Waiting Game

To watch the evening news from Venice, Louisiana is nothing like being in Venice, Louisiana. Tonight, on the way back in from the 24-mile rigs, we saw a legitimately awe-inspiring sunset over the Louisiana marsh. The waters were flat-calm and you couldn't help thinking that this just must be one of the most peaceful, beautiful places on the planet. Click here for our complete video coverage >>
We came back to the Venice marina dock, which would typically be buzzing with fishermen doing what they do best--telling stories--buzzing instead with the sound of satellite television trucks. Not 100 yards from a reporter doing a stand-up stood a dozen or so charter boat captains and their families hovered around a piroque sitting upright on sawhorses. At the bottom of the Cajun canoe, one of the finest "mud-bug" boils you've ever set your eyes on.
"We can't fish right now, so we might as well try to have a little fun," shouted Capt. Eddie Burger over "On The Bayou" blaring on a nearby cd player. "Might as well eat well."
The afternoon was spent with Captain Devlin Roussel of ReelPeace charters. We ran 30-plus miles into the Gulf in search of oil.
Perhaps the most troubling aspect of our trip was the complete absence of life. Although we did not see thick slicks of oil, we also never saw a bird, busting baitfish or skying mackerel--all common sites most any other typical night in these waters. We saw nothing.
"It's just heartbreaking," says Roussel. "I've run these waters my whole life and I'm afraid that it will be changed forever. I'm a fisherman and I want to fish and to think about not being able to do that, well…"
Despite Hurricane Katrina, the collapse of the economy and a catastrophic oil spill, the resolve of the Venice fleet of sportfishermen such as (from left) Bill Butler, owner/operator of Venice Marina, Captain Eddie Burger and Captain Devlin Roussel is non-wavering. They will be back on the water.
Venice Marina owner/operator Bill Butler was forced to completely rebuild after Katrina leveled his facility. "I'm gonna go fishing somewhere this weekend, Cuz," says Butler. "I'll run as far as I need to, but I'm going fishing."
Captain Bryan Dickenson is ready to get back to fishing, too.
"This is what I want to do," Dickenson says. "My entire family is in the business."
"I'm also a big believer is nature taking care of things," he adds. "It looks bad right now, but it looked bad after Katrina, too."
Meanwhile, Gary Palacek of GPM Pumping Systems in Enid, Oklahoma says he'll have folks back on the water in a matter of months if only he could get a meeting with BP officials. Palacek says his oil-skimming system would make short work of the Horizon spill. (Hey President Obama? Have someone give him a call.)
As the words of the various charter boat skippers rang through my ears…as shrimpers returned to their docks, booms wafting in the breeze, stained with oil spewed days or weeks ago from the ocean floor some 30 miles away…
…we saw oil. Certainly more subtle than Anderson Cooper's CNN broadcast of tonight, but we saw it nonetheless. It was no less hideous. The cane was already dying and I remembered casting to redfish cruising those exact shallows not two years earlier. What had become of them…what would become of them. As Ryan Lambert so aptly put it: It's like waiting for a hurricane. You know it's coming, you just don't know exactly when or how bad it's going to get."
An oiled pelican at the Buras bird research center after its first-round of cleaning. Click HERE to see "Troubled Waters"