From New Orleans it is a mere 45 minute drive to the
area known as Delacroix Island; a land and water zone considered by many to be one
of the largest estuaries in the world. It is snuggled conspicuously between
the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet waterway to the north and the Mississippi
River to the south.
To newcomers who make the trek east down La. State Hwy 39 through St. Bernard Parish, to
La. Hwy 46 at Reggio, and onto La. Hwy
300, it seems like you've traveled to the end of the world! In fact, the
marina located therein is called just that: "End of the World Marina."
Here you will find, if not already out on the water
with a charter fishing trip or bird watching tour, a rather stocky gentleman the local
residents call "Captain Joe." His rather quaint marina would almost
go unnoticed amidst the local residential dwellings and other inelegant
marinas, if it weren't for its dead-end location.
Despite his obscured location, in an area that once flourished with
local commercial fishermen and trappers, Captain Joe is a sought -after man
when it comes to saltwater fishing..
But his fishing skills aren't limited to the latter.
Captain Joe was also a freshwater fishing enthusiast, having competed in Florida bass tournaments, as well as providing guide
service. He seems to have no regrets about
his conversion, after fished the saltwater bays, lakes, bayous, and marshes of
Delacroix Island for over 30 years.
And though some sections just north of Delacroix can at
times yield freshwater species, it has not yet swayed his 21 ft. Sea Bird
boat from heading southerly to the often higher salinity waters that the
inside and bordering marshes of Black Bay and Breton Sound have to offer.
And this is the exact direction we found ourselves heading in, as our prearranged plans began to unfold.
A change in strategy quickly went into affect, however, after making the 18-mile haul through Bayou Terre aux Boeufs, only to find dark clouds
congregating over the eastern horizon and well out into Breton Sound.
When Captain Joe left the opening of the
bayou, which empties into the northern section of Black Bay, he made it
clear that the big trout would thus be out of reach for this
particular trip. Adding to the concern, his head periodically turned toward
the east, watching for any sudden shift in conditions, while cruising south
toward one of the many wellheads that speckled the bay.
His attention was finally diverted, when I questioned
him about a small patch of marsh grass and a few scattered marking poles
that lay directly ahead. He confirmed what I already suspected, having not
seen the area in several years. It was the only remains left of Snake
Island, an island that several decades ago was at least a city block in size.
It wouldn't be the only evidence seen that day that would remind me of what
hurricanes and man-made elements can do to such vulnerable terrain.
Lonesome Island and Stone Island are the other two
famous islands that lay directly south of Snake Island and have just about seen the
same fate. All three islands are prominent for their springtime and
summertime speckled trout and redfish fishing action.
With the boat idling toward the dockside of a
steel-framed wellhead, the aerator noise soon came to the fore,
helping to divert our attention on fishing and not entirely on the weather.
"Hook it like this," Captain Joe said, after fetching
a live cocahoe minnow out of the bait well and placing the
hook point through the bottom of its mouth, ahead of the eyes, and through
the top side of its head.
"Throw it toward that rig over there,"
pointed out in the distance to another wellhead to use as a reference point
for casting. When the bait hit the water, he warned of the many
snags that exist in the area from the network of underwater pipes
that connect the rigs to the wellheads.
The water was relatively clear, with about 2 ft.
visibility, and the tide was incoming. Captain Joe gave instructions to let the
1/4 oz. Carolina Rig to "go with the flow," meaning to let
the current work the bait on a slightly taut line, keeping it just off the
bottom to prevent snagging.
School speckled trout are mostly caught in the Black Bay
area in summer months, though Captain Joe says larger species can be caught, depending on the type
of bait used, time of year, and prevailing conditions.
Captain Joe generally likes to venture toward the deeper
waters, which lay east and southeast of Black Bay, to locate the
larger speckled trout and sometimes redfish. These fish often frequent well-known
places like The Wreck, The Dope Boat, Breton Sound rigs, The Black Tank, and
Battledore Reef. Nevertheless, all of these places were out of the question this particular
day, due to threatening weather. Even facing such odds, Captain Joe was
optimistic, viewing it as a reason to give the "big ones" a
breather once in awhile.
The Kahle horizontal hook is Captain Joe's choice when using
live bait fish, since it allows it to swim in a
natural position with hook exposed for quicker penetration. I began to see the
advantages when a speckled trout nailed the previously cast minnow and came to the
surface, vigorously thrashing its head, trying to throw the deeply penetrated
hook from its weak, yellow mouth.
Numerous islands lay to the west side of Black Bay,
many projecting out as broken marsh peninsulas, run through by bayous and often
surrounded by large oyster reefs─ some of which also lay to the east,
unmarked and very prop hungry for the unwary boater.
Some of Captain Joe's success lies in fishing with the wind to his back,
current from structures, scanning the waters for bait fish, and choosing to fish only the
When live croakers are available, usually during
summertime, Joe will fish them at the famous Wreck, located
southeast from the mouth of Bayou Terre aux Boeufs. This is a well-established,
fish-attracting structure, consisting of a partially sunken crane boom and barge
that suffered the tremendous pounding of the infamous hurricane Betsy.
Captain Joe claims he has fished The Wreck even in December and
caught fish when "most people aren't even thinking of going out
Later that morning, after picking off a few more
at another wellhead just south of Snake Island, he ventured easterly toward
the peninsula of Mozambique Point─ a
favorite fishing and bird-watching
"Look at those white and brown pelicans," Captain Joe bellowed, gazing toward the near tip section of
the peninsula. As the boat's menacing motor noise approached, they began to
arch and flap their wings, rushing to take flight.
Captain Joe is the only charter fisherman in the
territory that has given interest to the many variety of birds to the area and has provided bird-watching trips for
nature lovers. He has
taken many enthusiasts as far as the Chandeleur Islands to observe a very long
list of feathered species.
Joe: Unhooks a
nice flounder taken from the inside marshes of Delacroix.
Joe no longer makes his residence in Louisiana, but this
article is dictated to him wherever he may be. For other
fishing guides to the area, click: