Louisiana outdoor treasures: Campo’s and Fisherman’s Friend Bait Shop

Blackie Campo’s Marina and Bait is a fixture in lower St. Bernard Parish.

Generations establish legendary service to fishermen, friends

Sometimes it’s just hard to pick a favorite, especially when there are two legendary bait shops in the same region that both deserve recognition for their service.

Having grown up in St. Bernard Parish in the 1960’s, Blackie Campo’s Marina and Bait was already long established. I remember back then you could launch your boat or rent a skiff there, buy live and dead shrimp, fuel and ice, and Blackie would count out the shrimp with the biggest set of hands I’d ever seen.

What I didn’t know was that Blackie’s dad, Celestino, actually started the business back in 1903. Back then, a train ran freight and passengers from the city to the shoreline of Lake Borgne at Shell Beach, where wooden ships unloaded goods bound for New Orleans, and then loaded up with cotton and sugar for their return trip.

(Left to right) Michael, Frank Jr. and Robert Campo currently run Blackie Campo’s Marina and Bait.

A small hotel and several other small stores accommodated travelers, sailors and tourists. Celestino, who was born in Delacroix Island, the son of Canary Islanders and well versed in all things regarding fishing and hunting the Louisiana marshes, saw an opportunity. He offered live and fresh shrimp to the many anglers who made the ride for the fantastic fishing. Initially he caught the shrimp with a cast net, then a seine, and eventually a trawl. His business grew into a full time store, a bait shop, boat launch, boat rentals, fuel and guided fishing trips.

Celestino died in the mid 1960’s and his son Blackie ran the business along with his sons, Kenny and Frank, Jr., until Blackie’s death in 2008. His son Kenny and his son, Kenny Jr., ran it until Hurricane Katrina wiped it out. Then Frank Jr. and his sons, Robert and Mike, rebuilt it and run it now. Even Robert’s son Zack is often there helping out, counting shrimp, pumping fuel or trawling, especially on weekends.

Some things have changed. Uncountable hurricanes erased all the docks and stores and shops on the Lake Borgne shoreline. During World War II, a Naval anti-aircraft training center was located where the old Shell Beach used to be. In the late 1950’s, the remnant of the community was moved inland to where it is now when the MRGO was constructed.

Campo’s marina and bait store has taken a pounding through numerous hurricanes and been rebuilt each time. What hasn’t changed is when you buy bait, fuel or launch your boat, you’re doing business with one of five generations of Campo’s or their employees, who’ve been counting bait at one of the oldest bait stands in America for 120 years. Campo’s is located at 1301 Yscloskey Highway, St Bernard.

Fisherman’s Friend Bait Shop

For the past 38 years, Tony Cuccia, Jr. has been selling bait at his Fisherman’s Friend Bait Shop located alongside the Gulf Outlet Marina, right behind the Marina Motel on Paris Road in Chalmette. According to Cuccia, it was a business born out of necessity.

Tony Cuccia, Jr. has been selling bait at his Fisherman’s Friend Bait Shop for the past 38 years.

“My brother Kevin and I were launching our boat one Saturday morning to do some fishing in Bayou Bienvenue, and the boat launch had no bait,” he said. “The launch was operated by Lionel Alphonso at the time, and his bait tanks were two 4X4 boxes with a screen over them. And that Saturday morning they were both empty.

“Me and Kevin went home to get our trawl to catch our own bait, and Lionel offered to buy any live shrimp we didn’t use. Back then I think he paid us a nickel per shrimp. Lionel didn’t have a steady supply of shrimp so we started trawling for them and selling to him every weekend. Once the locals knew he consistently had bait, his business improved. In 1985, he asked us to take over the complete operation of the bait shop. I thought about it and decided to quit my sheet metal job and went to work in the bait business, and we’ve been at it ever since. One of us was steady running the trawler, either my dad, Tony Sr., or my brother Kevin, or me. And now my son, Tony III, works it too. So, over the last 38 years we’ve had three generations of Cuccia’s working here.”

Fisherman’s Friend Bait Shop is located at the Gulf Outlet Marina, 314 Marina Road, behind the Marina Motel on Paris Road in Chalmette.

About Rusty Tardo 364 Articles
Rusty Tardo grew up in St. Bernard fishing the waters of Delacroix, Hopedale and Shell Beach. He and his wife, Diane, have been married over 40 years and live in Kenner.

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