"The Big Easy, what does that even mean anyway? There's nothing easy about this place." - Sean Murphy, BOTE Director of Photography
There's also nothing normal about the place, but in a good way. Normal is the most abnormal thing you're going to see in New Orleans. Honestly, Sean Murphy did an hour long night photo shoot in the middle of Bourbon Street, holding a 12' stand up paddle board, and no one on the street batted an eye.
If you've been to New Orleans, you've been to New Orleans. But you haven't been to Louisiana. Not really. Sure, Bourbon Street and Cafe Du Monde may capture a tiny snapshot of the New Orleans experience, but the state of Louisiana is filled with eclectic and grounded people with deep cultural roots that help give New Orleans it's Big Easy feel.
It just so happens, we're into eclectic and grounded people here at BOTE. It's kind of our thing. So Sean Murphy met up with Michael and Stephen Frenette--a.k.a. Red and Brown--to understand how this unique ecosystem of culture, nightlife and southern roots all live and work together.
A lot of families growing up along the coast of Louisiana live dual lives between the coastline they love, the city of New Orleans, and its surrounding area. For the Frenette family, the commute was between New Orleans and Venice, a small fishing community about an hour south of the big city. Living between the two places gave brothers Michael and Stephen the educational perks of a bigger city with the elbow grease upbringing of a charter fisherman for a father.
Now grown, Michael and Stephen (or Red and Brown) work at their family owned and operated Redfish Lodge of Louisiana, a lodging and charter experience where the reviews rave about the amazing fishing excursions as much as the accommodations. It makes sense, the family has been operating in the charter fishing industry for more than 38 years.
Over some kickass barbeque at Central City BBQ, Red and Brown explain how even though they grew up in Venice, the people who are 'born, raised, and stayed' in Venice, LA--the shrimpers, crabbers, oil field workers, and others who live off the land--give Venice its character. And its character, coupled with its immaculate hunting and fishing spots, brings clients from all over to the Redfish Lodge, looking to cast a line and catch something worthy of a feast.
Sean Murphy, BOTE Director of Photography, experienced this first hand, going duck hunting with Red, Brown, and their father, Captain Mike. They're all captains, to be honest, but calling Mike Frenette Captain Mike seems to roll off the tongue. The Frenette men know some things about duck hunting, things you only learn through years of experience with men wiser than you. Knowing how to cut the bank and stay low while you make your way to a high-grass concealed water bunker, that's the shit you learn over time from someone who cares enough to teach you.
"It was pretty clear we weren't just hunting for dinner. It was a dad and his two sons doing something they love. This family gets what's important. Not a lot of people can say that." - Sean Murphy
Captain Mike, for being a charter fisherman, waxes poetic about his hunting excursions with his boys. He knows how special the great outdoors are and doesn't care what you're hunting so long as you're amongst nature. Most people, however, come to Venice to 'hunt' redfish, a popular and tasty fish found along the Gulf of Mexico and affectionately referred to as a 'puppy drum'. After a successful duck hunting trip, Red and Brown take Sean Murphy to some shallow waters in search of redfish, even though Sean has an inoperable arm at the moment.
"Fishing is literally my favorite thing to do in the world. And here I am, sitting on the bank with a jacked up arm watching everyone bow up, and the humor of it is not lost on them." - Sean Murphy
It's apparent Red and Brown know life is too short to take it too seriously. There's a place and time to strap up and buckle down, but fishing in the shallows isn't one of them. You'd think the amount of hooting, hollering, and taunting of poor Sean would be enough to have the redfish swimming for calmer waters, but the brothers and their collected decades of fishing experience had the fish biting one after the other. They may have been using a sideways shrimp on a jig head, but damn, it works.
If Red and Brown had to sum up Venice in a couple words, it would be different and unique. It's a strange peninsula, but like New Orleans, it's strange in a good way. It's a small community where everyone works hard, to include the Frenette family at the Redfish Lodge of Louisiana. You don't come across many people who truly live off the land, but in Venice, LA, they are in abundance and Red and Brown know it's a full circle community. In some way, shape or form, they all end up helping each other, because ain't one of them better than the other.
Filming with Sean for a couple days was a treat for Red and Brown, because they often find themselves working at the lodge every single day. It's rare when they get to indulge in the activities that so many people travel to Venice for as a family. But when they do, like Captain Mike says, "it's a special moment."
The BOTE products of choice to keep Red and Brown on the water were the Rackham Stand Up Paddle Board and the LONO Aero Inflatable Kayak. By decking these bad boys out with KULA hard coolers for their bait and a Tackle Rac for their rod and reel storage, the Frenette brothers were equipped to take on even the most monster redfish in the shallows of Venice.