Dean Gladney has been running his 65-foot custom charter boat Beachwater II south into the Mississippi Sound from Biloxi for 35 years. She belongs to a group of eight similar vessels, dubbed the Chandeleur boats (aka motherships) that make the unique run to Louisiana’s Chandeleur Islands and the Breton National Wildlife Refuge for what Gladney describes as a “paradise of fishing.”
The Chandeleur boats are unique in that they act as mobile headquarters with six or more 14-foot skiffs loaded on board and are able to tow their charter’s personal boats for long three-day tours of nonstop fishing and camaraderie for up to 12 people. The spacious Beachwater II has the feel of a rustic fishing camp, and Gladney’s three-man crew cleans the days’ hauls of redfish, speckled trout and flounder, and cooks massive amounts of some of the finest Gulf Coast meals imaginable. They take care of everything—all you have to do is catch the fish.
“The Chandeleurs really are a paradise even though they have been ravaged by hurricanes over the last 30 years and are a quarter of their size now,” says Gladney, who at 22 years old started working as a deckhand for his father in 1979. His institutional fishing knowledge of the area is unrivaled. “There are so many coves, little bayous, points, and grassy habitats out there that are magnets for these fish, and when they turn on, boy, do they turn on,” Gladney says. “In the late summer we get my charters out on the Gulfside beaches for surf fishing.”
Ideal for large groups of friends or families, the motherships are a sensational way to spend a long weekend. The sunsets are spectacular on the large stern deck or on the bow for stargazing, socializing or hanging down below for poker games late into the night in the rarely visited and out-of-cellphone coverage Chandeleur Islands. In the spring, thousands of pelicans and other sea birds come to the island chain for nesting, but if the shoreline beach combing is ideal their real goal is fishing.
It’s a unique experience running the little skiffs out from the mothership up into the marsh shallows with an ice chest and then drifting along the shore until you find that one perfect spot where the fish start biting. Since you’re never far from the floating base, it’s truly a relaxed fishing expedition without the worry of returning to the boat launch to get home in time for supper.
This is the last month of the season that started in April. It’s best to book early—Beachwater II and the other Chandeleur boats fill up quickly with many repeat customers extending their trips by staying at the casinos adjacent to the marinas. “It’s really just been a good life out here on the water and helping so many people see and explore these islands with me,” says Gladney reflecting on his years aboard Beachwater II.
By Harlen Leslie, Southern Boating, November 2015