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March 04, 2011

5 Top North American Fishing Lodges

Try these destinations for your next fishing trip

Louisiana flounder

Cajun Fishing ­Adventures

Buras, Louisiana, 985-785-9833, www.cajunfishingadventures.com

Location: Cajun Fishing Adventures, in Buras, Louisiana, lies about an hour's drive southeast of New Orleans and 15 minutes northeast of Venice. Plaquemines Parish (the surrounding county) provides passage for the last 70 miles of the Mississippi River as it meets the Gulf of Mexico.

The river's delta - the South Louisiana marsh - contains 40 percent of the nation's wetlands, which provide flood control, water purification, and nursery grounds and habitat for aquatic life.

Fishing seasons/­expectations: Captains primarily target redfish and seatrout but may also catch black drum, flounder and sheepshead. The region's peak season runs from April to December, because that period offers the best weather. During winter duck-hunting season, anglers may enjoy some of the best redfishing of the year after a hunt. Slot-size reds weigh up to about 12 pounds; average specks weigh 3 to 4 pounds with an occasional 5- to 7-pounder. Anglers can catch double-digit numbers of reds and trout in a day; state bag and size limits determine keep or release.

Lodge records: Lodge captains release all redfish larger than 10 pounds and trout more than 4 pounds, unless someone wants a skin mount and the catch is legal. Anglers commonly encounter 25pound bull reds on a daily basis within the inshore fishery.

A typical day's outing: Most charters begin at daybreak; the marsh is already alive with activity. Birds hover over bait pods, while schools of trout and redfish push from beneath. Guides look for these signs and place customers near the action.

During high tides, when the oyster reefs completely submerge, fish congregate around the structure.

The marshes provide loads of sight-fishing opportunities, spine-tingling moments when clients can see redfish cruising the grassy shorelines of bays, lakes and bayous.

Average climate/weather expectations: Daily temperatures range from the low 60s in January to near 90 degrees in July. Skies are sunny 60 percent of the time, and the average annual rainfall measures 64.2 inches. Prevailing winds come from the south or southeast. Wind speeds peak in March; the lightest winds occur June through November.

Getting there: Fly-in guests travel to Louis Armstrong International Airport in southwest New Orleans. Most rent a vehicle and drive 90 minutes to the lodge or select one of several shuttle services.

Vessel information: Most vessels are 22- or 24-foot Skeeter bay boats powered by Yamaha outboards. The lodge also has a Hell's Bay Waterman 18 skiff and a Ranger 168 Phantom skiff for ultra-shallow-water sight-fishing and fly-fishing. All boats are outfitted with GPS/sonar units and Power-Poles. Shallow skiffs also feature poling and casting platforms, push poles and trolling motors.

Available tackle: The lodge stocks Quantum rods and reels in bait-casting and spinning combinations, and uses a variety of soft and hard plastic such as Mister Twister/Exude, Sebile, H&H, MirroLure and Deadly Dudley. Typically fly-fishing clients bring their own equipment, although the lodge keeps fly tackle available.

Accommodations: Three lodges sleep up to 36 people; a nearby cabin accommodates an additional nine guests. Rooms come with a queen-size bed and a bathroom. The 2,500-square-foot living room houses a pool table, 60-inch TV and plenty of lounging space. The back deck overlooks one of two pools; the lodge also features a hot tub.

The lodge contains a mix of finished and rustic wood; deer, duck and fish mounts; plus plenty of Louisiana marsh décor.

2011 packages: Typical three-day, three-night fishing packages cost $400 per person per day, and include inshore fishing with an experienced captain, tackle, soft drinks, bottled water, Cajun-style breakfast, poor-boy sandwich for lunch, three-course dinner, fish cleaning and prep. Alcohol, licenses, tips and transportation are not included.

Provisions for taking home fish: The lodge cleans, ­packages and freezes fish for customers who choose to take fish home. Anglers bring their own coolers for packing.