Amid the endless oil platforms, gators and miles of estuary and bayou, Jean Lafitte redfish guide and outfitter Theophile Bourgeois (pronounced “Toe-Feel Bour-Jwa,” often with a “Ayy-eeeee” after it) carved a unique niche. Nowhere else on the Louisiana coast will a crazy Cajun fly you out to the Chandeleur Islands to fish for virtually untouched populations adult redfish and speckled trout.

Think Canadian fly-in, only with crawfish boils instead of walleye shore lunches.

Bourgeois has a love affair with flying and with catching big redfish and trout, so the combo is a natural. Along with a plush lodge, bar-like dock and the Coonass food that made New Orleans famous, the addition of the fly-out fishing makes the Bourgeois experience truly unique.

Bourgeois Charters is about 18 miles south of the Big Easy on a channel leading to great fishing for boating anglers. A number of charter captains base out of Bourgeois’ facility and the boats make for great “Plan B’s,” but it’s the fly-out trips that make it special. The reason is somewhat biological.

Redfish and speckled trout spawn in open water. The inshore fish that locals and charter captains catch are younger, smaller specimens. The fish around the islands are the spawners, far bigger than boating anglers can reach in half a day.

While plenty of 7- and 10-pound redfish are caught in the bayous and estuary, at age 7 or so both reds and trout depart the marsh for open water. Average Island redfish, however, go 15-pounds-plus, with plenty in the 20-, 30- and even 40-pound range.

Island anglers can expect to catch redfish all year long, and peak time is November to March. The best time for a gator-trout is from about the end of March through the summer.

“You will miss the trout of a lifetime if you’re throwing a topwater during prime time,” Bourgeois said. “Nine-out-of-10 times that big female will hit the bait with her tail, sometimes knocking it 8-feet in the air. When it lands, that’s when it’s game on.”

Average speckled trout from April through June are 3 ½-pounds, with half the daily take of 25 fish weighing upwards of 6 pounds. The biggest redfish he’s actually weighed on the Islands went 44 pounds, but has caught and released bigger specimens.

Bourgeois became interested in adventure and flying at age 5. Fishing turned into a career, but he never could get the idea of an Alaskan or Canadian fly-out fishing adventure out of his mind. He dreamed of moving Up North and piloting anglers into the wilderness, then realized that the Chandeleur Islands provided the an “exotic” location right in his own backyard.

He makes the 6 ½-hour boat trip in just under a half-hour in his Cessna 185, carting three anglers at a time out to very lightly fished waters. Bourgeois prefers to fly out in the morning, lunch on the plane’s pontoons and fly back in the afternoon.

“After four or five hours of catching big redfish or trout, most folks are about ready to come in,” he said.

Fly-out trips are dependent on weather, of course. Strong winds or sea fog can delay or cancel the day’s flights, and the new bay boats at the dock make for a productive back-up plan. There are plenty of trout- and redfish-filled waters nearby, and anglers banking on the fly-out experience should book three-day trips to ensure a day or two in the plane.

Bourgeois provides all equipment during a trip, consisting of stout spinning gear and three lure types that work for both redfish and trout, soft-plastic swimbaits on jigheads, topwaters like the Bomber Saltwater Badonk-A-Donk and Heddon Spooks, and a gold spoon. Anglers can often see the fish they’re casting to, but if not, they move along the Island shoreline or slosh through shin-deep water until the school is located. Once found, anglers can hit the school again-and-again.

After a brief taxi the Cessna lifts off the water and Bourgeois swings over the town of Lafitte (pronounced “La-Feet”) and then over miles of estuary filled with sea birds, waterfowl, snakes and alligators. Flying at only 700 feet, it’s not unusual to see big gators swimming lazily across the canals that crisscross the bayou like tic-tac-toe playing fields.

“Dey out dere,” he said. “Big gators.”

It’s impossible not to compare the experience to flying into a remote Canadian lake, complete with pilots and guides with strong accents and roots deeper than the sea oats growing in the shallow bayou water. It’s the same feeling of not being in Kansas anymore, but you’ll not sit down to a plate of crawfish or redfish coubion in Quebec.

After a smooth flight and water landing, Bourgeois taxis to a narrow strip of sand and the anglers unload. It takes only 15 minutes or so to find the schools of big redfish and for a time it’s all Bourgeois can do to ensure bigger fish are landed and released safely while the smaller fish are strung up for dinner.

The Chandeleur Islands are approximately 35 miles off the coasts of Mississippi and Louisiana. Bourgeois’ approach is to fly over Islands until he sees fish or big schools of bait before setting the plane down.

His main lodge sleeps 52 and all meals are provided. The area is good for anglers of all skill levels and for fly fishermen because they’re normally casting to fish they can see. As if the Louisiana coast wasn’t wild enough, Bourgeois’ fly-out trips add a further sense of adventure that separates it from normal charter trips.

“My philosophy is this,” Bourgeois said, “and I’m still working on it. Dad died at 58 and always said ‘save up, save up for retirement,’ and he never got to enjoy it. My grandfather lived to 98 and always said ‘see the world, enjoy it,’ and he drank and smoked cigars and cut the fat off his pork chops, made a sandwich out of the fat and sopped the bread in the grease. Now, I don’t know exactly where I fit in, but I’m going with ‘enjoy it.’”

For more information, visit