Updated on February 21, 2022
The southernmost parts of Louisiana where the land melts into the Gulf are well known for exceptional fishing. Anglers’ dreams are made of bull redfish in marshy backwaters and yellowfin tuna schooling near the oil rigs. Every year anglers flock to the Louisiana Coast for their shot at some of the most sought after fish. The consistency and quality of the fish caught here has brought on nicknames like “The Fishing Capital of The Gulf”, or “Tuna Capital of the World.” Unfortunately, last summer Hurricane Ida slammed into Louisiana and caused widespread damage to some of the top fishing destinations. I caught up with guides from Venice and Grand Isle to find out what happened and how these fishing towns have recovered.
On August 29th, 2021 Hurricane Ida made landfall west of Grand Isle as a category 4 storm unleashing 150 mph winds, torrential rain, and flooding. Luckily, all of the guides I spoke with said very few residents stayed as most people chose to evacuate. The extreme weather took several days to push through and caused billions of dollars in damage to houses, boats, docks, roads. All of which was made worse by the power outages and gas shortages that followed. Of course, some areas were hit harder than others.
Venice is the southernmost town in Louisiana that is accessible by car which makes it great for offshore charters, but it is also remote and vulnerable to extreme weather. To find out how Venice and the fishing fared as a result of the storm I spoke with Captain Donnie. When I first asked Donnie about Hurricane Ida he indicated that he had been watching the storm but waited until the last minute to pull his boat out and evacuate explaining “we're below sea level, of course, and you just never know If the levies will hold up, you just can't chance it.” When I asked him about the aftermath of the storm he said “we didn’t have power for three weeks so Venice was like a ghost town,” adding that one of the levees breached and flooded the main highway and “the only way you could get to Venice was by boat.”
Despite the problems with getting to Venice Donnie said the damage was pretty minor “Venice was spared man, besides a few sunk houseboats, some roof damage, and some minor minor rain damage, all the buildings & structures are solid.” While Donnie did say the Cypress Cove Marina had to make repairs, he felt very lucky that the storm went west and didn’t do more damage. He summed up the fortunate circumstance by saying “it definitely could have been a lot worse, it was a category 4 storm and if Venice would have taken a direct hit we still wouldn't be operational.”
The recovery in Venice was dependent on getting power back and opening up the highway. That took almost a month and a half but once that was done Donnie said “We started back fishing and catching 200 pound tunas and a 90.6 pound wahoo.” When I asked Donnie how Venice is doing now he was happy to report that “everything is 90-95% operational, stores are open, and there's plenty of lodging and places to stay.”
At the end of our conversation, I asked Captain Donnie what message he would like to share with everyone to which he said: “Venice is a special place, it's the only place where you can come down and you can catch bass, redfish, yellowfin tuna, and swordfish, all in the same day! Every day is different, and not every day you're gonna knock it out the park, but if you come down with a good attitude good things normally happen.”
Grand Isle took a direct hit from Hurricane Ida and dealt with the worst of the storm. I had the opportunity to talk with Captain Daryl to find out how Grand Isle and its prized fishing weathered the storm. When I asked about the storm Daryl explained “there was no way to minimize Ida, it came through and caused a significant amount of damage.” He was able to safely store his boat before evacuating and although his house was damaged he felt lucky that it was fairly minor. Media outlets covering the aftermath reported estimates that 100% of structures were damaged but Daryl remained positive and said: “damaged doesn’t mean destroyed.“ He also emphasized that despite all of the pictures and stories, Grand Isle has not been wiped off the map and when you wake up you hear construction because people are coming back and rebuilding.
Throughout our conversation, there was a firm sense of determination and Captain Daryl made it clear that Grand Isle was wrapping up projects and itching to get back to work. The marsh is critical to the fish and Daryl’s way of life as a guide. When I asked if the marsh or fishing had been damaged he said “The marsh stayed healthy for the fish, there’s plenty of shrimp, they didn’t have a lot of winter stress on them, I believe what’s waiting on us is a bonanza.” He also explained that the marsh got pushed around by the storm but wasn’t harmed, it just changed the way it looks.
The main concern Captain Daryl had about people coming back to go fishing was due to so many of the hotels being damaged in the storm. Fortunately, he was happy to report that there are four hotels up and running in Grand Isle. At the end of our conversation, I asked Captain Daryl if he had a message he wanted to share that I’ll leave you with.
“Grand Isle has not been wiped off the face of the earth. We are here and our accommodations are returning. It may not be the Grand Isle that it was pre-Ida, but it's actually a whole lot quieter and more tranquil. The hurricane did not hurt the fish, We've got plenty of fish and you've got hungry Charter Captains.”
While Venice has been back on the water for a while, Grand Isle took a more severe hit. Captain Daryl said he will start running trips again in March. With these incredible fishing destinations suffering costly damage, the guides that fish these waters are anxious to get back on the water and start paying their bills. If you’re thinking about a fishing trip, consider heading to the Fishing Capital of the Gulf – it is going to be a great season!.