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Outdoor Corner: A Grand Island it is

Lyle Johnson

We laid my father-in-law to rest a little over a week ago and Goosie and I headed “down the bayou” to Grand Isle for a short family trip. It’s an annual event that ironically didn’t include Sonny Guice, the originator of that trip years ago.

What a crowd. Friends and families enjoying the sun, sand and water at the Grand isle beach.

It would be a bittersweet one as the memories we recalled through the years would bring great joy to our conversations but he would surely be missed as well. The weekend would start off by fishing on the road, probably on a bridge.

So up out of the bed at 1 a.m. Friday morning to meet Goosie at 2 a.m. so we could get live shrimp and be on our favorite bridge at daylight. Live bait is the key to a successful road trip in the summer, so there is a method to the madness I am about to explain.

You kinda have to time everything just right to manage your resources for the day. At 5 a.m. our first stop was at a bulk ice house where we could get a 100 pounds of ice for $8. We ended up getting 150 pounds to top off all of our ice chests.

The next item and most important was live shrimp. At 30 to 40 cents apiece, one has to be pretty prepared to manage this precious resource. A 5 gallon bucket with a battery powered aerator is a must to keep them alive.

Our day 1 catch. Pretty normal catch for a road trip consisting of specs, reds, white trout, sheepshead and a mangrove snapper.

Even with the greatest of efforts, the shrimp will only last for a few hours depending on the outside temperatures. So after getting our ice, we waited about 30 minutes to get the shrimp at a bait shop, timed just right to get to our bridge at daylight.

We made it there with about 10 minutes to spare, all of our live shrimp (50 in each bucket, three of them) ready to go. Now all we need is for the fish to cooperate. That worked out pretty well as the action was pretty steady beginning at day break.

Goosie put the first speckled trout in the box. We caught lots of fish that we couldn’t keep. Usually those non-keeping fish are comprised of hard head catfish and pinfish. But today was pleasantly different.

We caught about 25 undersized redfish, which is a good sign for the future. Those were last year's spawn and those numbers bode well for the future of the specie that folks from all around travel to Louisiana’s coast and try to catch.

Another species we caught plenty of were juvenile mangrove snapper (over 20). This is a phenomenon that started a few years ago. Not that its strange, as mangroves are born and stay in inside waters until large enough to make it on their own. Most are under 12 inches (the legal size) that are caught in the marsh.

Two more of the family joined us, Gerry and Daphne Nelson (Goosie’s sister) later in the morning. Together we put together a decent stringer of fish that included eleven speckled trout, two redfish, one mangrove snapper, one white trout and a sheepshead.

One of our favorite yearly rituals is the fish fry after the catch. We stay at Ricky’s Motel because of the outside amenities that are very family friendly. The pavilion is equipped with barbecue pits to use, tables and plenty of room to set up fish frying equipment.

Our propane tank, burner and other cooking stuff is set up and the fish we cleaned a couple of hours earlier hit that hot grease with a great meal to follow. Another neat thing about Ricky’s is the Saturday night crab boil. In the summer months, crab traps are ran and the crabs caught are boiled for any guests to eat.

Another great opportunity offered to the quests is the fishing pier. It’s situated on Caminada Bay, fully lighted with some of the neatest chairs I’ve ever seen. They’re constructed out of plastic, 55 gallon drums that are cut in half. The bottom is inverted, placed inside of the other half and the seat back is fashioned by cutting the top part.

Saturday night about 10 was the night we picked to fish the pier. Each angler picked their favorite chair and light. Small minnows are attracted by the lights so sac a lait rigs are the best baits to choose.

The action started sort of slow as the low tide was coming to an end but as soon as the tide turned incoming things picked up rather nicely. The family part of this activity is my favorite. We had a couple of Goosie’s grandchildren that were getting introduced to the night fishing.

There was another family of really young grandkids with parents and “paw paw” teaching them the ropes. We all caught plenty of fish but the best part of the night was all of the shrieks of joy from the kids as they hooked up and landed their fish. Moms, dads and grandparents were quite delighted as well.

Friends and families enjoying the sun, sand and water at the Grand isle beach.

Grand Isle has been a family destination for years as my first memory of the island as a kid was a camping trip on the beach in a camper. It was the epicenter of charter fishing back in the '70’s and still is today.

This is nothing new as Grand Isle experienced a resort boom, with some predicting it would become the Rivera of the South back in the late 1800’s. One of the most famous of Grand Isle's 1890 resorts was the 160 room Ocean Club, built in 1892, only to be destroyed in 1893 by a hurricane.

Deborah and I took a walk on the beach and were astonished by the amount of families there, especially the kids playing in the sand and water. We were sitting on a bench at Bridgeside Marina watching the boats when a Zack Brown song came on the system. “I got my toes in the water, a** in the sand not a worry in the world, a cold drink in my hand life is good today, life is good today”… seemed very fitting.

A grand island it is. So until next time, remember to keep the slack out and set the hook hard. Have fun, be safe in the outdoors and may God truly bless you!