Fishing Plaquamines Parish, Louisiana
Plaquamines Parish is a watery place, a narrow finger of land jutting into the Gulf of Mexico. It is radically exposed, bearing the brunt of the hurricanes that batter the South. From space, this area of the Mississippi River delta looks like radiating capillaries and veins. No matter how many times the residents get nailed by storms, and most would say a few too many, they rebuild and stay. They are a different breed.
Ryan Lambert has been escorting folks on fishing trips for over thirty-five years. People come to Plaquamines Parish because its waters teem with a huge assortment of fresh and salt water species, creating some of the best fishing in North America.
Come morning, Ryan launches his big twenty-two foot “Skeeter” bay boat into the Mississippi River and guns the 250 cc Yamaha engine across the mile wide muddy river to the east bank.
Ryan cuts the boat around the Ostrica Locks where the water swirls in whirlpools and confusing tides and swift currents. Ryan easily bullies the fishing boat through the turns, then speeds across to Lemar Bay. Anglers can easily get into trouble fishing out of Plaquamines Parish if they do not know the river.
Many different species of fish can be found in the waters surrounding Plaquamines. Before the tragic oil spill, there were even more species. Trout have become scarce as of late, but the crowning jewel, the reds, are healthy and prosperous. It is not uncommon to pull four to six footers out of these waters.
Ryan’s Cajun Fishing Adventure Lodge in Buras, is a set of three lodges providing beds for thirty-five. Fishing Magazine rated Cajun Fishing Adventure Lodge one of the five top lodges in North America in 2011.
Tonight’s dinner begins with huge plates of steaming shrimp and bowls of hearty gumbo, then our red fish for the main course. Thirty percent of our nation’s seafood is harvested from these Louisiana waters. Because it is the most tested seafood in the world, it is the most regulated and safest.
Some folks are still hesitant after the spill to come to Plaquamines to fish, Ryan explains, but the fishing is alive and good. I’ve personally never tasted seafood so delicious and fresh. Visit www.cajunfishingadventures.com
Circling Alabama’s Mobile Bay
At Wintzell’s Oyster House in Mobile, Alabama, you can have your oysters “fried, stewed, or nude.” We have them all ways along with baskets of fried green tomatoes, fried pickles, beers, bread pudding and key lime pie. We’re exploring the Alabama Coastal Connection, a 130-mile National Scenic Byway, highlighting the resources and attractions on the southern tip of the state.
It’s about visiting shipyards and watching them work on the actual Pirates of the Caribbean boat and stopping in the hometown of Forrest Gump’s buddy, Bubba...Bayou La Batre, and watching shrimpers come and go. It’s also about strolling through beautiful Bellingrath Gardens amongst 250,000 100-year old azalea bushes in full bloom - 6 feet high of solid pink.
We cross a long bay bridge to get to Dauphin Island and watch pelicans dive straight down like torpedoes to spear fish. On the island are monstrous ancient midden mounds, left behind from the very old Indians, with trails that snake amongst giant live oaks with weeping moss like Mother Willow in Pocahontas. We visit Fort Gaines and listen to cannons being shot by re-enactors and visit an Estuarium (an aquarium on the estuary). We stroll in a gorgeous pine forest at the Audubon Bird Sanctuary, stop at a roadside stand to eat boiled Cajun peanuts.
Ferry rides are always fun and the Mobile Bay Ferry across to the Fort Morgan Peninsula is no exception. Once there, we hike through beautiful Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge and look for rare pitcher plants and dig our toes in sand so white and sugary fine that you MUST wear sunglasses out there.
There are 11 miles of paved multi-use trails called the Hugh Braynon Backcountry Trails in Gulf State Park. They snake through forests of dripping Spanish moss and alligator ponds. In nearby Orange Beach, we visit the Indian & Sea Museum run by a family of seamen.
As we complete our circle around the Bay, we stop in the pretty town of Fairhope, whose downtown trees are completely covered in gold fairy lights. Throughout the course of our wonderful closing meal at Pinzone’s Italian Restaurant, we are serenaded by a roaming Italian opera singer. We’re leaving here with not only a vast storehouse of knowledge about this beautiful and rich area, but also made some great friends of these friendly Alabamians. Visit www.alabamascoastalconnection.com