No Place I’d Rather Be

Chris Macaluso - Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Entered on August 7, 2006
Age Group: 18 - 30
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I believe there is no place in this world more beautiful than the rolling surf of Grande Isle, Louisiana, when the first rays of the sun peek over the Gulf of Mexico to the East and turn the water from gray to green. I scan the surface of the Gulf, looking for the shrimp and the baitfish as they flip toward the sun’s warmth and give wade fisherman a clue where the predators, the speckled trout, have congregated. And, as I cast a topwater plug towards the fleeing shrimp and the first fish of the morning sucks that plug from the surface and stretches my line, I believe there is no other place I’d rather be. There is no greater peace I can achieve.

I learned to fish here, with my dad. We walked this beach looking for signs of life. We also fished the backside of the only inhabited island on Louisiana’s coast from the old bridge that traversed Caminada Bay from the chenier. That bridge, its barnacle-encrusted cypress pilings embedded deep in the sandy bottom, was closed to cars many years ago but was left as a refuge for the thousands who love to fish but don’t have a boat. I caught my first speckled trout there when I was five. I caught my last speckled trout of the 2005 summer there, just two weeks before Hurricane Katrina devastated my favorite place and sent a large part of the storm-worn bridge to the bottom of the bay.

Grande Isle, like many small towns dotting the fertile fishing grounds of the Louisiana Coast, was brought to its knees by Katrina and Rita. Along with the camps and the homes that were washed away went huge chunks of marshland and irreplaceable pieces of beach. The people are resilient. Many have rebuilt. The marsh and the islands have not shown that same resiliency. I have watched more of my state wash away in the last 20 years than I can even fathom. I, along with so many others who love Louisiana’s coast, have shouted loudly for the help needed to stop us from losing what we hold so precious. Our pleas have fallen largely on deaf ears. The holes dug in our marshes by the oil industry and the Army Corps of Engineers go unrepaired while the levees on the Mississippi River rob our marshes of the life-giving sediment that formed their foundations and once replenished them every spring.

This year, the fishing has been incredible. The gulf has yieled its bounty of crabs, shrimp, and fish inexhaustibly. I spread that bounty with my neighbors and friends with fish fries and crab boils and I take them fishing with me in the hopes they, too, will recognize the beauty. My coast needs them as an ally. I believe their voices will help us save what is eroding away, and I believe it is my duty to continue to plea because my children deserve the chance to find its beauty as well.

Chris Macaluso is Public Information Director for the Louisiana Governor’s Office of Coastal Activities, and the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority. A 2001 graduate of LSU, Macaluso is an avid hunter and fisherman, as well as part-time sportswriter during football and basketball season.