In the volumes of stories that have been written about our shrimping industry, far less has been mentioned about the men and women who produce the nets that have made shrimping possible. The Touchard family in Delcambre is one who has made an important contribution to the industry, beginning with patriarch Roy Touchard. A long-time commercial shrimper, Roy made and repaired shrimp trawls along the banks of the Delcambre Canal in the late 70s before opening a shop on Dooley St. in 1982.
“It was a time when the shrimping industry was going strong,” says Touchard’s son Clark, owner of Touchard’s Marine & Netting. “We had a large local fleet as well as hundreds of shrimpers from along the Gulf Coast that would unload their catch in Delcambre. The number of commercial fishermen has been reduced dramatically due to low profitability in the industry.”
Though Roy has been gone for some time, Clark has continued the legacy of his father’s net making with the help of his brother Bryan, wife Mary and daughter Jennifer.
The business has changed dramatically over the years says Clark, who now services only a handful of Delcambre fishermen. “We service a fleet of boats out of Intercoastal City and many smaller communities scattered through the area,” he says. “We also have a following from across the Louisiana Coast as well as a few from other states.”
It takes many man hours to build a net, from designing the pattern to cutting the bale of netting, sewing it, then hanging it onto the ropes. “All of the shrimp nets we sell are hand sewn using our patterns,” says Clark, who has made, literally, thousands of net patterns that he keeps on file for customers’ unique needs. In sewing the nets, he utilizes different types of plastic and sturdy, light-weight fibers. “Each customer has their preferences on what they like their nets made of, and there are different knots used depending on the application,” he points out.
Of the highly specialized and slowly fading art Clark says, “There aren’t many of us left.” With shops around Houma, Bayou Lafourche and Lafitte, he says he is the only “legitimate” shrimp net shop in the Acadiana area.
Driving down Highway 14 in Delcambre, Touchard’s Marine & Netting is hard to miss, with long green nets hanging in the sun on the side of their buildings. With 11,000 square feet, much of the space is used for the workshop area and warehouse, although there is a sizeable retail shop.
Since the decline in the shrimping industry in the 90s, Clark has diversified to offer the largest inventory of marine supplies and accessories for light industrial, commercial and all sizes and types of recreational fishing and boating needs in the Acadiana area. Products also include a line of cookware, from crab crackers and shrimp peelers to burners, fryers, boiling pots and McWare brand cookery, to name just a few products.
In efforts to continue growing, Touchard’s branched out to also produce sporting nets, including baseball batting cages, foul ball nets, back stops, protective screens and practice nets. “We furnish nets for most of the local high schools, some of the junior college sports and many of the local sports complexes,” says Clark. They also manufacture custom boundary nets for golf and large ball sports and specialty netting like safety nets for warehouses, pallet racks and conveyors, bird netting, playground netting and much more.
While Touchard’s has moved forward to meet the needs of a broader range of customers, Clark and his family continue to service the shrimping industry that provided a livelihood for his father and for generations of other fishermen.