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Louisiana’s Chandeleur Islands, a chain of small islands that lie east of the mouth of the Mississippi River near New Orleans, have always had a reputation for producing huge numbers of small speckled trout and red drum, especially from June through September. And thanks to restrictions on commercial and sportfishing harvests, the fish are getting bigger. Speckled trout in these backwaters now average about two pounds, and fish as heavy as five pounds are common. Redfish weighing 10 pounds are common and occasional fish as big as 20 pounds are caught.
Most of the water around the Chandeleurs is waist-deep or shallower and is easy to wade. Summer weather here brings light breezes and good conditions for fly fishing with floating lines or spin casting light tackle lures. Flies that work well include streamers like Lefty’s Deceivers, Clouser Minnows, spoon flies and various shrimp and crab imitations. Rods should be eight or nine-weight. Polarized glasses are a must for spotting fish in the shallows.
A good way to fish the Chandeleurs is with Jim Munson (*) on the "Chandeleur Discovery," an 85-foot houseboat. Munson stays anchored at Breton Island on the southern end of the island chain. His guides take guests out in small skiffs each day, and are usually into fish within two miles of the houseboat. The boat accommodates 28 people, is air-conditioned and has all the comforts of home, including hot showers and satellite TV. Munson charges $125 per day for lodging and three meals. A guide and skiff split among five anglers costs $500 per day. Munson charges an additional $50 for round-trip boat shuttle service to the Discovery from Cypress Cove Marina in the nearby town of Venice.
Most anglers fly into New Orleans and rent a car for the 1 1/2-hour drive to Venice. A more convenient but much more expensive option is flying from the New Orleans airport straight to the houseboat with a private floatplane charter service. It costs $200 each way to charter a floatplane but the price can be split among several passengers. Munson can make charter arrangements for you. – Ray Sasser.