Eight months ago, Grand Isle was a wasteland, a nine-mile stretch of island crushed by Hurricane Ida.
The first images of carnage from this mighty storm brought tears to tears. Sand covered the island, most of it from the largely washed-out berm facing the Gulf of Mexico, and every man-made structure sustained some degree of damage. Many of them had left.
With no power, no water, no fuel, no food, no nothing and, even worse, with access along La. 1 limited to a single lane – the power of Ida has taken away parts of this vital link – Grand Isle faced a bleak future.
“It was bad”, charter fisherman Frank Dreher mentioned.
It was an understatement. Business and camp owners pondered their future, whether or not to rebuild/reopen knowing that it would be months before power was restored, then water, then other services to sustain a battalion growing number of workers.
During the month of October, salty sweat replaced salty tears.
Dreher and other charter fishing operators worked with crews to clear the island, then spent what little free time they had to get the materials they needed to repair their island operating bases.
The island’s major grocery store, Sureway, returned in October and was running on a generator. Electricity and water followed.
Yet post-Ida footage showed the uphill battle facing the islanders, including small cart and Dodie Vegas’ efforts to resurrect the iconic Bridge Side Marina, the marina’s first visitors see when crossing the Caminada Bay Bridge.
Today, Bridge Side is open with fuel, ice, live shrimp and minnows, gear and food, and Buggy Vegas said the store’s grocery store will be up and running this week.
“It’s still a work in progress,” Vegas said. “We are aiming to have bait boats supplying live croakers for Memorial Day weekend.
“We had to rebuild docks, and we have a barge in the marina building a new dock,” he said. “And we rebuilt about half of our rooms. The RV park is 100% plugged in, and we work around the fishermen in the mornings and work on site the rest of the day. »
Bridge Side is just one place. Others like The Blue Dolphin and half a dozen RV parks are open with a handful of restaurants.
“It took two months to clear the debris from the marina,” Vegas said. “And we were on the fence. Dodie and I had to make a decision, and our kids said they wanted to rebuild the place. So we did, so we could leave them a place where our family has worked for so many years. Were excited.”
This excitement wouldn’t be there if visitors, mostly anglers, couldn’t embark on coastal and offshore excursions.
“We catch fish, all charters,” said Laid Back Charters bass Dreher. “We caught limits of (speckled trout), as well as redfish, mutton and drum.”
Her Friday trip had five 3-4 pound trout among the catches, and most charters returned to the dock with limits of 25 trout or near limits.
“There are enough rooms and enough supplies now to say we’re open on Grand Isle,” Dreher said. “Virtually all (fishing) guides run and the fish bite. Some of them have accommodations, and if you can’t find accommodation, call your captain and they will find accommodation for you.
“The one thing everyone needs to know is the island and the waters certainly don’t look like they did before the storm,” he said. “Most of the debris has been removed and the demolition of some camps continues.
Dreher took the time to alert boaters to the appearance of two new sandbars along Caminada Pass, one on the Chenier side and one on the east side near the bridge.
“Right now I’m more concerned about the sandbars than the debris,” he said.
For Vegas, the months of dread, worry and hard work have paid off.
“It’s been a long road and we’ve had a lot of support from our friends, the fishermen we’ve seen for years,” he said. “It’s exciting to be back and exciting to see our friends back.”
Maybe need this
Last week it was learned that the Return ‘Em Right campaign would be providing ‘free’ gear worth $100 to deep sea anglers.
All you have to do is take part in what the campaign calls “a short online review of anglers’ best practices for helping reef fish survive release.”
An estimated 1 million reef fish die every year after being caught and then released, and the main reason the campaign has identified is barotrauma – the bloating/pressure of a fish’s internal organ when a fish is brought back from the depths.
Return ‘Em Right emphasizes the proper use of descent devices, which fisheries managers say “can improve the long-term survival of reef fish by up to three times.”
The campaign statement said these sinkers are weighted to “help fish overcome buoyancy and injury by releasing them at depth. These devices come in a variety of forms, including weighted reverse hooks, lip clamps, and weighted crates and boxes.
So if you’re 18 or older, check out the Return ‘Em Right website on Google, review posting best practices, and receive a set of posting gear.
The program is a consortium of Florida Sea Grant, the University of Florida, the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission and NOAA married to fishing groups, industry associations, state agencies, universities, governmental and non-governmental organizations with interests in the Gulf of Mexico.
And this project was selected by Deepwater Horizon Open Ocean Trustee as part of a 2019 restoration plan.
After completing the exam, your time will be well spent in this program.