Live the Reel Life on the Louisiana Coast

They say when you retire, you should have something planned for the next Monday. Well, for the final six months of our working lives, my friend and longtime co-worker Wayne and I prepared for this day with a fishing trip to Louisiana, which touts itself as “The Sportsman’s Paradise.” It seemed the most fitting way to celebrate the conclusion of my 30-year career with the company just a few months after Wayne finished his.

We hit the road late Monday morning and drove southeast from Dallas through New Orleans to the Great River Road scenic byway and into the famous Mississippi River Delta. After winding past plantation-style homes alongside a narrow levee, we eventually came to the gravel driveway of our rented cabin that was situated along the river’s edge within the coastal town of Venice. Here in this quaint fishing village located within Plaquemines Parish, we could rest our heads in a bona fide “fish camp”—a cluster of rentals geared for anglers—and take full advantage of all the fishing opportunities the Louisiana Coast has to offer.

Far from the world of work

To get the inside scoop, we opted for a charter, so the following morning, we woke up early to meet our fishing guide at the dock of the marina right by our cabin.

“We have some of the biggest redfish on the planet,” said our captain, as we hopped aboard his skiff and motored into the backcountry. He explained that each winter, the bigger redfish migrate from their offshore spawning grounds into the shallow bayous to recuperate while gorging on baitfish, which can make for an epic angling experience. After weaving through a maze of roseau cane stands, we eventually came to an isolated slough that presented a serene contrast to the hectic work environment we’d left behind.

“You’re not thinking about deadlines, are you?” I asked as he stared into the crystal-clear water.

“Heck no!” Wayne said and pointed just a few yards off the bow. “That’s what I’m thinking about!”

A pair of giant bronze redfish cruised the shoreline.

“Cast!” shouted the captain, and Wayne and I quickly lobbed our lures in front of the fish, which were easily 40-plus inches in length. Within seconds, one of them turned and engulfed Wayne’s offering, causing his reel’s drag to spin like a sideways top. After an exhilarating five-minute tug-of-war, the captain managed to wrestle the enormous fish into the boat.

“This is the biggest redfish I’ve ever seen!” shouted Wayne, admiring the huge drum flopping in his lap.

“It’s at least 25 pounds,” the captain said.

I snapped a few photos for proof. We both caught several more of these super-sized fish before calling it a day around noon.

Fish, relax, repeat

That evening, we headed north to the town of Violet, within the St. Bernard Parish, to a local eatery called Charlie’s Restaurant for some authentic Cajun fixings and to plan for the next day. Wayne had the gumbo and I the Crazy Cajun po’ boy, which has fried shrimp and hot sausage. They hit the spot, so we ordered some for takeout along with an extra helping of the angel hair pasta with crawfish sauce.

Decisions, decisions

On the one hand, we could fish offshore. Louisiana is famous for its offshore fishing. Word is that anglers can catch huge yellowfin tuna from January through March that weigh well over 200 pounds, along with wahoo, mahi, snapper, and blue marlin, to name a few. By spring, spotted seatrout fishing is on fire throughout the inland coast from Grand Isle—located in Jefferson Parish and known as “The Sportsman’s Paradise”—west to Vermilion Bay. In between, within Terrebonne Parish sits the town of Cocodrie, which the World Fishing Network named the 2013 Southeast Regional Ultimate Fishing Town.

On the other hand, freshwater fishing is also excellent throughout the Louisiana Coast. Wayne and I decided to go that route by driving to Morgan City and the Atchafalaya River in St. Mary Parish for a chance at a few lunker largemouth bass. After renting a boat and picking up bait, we motored our way into Lake Palourde, where a park employee told us that in the last 20 years, state wildlife officials have released more than a million Florida-strain bass into Palourde, and nearby Grassy Lake and Lake Verret. It didn’t take long to verify those claims; soon after picking out a fishy-looking spot under a canopy of cypress trees, Wayne and I watched as both our corks disappeared the instant they landed in the water.

Our lines became momentarily entangled as the fish darted around, but once we got that squared away, Wayne unhooked a healthy three-pounder.

Sunset on the bayou

Afternoon gradually gave way to evening, and the sun began its descent over the bayou. Still reeling in bass after bass, we enjoyed silence and reminiscing about the years we’d worked together.

“One last cast,” said Wayne, tossing his cork out.

“Until next time,” I answered.

Wayne smiled. “How about we bring the grandkids?”

Discover more outdoor adventure on the Louisiana Coast.

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