In the human psyche, islands are a symbol of safety and strength in the midst of a daunting and dangerous sea. Think of the countless movie scenes when desperate people drag themselves up the island’s beach and gladly collapse onto its solid back.
More than any other Louisiana barrier islands, the Chandeleurs have the power to transport the traveler to that mythical place.
The Chandeleur chain was created more than 2,000 years ago by the Mississippi River’s sediment load. It has been battered by many hurricanes, and its sands are continuously being moved inward by the Gulf of Mexico. Still, it exists and is thriving with submerged vegetation, grasses, mangroves, birds and marine life.
This island chain is also remote relative to most barrier islands, and depending on which part of the chain is your destination, it is roughly a 40- to 45-mile boat ride from Venice, Hopedale Marina or Mississippi ports, including at least 20 miles of open water. Due to this remoteness, travelers are advised to have VHF radio communication, well- maintained boats and an informed grasp of the weather forecast. Traveling to the islands when the chance of thunderstorms exist elevates the risk of personal harm and can result in the mariner getting religion.
Despite their remoteness, the Chandeleurs receive a surprising amount of fishing pressure. The most-pursued fish are speckled trout, and many people have caught their personal-best trout at the islands. Redfish are also a common catch, but watch out for gear-busting brutes like jack crevalle and sharks.
A dynamic fishery
Speckled trout and redfish can be caught on the inside of the islands and in the troughs of the Gulf side. Fishing on the inside of the islands consists primarily of targeting shallow flats. When navigating, expect these flats to extend far out from the visible land. They are regularly interrupted by deeper channels where water is seeping or flowing through the islands. Some were formed where the islands have been completely broken through by Gulf waters, creating a current. Such areas can be dynamic fisheries, but also a favorite feeding ground for sharks.
Wade-fishing is an effective technique and is a common approach for anglers. The firm, sandy bottom of the flats makes walking almost effortless, but watch out for the numerous stingrays that cruise these waters. A good practice for avoiding a very painful sting is to shuffle your feet as you walk.
Trout and redfish are regularly found in knee-deep water, so wading anglers should not ignore the shallow water areas closer to the shore.
Anglers using artificial lures find topwater baits to be very effective, along with shallow-suspending or floating jerkbaits and twitchbaits. A swimbait fished on a 1/16- or 1/8-ounce leadhead jig can be used shallow or in the 5- to 6-foot deep channels and depressions. Don’t overlook a popping cork matched with a swimbaits just because the water is shallow. This rig can be amazingly effective on the flats.