Lake Pontchartrain’s hot streak coming to an end, but Delacroix, Hopedale marshes could pick up slack _lowres


Lake Pontchartrain fishermen are hoping and praying the string continues on the speckled trout action on the lake’s south shore. And there’s some tackle-busting redfish in the mix of the predators continuing to work the pods of white shrimp lingering near New Orleans’ seawalls.

If, but really not “if” but “when,” the muddy freshwater diverted from the Mississippi River through the Bonnet Carre invades this area of the state’s largest lake — and the path floodwaters usually take from the Bonnet Carre is directly through the area fishermen are finding specks and reds — these catches taken during the past three weeks will come to a screeching halt.

Take heart anglers, because when the lake takes a hit like this, the action in the Delacroix and Hopedale marshes gets good. And from what Tom LeBlanc caught during the middle of the week, there’s every reason that just-right, dead-of-winter day can produce off-the-charts catches.

LeBlanc doesn’t waver from his favorite lures, black/chartruese and limetreuse H&H Cocahoe Minnows. LeBlanc and the Garcia clan from Baton Rouge put 50 trout in the boat on the first day, and limited out the second day with some of the trout running up to 19 inches long. Little Lake was their top-producing spot, and it sure looked like action was best during the middle of the day.

The last days

Tim Kelley and Murphy Foster said they were astounded when they counted two goldeneyes among the three-man limit taken at Cherry Ridge with only three days left in the Coastal Zone duck season.

“The goldeneyes were the first I have ever shot on 45 years,” Kelley said after counting pintail, wigeon, teal and redheads among he limit taken ay 8 a.m.

There was some success in the southeastern marshes, but only those hunters in the Delacroix area could take advantage of more than 600,000 ducks estimated there. The high and still-rising Mississippi River forced most hunters to pick up decoys and move blinds to areas where ducks could find quieter water and have access to more food.

And the final count

Kelley and Foster broke the model State Waterfowl Study leader Larry Reynolds noted in the January survey estimate taken earlier in the month in the Coastal Zone. Reynolds said the fly-over in the southwestern marshes didn’t find the numbers of late-season goldeneyes and buffleheads that usually show up in these marshes.

The study’s estimates of 2.64 million ducks in the state was lower than December’s count of 3.2 million but substantially higher than November’s 1.21 million birds. Reynolds noted January’s count is only slightly higher than the last five-year January average of 2.4 million birds, and is lower than the long-term 2.55 million birds average.

Reynolds’ report read, “In southeast Louisiana, a large concentration of gadwalls was seen on Delta Farms south of Lake Salvador, and very large numbers of ring-necked ducks were counted in the marshes of upper Terrebonne Parish. Those two locations drove the big increase in the total (southeast) duck estimate, because fewer ducks were seen in the marshes east of Venice compared to the November survey.”

More closures

Water levels were so high late last week that Wildlife and Fisheries closed all roads in Grassy Lake Wildlife Management Area. Grassy Lake is in Avoyelles Parish, and there’s no word on when the WMA will reopen because road repairs will be necessary when the water recedes.

White Lake dates

After the waterfowl seasons end, the Wildlife and Fisheries opens the White Lake Wetlands Conservation Area to groups for birding, photographers and for environmental and wetland ecology students. Its facilities can also handle what it terms “small business retreats.”

The WCA and its skeet range will be open Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from Feb. 1-May 31, and supervisor Wayne Sweeney said the LDWF can provide “site staff for guided boat tours and biologists for lectures on the ecosystem within the conservation area, which includes an freshwater marsh, coastal prairie, and an experimental population of whooping cranes,” and that day-use and overnight rentals are available for the by-water-only accessible lodge.

Sweeney said commercial/ for-profit activities are not allowed, and added that “facility reservations” must be made two weeks in advance to allow for scheduling.

Day-use, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. fees range from $300 for up to 15 attendees to additional per-person fees for refreshments and a cold lunch.

Overnight use means arriving at the launch near Gueydan between 2-4 p.m. the first day, then leaving the lodge by 1 p.m. the following day. Fees run $400 plus an additional $25 fee per person for up to 12, with additional fees for refreshments, linens and a $900 fee for overnight stay including three meals.

Call Sweeney at (337) 536-9400, Ext. 1 for details.