“Minnows for Sale” on the side of the road led to Leeville legacy
Terry Serigny started his bait business on Easter Sunday 1961. His family lived along Highway 1 in Lafourche Parish. It took a mighty investment. Serigny bought a used minnow trap for 50 cents to get his operation up and running. He caught his minnows and sold them off the side of the road.
Advertising was a simple “Minnows For Sale” sign.
In 1967, his first real 12×12 bait shop paved the way for a live bait enterprise that became a family affair and an icon of Leeville. In 1974, sister Gail Serigny Hayes started Gail’s Bait Shop. Terry’s and Gail’s operated nearly side-by-side for decades to come.
In late August 2021, powerful Hurricane Ida destroyed Leeville and left much of the town unrecognizable. Gail’s shop was gone and her house heavily damaged. She made the painstaking decision not to rebuild. What would Serigny do? He also sustained massive damage to both home and business.
As if the hurricane damage wasn’t hard enough, he suffered literal and figurative heart ache as he sustained two massive heart attacks following the storm. Having had five prior attacks, no doubt the stress of the hurricane damage took its toll. Social media kept track of Leeville’s progress and questions popped up regularly on the “Leeville Fishing at Terry’s” group page. “I can’t imagine Leeville without Terry” was a recurring sentiment. Serigny recovered and word quickly spread that he was coming back.
Progress was slow, but Serigny knew he had to get back to selling bait. With the help of some dear friends, he started a unique live bait honor system in his absence. Live bait was placed in boxes in the canal next to the old shop.
“Folks would count out their own bait and leave the money in the secure box,” he said. “When reconciling bait to money collected, I always had more money than the amount of bait sold. Was it that people couldn’t count, or did they just throw in a little extra to help out? I know the answer and am sincerely grateful.”
Serigny’s new shop was built around his old concrete bait tanks that were basically the only thing that survived the storm. The old tanks are up and running and stocked again with shrimp and cocahoes. The shop is a full-fledged tackle store with a table and chairs where folks come as much for the conversation as they do the bait. Terry’s also sells dead shrimp and has freezers full of frozen baits for offshore fishing. Outside hangs a custom-made Terry’s Live Bait sign that was blown away by Ida. It was found several months later in Lafitte and through the Facebook group, it was returned to Serigny.
If you’ve been to Terry’s, you know “Mom.” His mother was a cocahoe counting machine, but unfortunately mobility issues now have her limited to sitting in the shop greeting and talking to customers.
“She’s not here everyday, but people still ask for her,” he said. “She keeps telling me, ‘Man, I wish I could count bait again.”
Terry Serigny is a symbol of the grit, determination and resilience that defines the people of Leeville. And Louisiana sportsmen.
“I get up at 1-2 a.m. and start doing the things that need to be done before we open at 5,” he said. “Next thing I know, it’s closing time. The people are like a blood vessel for me and that’s what keeps me going. If I had to do it all over again, I would.”
Of course, nobody can fish in this area and not be familiar with Bridge Side Marina, Grand Isle. They have fresh, live and frozen bait for both inshore and offshore fishing. It’s a landmark for many anglers, old and young. They also have fuel, ice, boat launch, lodging, tackle, food and groceries.
At Delta Marina, Empire, customers find a boat launch, restaurant, rooms, tackle, fuel, ice, live and dead bait and a lot of fishing tales and passing a good time. Don’t forget about We Dat Bait and Tackle, Boothville/Venice. It’s a favorite for many for live and dead bait, ice, tackle and more.