OUTDOOR CORNER: Grand Isle fishing bridge held a lot of memories for Louisiana anglers

Lyle Johnson
“Up in Smoke!” The Grand Isle bridge in its final stages of burning with anglers on the north end of the bridge and a fire boat looking on.

While down on the coast participating in the largest volunteer effort in our state’s history, the beach sweep on Elmer’s Island, the fishing pier (bridge) on the south side burned to the water’s edge.

The news came from Keith Saucier of the East Ascension Sportsman's League, who spearheaded the clean up effort. “Man, you know the Grand Isle bridge burned down last night! It’s still on fire right now.” “Whoa, how’d that happen,” was my response all the while wondering in my mind how does a bridge catch on fire anyhow.

So after the beach clean up was accomplished, which by the way, netted over 6,000 pounds of trash, I headed to Grand Isle to see it for myself. I pulled in Bridgeside Marina and parked alongside the bridge and there it was. Only the upright poles were left in a smoldering and burning mess. All that work, a newly built public fishing facility gone, literally in a puff of smoke.

It’s a shame that it happened so soon after it was rebuilt earlier this year. That bridge holds many memories dating back to when the concrete bridge was completed. Many first fish of all kinds were caught on the bridge.

Here are some blogger’s memories; LaPlaceTeen—Aww man, I caught my first saltwater fish off of that. (I forgot what it was) It was the first time I had been saltwater fishing. Great Memories.

Hangemhigh says—Shame... Fished many nights on the bridge. Coleman lantern, cane poles, red flyer wagon with all the gear...Shame....

Hooked 1 says; Good Memories—My two brothers and I got our first taste of saltwater fishing from both bridges 20 years ago, fresh out of Kentucky - didn't know what a speck was back then.

Even camped out on it a few times between flipping double rigged white trout catches and hanging Coleman lanterns with aluminum foil capped around the tops. Haven't been on the bridge in probably 8 or 10 yrs. Best time was our first trip and we thought we were on the fish, caught over 60 hard heads -- ended up making our money back selling them in North Baton Rouge -- Ha ha, you just can't make this stuff up - we still laugh about that one. We would drive down on a Friday night and not sleep for two days, just fish and drive back to Baton Rouge late Sunday - would come back with new stories about the ones we couldn't pull up and the ones we let run our line out, stupid old bridge -- Anyway, we'll miss it for sure.

But if I know the “comeback” spirit of Grand Isle and its inhabitants, the bridge will be back and folks will be fishing on it once again. Hey, the north side is still intact and actually had about 50 people that were trying their luck.

In December, construction will begin on a new bridge to Grand Isle. The new structure will be built on the upstream (east) side of the old one. The peak will be 45 feet compared to the 18 feet on the current bridge. The new height will allow for larger vessels to navigate Caminada Pass and weather a higher storm surge.

Most of the funding will come from the federal level and there will be NO toll. Construction will take about two years and will not interfere with traffic at anytime during the building process. The lanes will be the same size as the current ones but an eight foot shoulder will added along with a six foot wide walkway on one side.

So what can we do with the old bridge? It is destined for removal, but personally I think the middle can be removed to allow for the taller traffic and then it could be made into a really nice fishing pier. But hey, I’m just a fisherman not a politician.

American Sportsmen Against Poachers will host its 2009 Membership Banquet on Thursday, October 15 2009 at 7 p.m. at the St. James Boat Club on Airline Highway. This organization has just about single handedly lowered the incidents of taking wildlife illegally.

Its impetus is to track cases through the court system to ensure that game law violators are prosecuted to the fullest extent and they don’t slip through the cracks. Membership and a meal are included in the $15 ticket price. Door prizes, raffles and informational presentations from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and  Fisheries’ personnel will round out the night. Information can be obtained by calling 225-445-6870.

Don’t forget to join me at Cabelas on Saturday, Sept. 26th for a fishing seminar from 1:30 until 3 p.m. I’ll be teaching  all my secrets about how to fish the Amite River/Blind River basin. Remember to keep the slack out and set the hook hard. So until next time have fun in the outdoors, be safe and may God bless you.