Grand Isle marinas are a family thing

Buggie Vegas’ Cajun accent and beaming smile have become fixtures for sport fishermen launching or chartering out of Bridge Side Marina on Grand Isle.

He seems to be on duty 24 hours a day.

But Vegas wasn’t always in the recreational fishing business. He grew up in Cheniere, that part of the town of Grand Isle that lies immediately before crossing the bridge onto the island proper, and he was a commercial shrimper.

How he came by running a marina was pretty simple.

“I married into it,” he said.

When he married Dodie Gaspard 28 years ago, her parents Elnora and Dudley Gaspard Sr. operated the business — and had been doing so since 1974.

Nineteen years ago, Vegas was ready to get out of shrimping. So he and Dodie began to operate the marina for the family.

Then the family expanded its stake in recreational fishing when Dodie’s brother Butch spearheaded the family purchase of what was then Jo-Bob’s Marina on the other end of the island.

They renamed it Sand Dollar Marina, and Butch and his wife Susan run it.

The two are operated as what Vegas calls “joint family businesses.”

Elnora is “semi-retired,” in Vegas’ words.

“She takes care of us,” he chuckled.

But the families have a deeper stake in recreational fishing and vacation tourism than the two marinas.

Dodie and Buggie own six rental camps. Butch and Susan own the Cajun Holiday Motel. Vegas’ son Robert (who was born during the International Grand Isle Tarpon Rodeo 23 years ago) owns Wake Side Cable Park at Wake Side Marina, located directly across the highway from Bridge Side Marina.

Wake Side Marina is owned by Buggie and Dodie.

The cable park is essentially two towers that allow people to be pulled from one to the other tower on wake boards, knee boards and tubes instead of being towed by a boat.

Robert also does a modest amount of guiding for inshore and offshore fishing.

“I like offshore a lot — lemonfish, mangroves and red snappers,” he confessed.

Vegas’ daughter Reneé Pennison isn’t left out of the mix, either. She embroiders fishing shirts in a boutique in Bridge Side Marina.

Bridge Side and Sand Dollar marinas are full-service operations that offer live bait, boat launching, overnight parking, tackle sales, lodging and delis.

Some of the lodging facilities are spacious enough for families and groups.

“We specialize in providing an enjoyable experience for the whole family,” Vegas said. “Our staff will provide updates on fishing conditions and bait supply to callers at 985-787-2419.”

Bridge Side Marina also has 75 campsites.

The marina had hosted 18 events this year — including a wine tasting and gumbo tasting — by November . The first event was the Stan Brock’s Black & Gold Classic in May; the last one was the Grand Isle Ladies Fishing Rodeo in October.

Sand Dollar Marina hosted six more events.

“I put in a lot of hours shrimping, but I found out that a marina requires just as much time,” Vegas said. “People say, ‘Man, you work hard!’

“I say, ‘No. We work long — we have fun!’”

About Jerald Horst 959 Articles
Jerald Horst is a retired Louisiana State University professor of fisheries. He is an active writer, book author and outdoorsman.