The object was to just bump the jig along the bottom. I was concentrating on keeping the jig moving because the bottom was covered with clumps of oysters and I didn’t want to snag. It was past mid-morning and we only had a couple more hours to fish. Before we left, I wanted to catch a redfish. We’d fished at two other spots and caught several speckled sea trout. They’re fun to catch and most folks think they taste better than redfish, but I’m not one of those people. I also like to catch fish that take some drag when they feel the hook, and none of the trout had put up much of a fight. Trout strike lightly and require finesse. Reds bite the hook with tenacity. There’s rarely a question if you have a fish on or not.

I was keeping the rod tip up and giving it a little flip, winding up the slack, and repeating the process until the lure was fairly close to the boat. This was my second cast at this location and Erik Rue, our captain, had seen a school of fish where I was casting. My first reaction when I felt the fish was that I’d let the hook snag on an oyster clump. Then I felt the signature redfish head shake and my “oyster clump” took off in the other direction, taking about a dozen yards of line on the first run. I had my redfish on the line. A seven- or eight-pound puppy drum is a handful on a surf rod, and on a light spinning rod, he’s a blast. As I worked my fish, I noticed Captain Eric had one too. Mine was a little bigger and Erik boated his fish and turned his attention to getting my fish in the net. When he came over the side, I was happy.

We were fishing the big lake at Lake Charles, Louisiana. My wife Cherie and I were nearing the end of a near perfect trip across the Deep South. We were married in late April in New Orleans almost 15 years ago, and we decided to spend a day and a night as a second honeymoon in the French Quarter. We ate at Ralph and Kakoos, had breakfast at Café du Monde, and had a muffuletta for lunch from Franks, on Decatur.

We left the Quarter and made it to Lake Charles in time for a plate of boiled crawfish at the Seafood Palace for dinner. Cherie and I love Lake Charles because it’s a crown jewel in the sportsman’s paradise that is Louisiana. Last year, we spent a little time duck hunting in Lake Charles over flooded rice beds. We shot mallards out of a pit blind, watched a great little Lab named Sassy work the birds, and had great Creole food. This trip was turning out to be just as much fun.

We were fishing with Captain Erik Rue, of Calcasieu Charter Service, the same outfitter we duck hunted with last year. Erik runs a big center console bay boat and there was ample room for four of us. In addition to Erik, Cherie, and myself was Tico Soto, sales manager for the Lake Charles Visitors Bureau. Tico leads a busy life, and in spite of living in one of finest fishing locations in the country, he’s hardly done any fishing at all. This was a chance for him to get out and experience what Lake Charles has to offer. Captain Erik and I got him started working a jig and he observed that casting for speckled sea trout and redfish was a lot like gambling. If you don’t get a payoff, you make another cast.

We were staying at the Isle of Capri Casino and Hotel. With luxury rooms, great food, and a casino located in the heart of some of the best fishing in the United States, Lake Charles is a great location for couples with a bent for the outdoors. Calcasieu Charter also has accommodations in their lodge on the east side of Calcasieu Lake. There are five private rooms with two double beds each if you prefer a little quieter environment. They can also provide great food and special events for corporate groups.

Great days outdoors put life in perspective. Fishing when the fish don’t bite is relaxing but there’s no more fun than a day on the water with friends, old and new, catching fish. Tico mastered working that jig well enough that he wound up catching the biggest fish of the trip. In fact, it was the biggest fish of his life. Need a great getaway where the food is great, the outdoor opportunities are ample, and the folks are fun to be around? Spend some time in southwest Louisiana. You might hit the jackpot like my new fishing buddy, Tico.

Image courtesy Dick Jones

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