Stephen Brady and Rusty Landeche... 10/21/04

File photo

Stephen Brady, left, of Lutcher and Rusty Landeche of Baton Rouge show the bass that made Caney Creek Lake south of Ruston the premier big-bass lake in the state for nearly a decade beginning in the mid 1990s. New regulations proposed during Thursday's Wildlife and Fisheries Commission meeting are designed to urge anglers to take smaller fish from a 5,000-acre lake state biologists have determined have too many small bass. Landeche's bass weighed 6.9 pounds and Brady's 6.3 pounds, but several largemouths in excess of 10 pounds have come from the lake including Greg Wiggins' state-record 15.97 pounder caught in 1994.

The Advocate

It was a remember-when moment when Wildlife and Fisheries Commission chairman Chad Courville introduced Jeff Sibley during the LWFC's September meeting.

Sibley was in Baton Rouge to talk about Caney Creek Lake, and the mention of that 5,000-acre lake in Jackson Parish — it’s off La. 4 east of U.S. 167 south of Ruston — brought back memories of something we called a “green rush.” That’s something like a gold rush only this is the siren calling bass fishermen to a lake filled with giant largemouths.

A little more than 20 years ago, Caney was yielding bass the size of which had never been seen around here.

At one time eight of the state’s top-10 bass came from Caney. Still today, six Caney bass reside on that list, including the state record, a monster 15.97-pounder caught by Greg Wiggins early in 1994.

There’s a long list of reasons how and why this happened. Just know the key was stocking Florida-strain bass in a lake state biologists made sure had enough forage fish to produce lunker largemouths.

Sibley, the Willdife and Fisheries’ biologist for that area, said the lake has stable spawning conditions, and the state agency continues to stock Florida bass in the lake.

But there’s a problem.

There are too many bass, and despite data showing there’s a 46 percent mortality rate among the bass population, the number of bass exceeds the lake’s ability to produce enough food to grow bass to the size to lure anglers like it did 20 years ago.

And what fish managers found through at-the-landing creel surveys is that the lake’s bass fishermen released 82 percent of the bass they caught.

“We want them to catch and harvest those fish, but that’s not happening,” Sibley told the commission, further noting that Caney’s 8-12 inch bass “had the lowest relative weight of all waterbodies sampled in Louisiana.”

“The lake still has trophy bass,” Sibley said, "but results from similar evaluations in Louisiana waters have led to changes in existing regulations.”

To that end, Sibley proposed, and the commission adopted, a notice of intent with proposals including:

  • Removing the 15-to-19 inch protected slot limit;
  • Removing the eight-per-day bass daily creel;
  • Following the statewide 10-per-day bass limit with no minimum length limit.

Sibley said the LDWF’s Inland Fisheries staff will hold a public meeting on these proposed changes Sept. 25 at the Jimmie Davis State Park on the lake’s northeast shoreline.

If you cannot attend the meeting, you can submit comments to Sibley via email: jsibley@wlf.la.gov or mail to this address: Jeff Sibley, District 1 Biologist Manager, 9961 Hwy. 80, Minden, LA 71055. There’s a Nov. 20 deadline.

Public comment also will be accepted at commission meetings Oct. 5 and Nov. 2 in Baton Rouge.

The first count

Larry Reynolds sent numbers from Wildlife and Fisheries' aerial survey of the coastal marshes in advance of Friday's teal season opener. The Monday-through-Thursday fly-overs showed an estimate of 365,000 bluewing teal in the southwest marshes and 33,000 in the southeast marshes. Those numbers are much better than last year's 97,500 count, and much above the last five-year average of 136,000. It's the highest September teal count in nine years (457,000 in 2008). There were no greenwing teal observed.

Crossing the bar

We sent Mel Didier and Mike Coogan to their greater reward last week.

Guess you could blame baseball for furthering our friendships, but a hunt with Mel proved our life's passions ran deeper than the smell of freshly mowed grass on a warm spring afternoon and loving that unique sound of wooden bat meeting a baseball. He was a gentleman in every sense of the word, and a fierce competitor from a family of fierce competitors. To his family, his brother Gerald and boyhood friend Gerard Ruth, heartfelt condolences for a man who made is mark across the world in baseball, but always had his heart in Baton Rouge and anywhere in our state where he could find a hunting friend to occupy duck and goose blinds.

Knew Mike Coogan long before he was Dr. Mike. But it was after he moved to Baton Rouge and he began healing children and we began raising our children that we found out we shared common passions, a strong tie to our high school alma mater, baseball (somewhat diminished because he was an incurable Yankees fan and I liked the Red Sox and Cardinals) and music (Otis Redding and the R&B we grew up with in New Orleans).

Mike and Debbie Coogan have three children, and Mike once remarked how lucky he was having children who were involved in three things making our's the most unique and greatest-ever country, laws, baseball and music.

To Debbie, Megan, Patrick and Boomer and Mike's extended family, a prayer to heal the hole left in your lives and a prayer someone will come along to take care of the children in our community as well as Mike did.

These men will be missed, mightily missed.