Port Eads set to hold official reopening

Port Eads occupies a unique place in Louisiana’s fishing history.

Want comparisons?

What’s Louisiana history without the Chalmette Battlefield; the “red stick” French explorers found along the banks of the Mississippi River that gave Baton Rouge its name; that first settlement in Natchitoches; the Acadians settling along the bayous of south Louisiana; the unique blending of cultures and food; and Captain Shreve’s work in north Louisiana to open the Red River to commerce.

That’s not a stretch: Most of the state’s offshore fishing pioneers carved out a docking facility near the Rear Range Light Station on western bank of South Pass a couple of miles from the mouth of the Mississippi River.

That’s when Port Eads began serving as a base camp for fishing and hunting adventures that soon became legend.

The first billfish landed in Louisiana in the late 1940s and early 1950s were caught from wooden-hulled vessels, some resurrected from World War II craft like PT boats.

The men who piloted these boats and sought species like blue and white marlin, sailfish, wahoo, bull dolphin, three species of tuna and other giants of the deep were the vanguard of a bluewater fleet that became part of world renowned fishing destination.

It was only later that these men became charter members of, first, The New Orleans Big Game Fishing Club, and, now many years later, The Baton Rouge Big Game Fishing Club.

Hand-in-hand with big-game fishing was the inshore action on speckled trout and redfish, and the unique opportunity of “blast-and-cast” trips that combined world-class waterfowl hunting with same-day, top-drawer fishing.

Because Port Eads was so near the action — docking there after a hard day’s fishing saved so many miles and time running up and down the river from Venice — these men continued to hold their prized place through historic storms like Betsy, Camille and Andrew.

That was until Katrina, a benchmark storm for Louisiana that nearly wiped Port Eads off the map.

It’s taken the nearly nine years since Katrina carved up every patch of land and water in the southeastern parishes to refurbish Port Eads.

The official reopening of newly constructed lodges, fuel dock, boat slips, restaurant and bar in one of the state’s most remote locations is set for Friday, the advent of Memorial Day weekend.

Port Eads Fishing Refuge Board in Plaquemines Parish has partnered with the High Adventure Co. from Atlanta to operate the resurrected facility.

John Burrell, High Adventure’s president and CEO, said Plaquemines Parish president Billy Nungesser made several trips to Washington, D.C. to secure the funding needed to restore the Port Eads site.

Burrel said he understood, “... it was $14 million roughly,” for site work and construction of the two lodges that will provide lodging for 48 along with the outdoor lodge-type amenities.

“They (the Port Eads board) found us,” Burrell said. “And we’re happy to be involved.”

It’s the second move into Louisiana for High Adventure, which operates Honey Brake Lodge near Jonesville.

“After looking at (Port Eads) and understanding the significance of the fishery, this place just jumped off the map for us,” Burrell said. “We do this (outfitting, lodging, guide service) all over the world.

“I mentioned this to some of my buddies and they lit up, because they know the nature of the fishing both inshore and offshore and how diverse it is,” Burrell said. “I’ve seen the old-school pictures with guys basically in a rowboat out there and hooking a big marlin. It’s a one-of-a-kind place.”

Burrell said the two camps have four “really big rooms” in each camp with six beds per room with a full-service restaurant named “Finleys” in the larger of the two camps. A weighmaster shack, 60 rented boat slips and a ship store with fuel, ice and other supplies complete the layout.

For details, call High Adventure (800) 847-0834. Website: www.highadventurecompany.com.

Fish with dad

With Father’s Day around the corner, Louisiana Charter Boat Association members are sponsoring a “Wish to Fish With My Dad” contest. Two winners will receive two full-day charter fishing trips.

Here’s how it works: The winners will be judged on a short written narrative outlining why they would like a chance to fish with their dad.

You’ll have to submit photos — LCBA contest organizers list the possibility of a video — “... describing a memory of fishing with their dad or on a hoped-for opportunity to fish with their dad,” and they leave open the opportunity of including stories about grandfathers, uncles or other “dad-like” persons in their life.

“One of the greatest parts of our profession is to see memories in the making,” LCBA executive director Daryl Carpenter said. “There is just something special that is built between a father and a son when they are on the water and this contest is something our Louisiana professional, licensed charter captains wanted to do to extend that opportunity to at least two winners of this contest.”

Carpenter said the LCBA is considering future contests, including mothers and military veterans.

Entries can be submitted online at: www.wishtofishdad.com. Carpenter said all entries will be posted on this website and Facebook.

Entries will be judged by a panel of charter captains with comments on Facebook.

The deadline is June 20.

More information is available on the LCBA website: www.louisianasaltwater.com.