelaez. "In June, a good run of flounder will come into the islands, and we'll begin picking them up also.

"During the summer months, we'll also move to the front sides of the islands to fish in the surf. We'll usually catch bigger trout on the front sides of the islands when the weather warms up.

"The advantage of fishing the Chandeleur Islands is that the specks and reds are always there. They move around the islands, according to the time of year and the water temperature. For instance, in the middle of April, the trout will move out of the bayous to hold in 3 to 5 feet of water on grass flats. Most of the smaller trout will stay in the grass flats, even in the summer months. However, the bigger trout will move out of the grass flats and into the surf as the weather becomes warmer."

In the past, fishermen found their best fishing in small mud gulleys with mangrove roots on their edges on the front sides of the islands.

"We'd catch 7- and 8-pound trout in those ditches," Pelaez said. "Today, many of those ditches have been filled in by the storms. We'll still catch nice trout on the front sides of the islands during the summer months, but we don't catch nearly as many big trout as we did before the storms.

"On the positive side, I'm seeing some sand dunes build back up, and I think if this area can go 8 or 10 years without major storms, many of the Chandeleur Islands will build back up, and the fishing will continue to get better."

What to expect

For a real adventure, take a trip on the Joka's Wild to the Chandeleur Islands. The boat usually leaves from Point Cadet, right behind the Isle of Capri Resort and Casino. Most people arrive around 5 p.m. on Thursday afternoon for a weekend trip, unpack their gear and settle in before leaving the boat to visit the Isle of Capri for delicious food and entertainment. Around midnight, they'll return to the Joka's Wild, and the boat will get under way around 1 a.m.

You'll arrive at the Chandeleur Islands about 4 a.m., and have breakfast on the boat. Then the crew puts all the skiffs in the water for the fishermen to fish at daylight. The skiffs travel back to the Joka's Wild for a lunch of hamburgers or fried fish. After lunch, you may return to fishing or take a break. The customers will fish until dark on Friday night and all day Saturday. The boat then runs back to Point Cadet on Saturday night with the fishermen still on-board until Sunday morning, when they'll drive home with all their fish cleaned, filleted and bagged.

To learn more, call Capt. George Pelaez at 228-392-0989, visit www.jokaswild.com or email him at jokaswild2@aol.com.