Venice, Louisiana

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The word Venice usually brings to mind Italian men in striped shirts propelling gondolas across the Grand Canal or perhaps even a small town on the western coast of Florida. But the Venice I travel to is geographically and figuratively far away from both of those associations.

I am referring to Venice, Louisiana-- a town known, but truly loved, by a fraction of the group that care about it-- fishermen.

venicemarina Drving towards Venice from New Orleans, you can ride for over half an hour without seeing a single person or car. Many of the towns along the way were completely destroyed by Hurricane Katrina and never rebuilt. But just when you think you have seen so many leveled grocery stores and bare house foundations that you are about to drive off the edge of the United States, there it is: Venice Marina.

You can hardly find a space in the parking lot overflowing with enormous truck and trailers. Anglers from across the country greet each other shake hands as they watch guides dock their boats, filling wheelbarrows with hundreds of pounds of tuna by the dozens. The balcony of Crawgators, the marina's restaurant and bar, teems with blues tunes and friends recounting the day's fishing tales over cold beer.

A little slice of paradise right in the heart of the bayou.fishingrig

The fishing in Venice is truly second to none. venicescenic1You can spend the morning catching countless redfish, trout and flounder among the cane reeds and lush greenery of the inshore waters, and then set out to fight over 100-pound yellowfin tuna yards away from one of the many oil rigs that speckle the Gulf offshore.

Perhaps it is the parodox of the surroundings in Venice that is so captivating and baffling. You find yourself in a primitve environment among the marina's small cabins, but just a few miles offshore battling fish as helicopters zoom by transporting workers to and from the enormous oil rigs refining the gasoline powering your boat at that exact moment. As flames shoot from the top of the rigs, you hear every word of the orders being commanded over the structure's intercoms. But somehow, you're all just floating together right there in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico. It is most definitely a "you have to see it to believe it" experience.

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