Opening day of teal season a successful one _lowres

Photo provided by SAM BARBERA An early arrival Chris Horton from the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation traveled from Arkansas to talk fishing and fishing policy with state and national policy directors early last week, then spent time on the water Thursday around the Lake Pontchartrain bridges. He took this 'doormat' flounder weighing out at five pounds near the I-10 Twin Spans. While the bite was slow on speckled trout, Horton and his fishing buddies reported taking redfish, black drum and this founder on Gulp! Jerk Shad worked on the bottom around the bridges. Hefty flounder line this fish usually show up around the Pontchartrain bridges, the Trestles, the Twin Spans and the U.S. 11 span, in late September and linger there thorugh the first weeks in October.

Maybe, just maybe, if state waterfowl biologists hadn’t run into all that foul weather last week, the waterfowl count in the southeastern marshes would have been higher.

State Waterfowl Study leader Larry Reynolds reported Friday that thunderstorms building in advance of Friday’s cold front cut short the aerial survey — less than half of the planned survey was run over marshes in southeastern parishes — after the team’s fly-over of Catahoula Lake and the southwestern parishes earlier in the week.

To that point, Reynolds said the weather, in part, could explain the reason the estimated number of teal showing in the mid-September count had 243,000 bluewing teal in the southwestern area and only 2,000 in the southeast. The team estimated there were 2,500 bluewings on Catahoula Lake. There were no greenwing teal spotted in the survey in advance of Saturday’s opener of the special 16-day teal season.

That count was lost on the hunters from Cajun Fishing Adventures in Buras where Ryan Lambert reported 16 hunters in five blinds took 75 teal Saturday morning. They were hunting in the southeastern marshes. Reports there early last week indicated teal were scattered, but Saturday’s sightings showed teal arrived in big numbers on the approaching cold front.

Four hunters reporting from Pecan Island and the Grand Chenier and Little Chenier areas in the southwest talked about having their six-teal limits after hunting from 24 minutes to little more than an hour.

Another hunter near Calcasieu Lake said birds were few and far between and they struggled to get five teal before setting out in search of speckled trout and redfish.

Still, the Waterfowl Study group’s survey was good news when compared to the past two special teal seasons. Last season’s estimate of 101,000 and 2013’s 50,000 count pale in comparison to last week’s report, which was higher than the state’s long-term average of 226,000 teal showing up in the state in September.

Reynolds report read: “A large concentration was seen in a rice field north of Lacassine National wildlife Refuge and smaller concentrations were noted on the marsh of Lacassine Pool and in the rice fields west of Gueydan. The 2,500 bluewings counted on Catahoula Lake are similar to what has been seen the last two years, but far below the 18,000 seen in 2012 and 49,000 in 2010.”

He reported seeing “very good” waterfowl habitat, and water levels across the coastal marshes appeared to be lower than normal, but was “still excellent for foraging dabbling ducks, especially teal.” Reynolds said recent rains helped increase available area for migrating birds and that “submerged aquatic vegetation was evident in nearly all marsh locations and growth was outstanding in many areas.”

Catahoula drawdown over

Reynolds said the annual drawdown of Catahoula Lake has finally been completed after a prolonged period of spring and 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,” Catahoula biologist Cliff Dailey said.

Mandalay hunts

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Mandalay National Wildlife Refuge announced plans for an open archery deer season and a lottery waterfowl hunt 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 boats and decoys. 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: brian_pember@fws.gov.

Applications are on the refuge’s website: Call Brian Pember (985) 860-6681 for details.

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.