Good spots, bad spots greet duck hunters _lowres

Photo provided by TERRY BERGERON A hunter rises on a flock of teal as sunrise breaks over the marshes near Lake St. Catherine east of New Orleans. Tempertures in the low 40s and plentiful ducks greeted waterfowl hunters in most areas of the coastal marshes during last weekend's opener of the second split of the 60-day duck season. Warm, rainy conditions have cut into hunters' success since Monday.

“Spotty” is reaction to initial reports from the duck season’s three-zones, second-split opening weekend, and they came in three levels: good spots, average spots and just spots.

While water levels were down from the first split in the Coastal Zone, and north winds pushed more water from the marshes, prevailing southerly winds since Monday have pushed more water into these areas, especially east of the Mississippi River.

The best spots appeared to be the marshes just north of Holly Beach, in the Little Chenier and Grand Chenier areas, and in the rice fields in the southwestern parishes.

Solid reports came from areas off the Mississippi River east of Buras and the Pointe a la Hache marshes, but there were lower-than-expected takes from the four major wildlife management area hunts.

Saturday’s best WMA take came from Pass a Loutre, south of Venice along the Mississippi River. Of the estimated 300 hunters there, the average was 4.1 ducks per hunter. Next was a 3.3 ducks-per-hunter take on the Atchafalaya Delta, with the best average (5.1) coming on the Wax Lake limited-access area, which limits hunters to paddling into their blinds.

Pointe aux Chenes WMA hunters averaged two ducks per hunter, and Salvador WMA continued to lag behind the other WMAs at 1.5 ducks per hunter.

Tuesday’s WMA report was about the same, except that fog shrouded the landings at Pass a Loutre and Salvador, and hunters didn’t make it to set up for the morning flights.

Hunters’ expectations were high on the State Waterfowl Study team’s estimate of 2.64 million ducks, a number twice the team’s November survey of 1.21 million.

Still, reported study leader Larry Reynolds, the early December survey is short of the 3,2 million from the December 2014 estimate, but it higher than last five-year average at 2.4 million.

Reynolds said the increase comes despite mild conditions in the northern reaches of the Mississippi Flyway.

Noted is the significant increase in ringneck ducks, especially into the southeastern marshes, and lower numbers in pintails and bluewing teal from November numbers. Reynolds also said the 51,000 estimate on mallards is December’s lowest-ever count.

Another notable change is a more even distribution of ducks between the southeast and southwest coastal areas brought on, Reynolds cited, “... by a large concentration of gadwalls (gray ducks) on Delta Farms south of Lake Salvador, and very large numbers of ringneck ducks counted in the marshes of upper Terrebonne Parish.”

Junior bass club winners

Alex Heintze, Hanson Chaney and Caleb Roblin took home King Fishermen awards from the Junior Southwest Bassmasters Club’s end-of-the-year banquet earlier this month in Baton Rouge.

The Denham Springs-based club completed its fifth year after holding 11 monthly tournaments. Heintze took the honor in the 15-18 year-old age group. Dillon King and Cade Fortenberry completed the top three in that age division for total catch.

Chaney claimed the award in the 11-14 age group. J.J. Nelson and Wyatt Ensminger finished second and third, while Roblin was the top angler in the 7-10 age group. Wyatt Campbell and Jackson Landry completed the top three.

Justin Watts’ 4.66-pound catch earned him the club’s Big Bass for the Year Award.