This Lydia bait & tackle landmark feeds both fish and fishermen
An exquisitely carved wood plaque gifted to Dago’s Mobil & Grocery late last year enhances the lofty reputation of the popular bait shop and convenience store in Lydia. The 5 ½-foot long piece of art hangs from the ceiling in front of the door into the back shop area.
Chase Derise of Lydia, Dago’s manager, said it was given to the store by Mark Genest of Lydia. It features shrimp, redfish, speckled trout, crawfish, and, in colorful capital letters, the word Dago’s.
“He’s super talented. He carved it for us,” Derise said about Genest.
Marlene Perez, a cashier and long-time employee, said it took Genest three weeks to carve the plaque, which is outlined by a large cotton rope, the kind big boats use. It’s a fitting addition to Dago’s at 3902 Darnall Road, a mile or so west of U.S. 90.
A new vision
Doug Gaspard of Lydia took over the store, which he named Dago’s Mobil & Grocery, in 1992 around age 21, according to Derise. The new owner had a vision that included expanding the fishing tackle selection. The 35-year-old Derise, who started working at the store at age 12, continued building up the selection as store manager.
“I didn’t think it’d be a career,” he said. It was.
Approximately 12 employees, six cashiers and about as many cooks, are employed at Dago’s, Derise said. Fishermen and others obviously appreciate the cooks’ sausage/egg/cheese breakfast sandwiches and other sandwiches. Tammy Furlow of Lydia, a 12-year veteran employee, said the egg salad sandwich is by far the most popular.
Weekends bring the rush
From 20 to 40 regular customers frequent the store each weekday to buy fishing tackle or shrimp. Weekends, there are a lot more. A lot of those fishermen fish off the bank along the beach at Cypremort Point State Park.
“We’ve got everything you need … bait and tackle and shrimp. Live seafood, boiled seafood, big plate lunches every day. We’re pretty much the only place that has shrimp that’s an everyday thing,” he said, noting the store sells approximately 1,500 pounds of shrimp on a good day when the saltwater fishing’s hot and heavy around Vermilion Bay.
The store sells rod and reel combos such as Lew’s. Dago’s also sells earthworms for freshwater fishing. The store doesn’t have live cocahoe minnows because hurricanes messed up a lot of ponds where people went to catch them.
The store manager fishes two or three times a year but plans to go more often.
“I don’t go as much as I want to. I’ll start going more now that our son is getting older,” he said about his and Courtney Frederick Derise’s 9-year-old son, Luke.
Derise brings generations of saltwater knowledge to Dago’s. His paternal grandfather, the late Roy “Boxcar” Derise, was one of the most knowledgeable and successful redfish fishermen in Acadiana. The veteran fisherman who would catch 150 redfish off his favorite reef, actually had that reef named after him. Boxcar Reef is on the western side of Vermilion Bay. Derise has the diary his grandfather used to record trips. He’s still fascinated by the entries.
There are other popular bait shops in the Teche Area. One is at Iberia Outboard & Marine Service along the frontage road at 27034 East U.S. 90. The late Rickey Sonnier built a 40-foot x 60-foot addition to the existing building to house a bait shop in 2013. His son, Ryan Sonnier, modernized the interior to make it a full-fledged bait and tackle shop in April 2022. It has crickets, shiners, worms and shrimp, plus an expansive line of freshwater and saltwater products.