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Alphonse "Al" Cassagne
Alphonse “Al” Cassagne grew up on the West Bank, in the suburbs of New Orleans, spending summers at his family’s Grand Isle fishing camp. He shrimped with his father (who worked in the school system the rest of the year), ran crab traps, and owned his own boat by the time he was a teenager. The water called Al, and he moved to Grand Isle permanently directly after graduating from high school. He worked as a commercial fisherman for most of his adult career, selling his catch to the docks while fuel prices skyrocketed and seafood prices stagnated or, worse, declined. In 2004, Al discovered a more profitable profession in catching and selling bait; today, his Coastal Bait Shop is one of the first businesses you come upon when entering Grand Isle. It’s there that he sells live and frozen bait—shrimp, croakers, pogies, minnows, squid, mullet, crabs—as well as handmade crab traps, bait tackle, and some prepared seafood for the unlucky, hungry fisherman. Al has witnessed, and endured, dips in business due to recent hurricanes and 2010’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill, but he remains optimistic about the future of the bait trade. As long as there are fish in the Gulf, he believes, Louisianans will put out a line.