With water levels in the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers reaching record January levels, the Corps of Engineers announced a planned Sunday opening of the Bonnet Carre Spillway, but its plans to pull the pins on the Morganza Floodway’s bays remained uncertain as of Saturday afternoon.

For all intents and purposes, the Bonnet Carre move will end the hunting season in that area. That move came during Thursday’s Wildlife and Fisheries Commission meeting.

The commission approved a plan presented by the state’s Wildlife Division that would effectively shut down deer hunting in the Bonnet Carre one-half hour after sunset on the date the Spillway is opened.

The work on the Bonnet Carre was announced for a 10 a.m. start, and the Corps announced the move is to “keep the volume of Mississippi River flows at New Orleans from exceeding 1.25 million cubic feet per second.”

Corps’ spokesman Ricky Boyett said through the announcement that Bonnet Carre will be open for “several weeks.”

When the commission approved the move Thursday, the Corps announced possible plans to open the Morganza Floodway as early as Monday, but later information surfaced that the move likely will be pushed back until Tuesday.

No matter when it comes, the commission’s vote also extended the deer-season closure within the Atchafalaya Basin to that one-half hour after sunset on the day the Morganza gates are opened.

The Atchafalaya closure spelled out the extent of the closed area: It includes all lands within the Morganza Spillway, including the control structure on La. 1, south to Interstate 10, then from I-10 south within the East and West Guide levees of the Atchafalaya Basin along with the Sherburne Wildlife Management Area, the Atchafalaya National Wildlife Refuge and federal lands in the Bayou Des Ourses and Indian Bayou areas.

Fearing a problem with hunters taking advantage of large numbers of deer seeking refuge from the floodwaters by crossing the East Guide Levee, the commission, in conjunction with the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries’ Enforcement Division personnel, agreed to extend the deer-hunting ban beyond the level in the northwest quadrant of the affected area.

That’s when the commission added what it called a “buffer area,” to the closure. Lands in the “buffer area” include:

From the East Guide east to La. 1 beginning at the junction of La. 1 and La. 10 at the Town of Morganza;

Then south on La. 10 to La. 77;

Then south on La. 77 to the intersection with La. 81 north of Fordoche;

Then a southern loop on La. 81 back to La. 77 just south of Livonia;

Then south on La. 77 to La. 76 near the Town of Sparks just north of Maringouin;

Then south along La. 76 to La. 3000 just north of Ramah;

Then south on La. 3000 to its intersection with Interstate 10 at Ramah.

Deer hunting will be closed until further notice in the Basin and in the “buffer zone.”

The unknown

Veteran Lake Pontchartrain fishermen know it takes as little as five days for Bonnet Carre floodwaters to affect the speckled trout action in the state’s largest lake.

Floodwaters generally hug the lake’s south shoreline, and Sunday’s spillway opening could mean fishermen will have only this week to get after the solid speckled trout action along Lakeshore Drive. Trout have been feeding on lingering white shrimp off the seawall from near Franklin Avenue to the Seabrook area.

The best action has been in the afternoons and most of the trout are 14-18 inches long, although heavier trout are coming near Seabrook.

For shrimpers

After Thursday’s LWFC vote to mandate the first-time use of turtle excluder devices — state regs will be the same as federal TED regulations — shrimpers will have until April 1 to comment on the move that follows a law passed by the 2015 State Legislature. Simply stated, the new rule will put violators into state courts as opposed to the decades-old rule that pushed violations into federal courts.

Email comments to Jeffrey Marx: jmarx@wlf.la.gov.