For the first time in a generation, five Louisianans were honored by the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries for their actions in saving the lives of three children — two boys and a girl —in what turned out to be a fatal March 28 boating accident on the Pearl River.
Folsom residents Jonie Morgan, 31, and a man described as her boyfriend, Terry O’Keefe, 41, with the three youngsters launched into the Pearl River Canal near one of the low-head sills in the late afternoon that March day. When the outboard didn’t start, current carried the boat to the sill and then capsized, sending all five into the water.
Before this accident, the LDWF sent a petition to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers asking for the sill to be removed after a string of boating fatalities at the same site.
Paul Page, then 16, was motoring up to the sill in his boat, when he saw Morgan and the three children in the water.
The LDWF report indicated Page’s boat also capsized during his attempted rescue, and Page was able to hold onto the two boys. It was reported in March that Page also grabbed Morgan, who was holding the 5-year-old girl, but the two slipped from his grasp.
That’s when Covington residents Diane Leach and Tim Rodosta came on the scene.
According to the report, Page “waved them over to help and when he looked back Morgan and her 5-year-old daughter had disappeared. Leach and Rodosta were able to get Page and the two boys into their vessel and safely onto shore.”
That’s when LDWF enforcement agents Keith Francis and Joel Cromp arrived and shortly after spotted the young girl emerging from under the first capsized boat and waved a boat occupied by Chad Thompson and A.J. Holmes to the young girl. Thompson and Holmes pulled the youngster from the water.
The report noted the children and Page were wearing life jackets, and on April 1, when search-and-rescue crews found the bodies of O’Keefe and Morgan from the river, neither were wearing life jackets.
Page, Leach, Rodosta, Thompson and Holmes were honored with the LDWF’s Citizens Meritorious Service Award.
“All five individuals involved exhibited leadership, good judgment, and discipline. All five people should be recognized for their heroic actions during a tragic event,” LDWF Lt. Col. Sammy Martin said during the ceremony.
Helping their friends
More than 80 south Louisiana anglers turned out Saturday for the inaugural AAA bass tournament to raise money to help three fellow anglers with expenses for upcoming national tournament.
Ascension Area Anglers member Jamie Laiche is the state’s qualifier for November’s B.A.S.S. Federation National Championship and AAA’s Seth LeBlanc and Tim Carmouche earned a spot in the TBF Nationals.
Chad Porto and Kevin Medine won Saturday with a solid 17.46-pound, five-bass stringer that included a 5.35-pound kicker that earned the big-bass pot. The two are first-rate Lake Verret Basin fishermen and took home a little more than a $1,000 for their efforts.
Tournament organizer Ryan Lavigne said a portion of the tournament payout came from donations by Autobody Unlimited, Joey LeBlanc Trucking, Blue Cross-Blue Shield, Mister Twister, Missile Baits and Delta Lures.
On the bass trail
Touring pro Greg Hackney, another Ascension area bass-catching star, had his one-year reign as the Toyota Tundra Angler of the Year end Sunday when Aaron Martens finished sixth in the near 110-angler Bassmaster Elite field on Lake St. Clair near Detroit.
Martens’ points pushed him out to a more than 100-point lead in the 2015 Angler of the Year race, and with one tournament remaining, that’s enough distance between him and No. 2 angler Dean Rojas. Each tournament’s winner can add only 100 points to his total, so Martens has been declared the tour’s top man for the third time in his career.
Hackney is ninth in the standings going into the final Elite Series event this year, October’s Toyota Angler of the Year Championship that takes the current top 50 anglers to Sturgeon Bay off Lake Michigan. That’s the final AOY standings will be determined, and the Elite qualifiers will be set for March’s Bassmaster Classic in Oklahoma.
The other three Louisiana anglers — Cliff Crochet, Dennis Tietje and Randy Allen — did not qualify for the AOY Championship.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Mandalay National Wildlife Refuge announced plans for an open archery deer season and a lottery waterfowl hunts for adult and youths.
The refuge is about six miles southwest of Houma and is accessible only by boat.
Archery hunting will conform to State Deer Area 9 dates, a bucks-only hunting from Oct. 1-15, then an allowed either-sex take Oct. 16-Feb. 15. Go to the refuge’s website for complete rules and regs: www.fws.gov/mandalay/.
There’s an Oct. 15 deadline for applying for the lottery waterfowl hunt, which will be held Wednesdays and Saturdays throughout the 60-day Coastal Zone waterfowl season.
The youth lottery is for the Oct. 31-Nov. 1 youth-only hunt. Open/adult lottery hunts will begin Nov. 11 and run through Jan. 16. Five hunters will be drawn for each date to hunt from five floating/boat-hide blinds. Each blind has a three-hunter maximum, and hunters will have to furnish boat, decoys and other equipment. A completed lottery application must be at refuge headquarters by 4:30 p.m. Oct. 15. Applications are available and can be delivered or mailed to refuge headquarters at Mandalay Waterfowl Lottery Hunt, 1725 Willow Street, Franklin, LA 70538, faxed (337) 828-0061, or by Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Applications are available on the refuge’s website.
Call Brian Pember (985) 860-6681 for more information.
Catahoula drawdown over
State Waterfowl Study leader Larry Reynolds said the annual drawdown of Catahoula Lake finally has been completed after a prolonged period of spring-summer flooding. Wildlife managers draw the lake’s water down to produce the grasses and other food for overwintering waterfowl.
“If the water level stays within our target levels, there is still enough time to get production of desirable waterfowl food plants like millet and sprangletop before re-flooding in November,” state Catahoula biologist Cliff Dailey said.
The LDWF and the Army Corps of Engineers co-manage the lake’s water.
Eagle Lake sac-a-lait
In a joint agreement with Mississippi fisheries managers, the LDWF announced that as of Oct. 1 there will be new sac-a-lait regulations on Eagle Lake, an oxbow bordering both states. It’s in Madison Parish on the Louisiana side.
Both states will have a 30-fish-per day limit with an 11-inch minimum length limit. The agreement between the two states calls for a population stock assessment after four years, along with a fishermen’s survey, to determine future sac-a-lait management for this lake.