The warnings are coming early this spring, and we’d best get ready for lots of water moving through south Louisiana.
It’s already here, and if you check out the National Weather Service’s Rivers Observation website (water.weather.gov), you’re going to find hundreds of sites checked with readings labeled “near,” “minor,” “moderate” and “major” flooding stages.
Worse for us is all those readings lay along rivers feeding into either the Mississippi or Atchafalaya rivers.
By March 19, the Mississippi at Baton Rouge is predicted to hit 42 feet, and get to 17 feet at New Orleans, and 6.6 feet on the Atchafalaya at Morgan City.
And reading the projections on those charts shows both rivers continuing to rise after that, except the New Orleans gauge reading stays at 17 feet, which means there already are plans to open the Bonnet Carre.
It means lots of bass-fishing pressure in the Verret Basin, into Lac Des Allemands, the marshes south of U.S. 90 and the marshes south and west of Lake Pontchartrain. A high-and-rising Atchafalaya River sends most bass anglers to other waters.
That pressure was one of the factors showing Saturday in the annual Anglers Against Autism tournament — that and March’s full moon came two days earlier.
“We were chasing nest guarders, and the big fish spawned on the full moon and had moved away,” veteran tournament angler Corey Wheat said. “And we were fishing a lot of disturbed waters,” which indicated there was more than the usual amount of boat traffic.
Ryan Kemp and Derek LeJeune won with a solid 20.79-pound catch and the $10,000 first-place prize, and Chris Guillory and Justin Ledet followed with 17.7 pounds. The winners also took home the big-bass money with a 5.21 pounder.
AAA organizer and weigh-in emcee Keith Thibodeaux said the winning stringer came from “the east side,” meaning east of the Atchafalaya Basin, and the Guillory-Ledet catch along with the third-place 14.3-pound total by the father-son team of Ivy and Casey St. Romain “came from way west of the (Atchafalaya) basin.”
Those weights weren’t close to last year’s AAA winners, and this year’s 5.21-pounder wouldn’t have scratched the top six lunkers in the 2017 event, when it took a bass weighing nearly seven pounds to make third place.
Then came Sunday
It’s difficult to find a pair of bassin’ guys with more experience in the Atchafalaya than Brent Bonadona and Craig Walker. And their years in the basin paid off in the Media Bass-South Louisiana Team tournament. Fishermen were limited to fishing the Atchafalaya, and this team came in with 18.1 pounds to win $2,500.
“Yes, the water was rising,” Bonadona said. “We found an area where the water wasn’t disturbed yet. The water continued to pour in all day, and there was a stretch of 200 to 250 yards of muddy water, but the water cleared up towards the back.”
That was a clear indication the team found and fished a canal, and Bonadona said they ventured far north in the Basin to find a good-enough spot.
“By the end of the day, there was about 500 yards of dirty water, and by today (Tuesday) it’s probably muddy most of the way in,” he said.
Bonadona said while most of the vast Atchafalaya floodway is holding high water, there will be places to catch fish.
“There will be spots, small areas, where the water pushed in and the clear water gets trapped and stays clear,” he said. “Find those spots and usually you catch fish. Most times you’ll find the water prettier in the back than in the front, until you get to a certain point.”
And that “certain point” likely is approaching rapidly.
On the Bend
State B.A.S.S. Federation teams from 19 states — from Minnesota south to Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas — are in Many this weekend for the B.A.S.S. Federation Nation Central Division tournament, the event to select anglers to represent their states in the FN’s nationals set later this year.
Headquarters and weigh-ins are set for Cypress Bend Resort on Toledo Bend. This tournament launched New Iberia’s Caleb Sumrall to the win in the National tournament and earned a spot in the Bassmaster Classic coming up in the middle of this month on Lake Hartwell near Greenville, South Carolina. Gonzales veteran Greg Hackney also qualified for the field.
Sumrall got his tournament feet wet in the Elite Series event in February and just last Saturday finished 10th in the Boater Division in the BASS Central Open on Ross Barnett Reservoir near Jackson, Mississippi.
Touring pro Stephen Browning (44 pounds even) won the Central’s $50,000-plus first-place prize in the Boater Division, and Sumrall had to take a spot behind the fourth-place finish of Baton Rouge’s Blake Betz (40-9) and the eighth-place effort by Prairieville’s Quenton Cappo (33-12). Cappo added $750 to his take with an 8-6 tournament big bass.
Two more Louisiana anglers made it to the final top 12 in the Nonboater Division when Houma’s James Simmons (18-8) finished eighth and rookie Alex Heintze, the Denham Spring teenager who recently graduated from the Junior Southwest Bassmasters, took 11th place (15-10) in his first major event.
—National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s Marine Forecasts: nws.noaa.gov. Find the “Coastal/Great Lakes Forecasts by Zones – Gulf – New Orleans, La.” and a map with 13 different nearshore, offshore and Lake Pontchartrain wind and waves predictions for the next five days.
—Weather Underground: wunderground.com. Current conditions, a 10-day forecast, and hour-by-hour predicted temperatures, winds, precipitation and barometric pressure.
—National Weather Service’s River Forecast Center: water.weather.gov for river stages.