Trey Decker of Alexandria, and Jerry Paola of Winnsboro, show their take from an East Zone morning hunt in flooded timber in the Winnsboro area. Hunters in the East Zone are measuring their success by the quality of their ducks, not in the quantity like their brothers and sisters hunting in the state's West Zone. Included in their hunt were mallards, gray ducks and teal.

Ducks took center stage during the holiday week, and trends developed in the days after both East and West zones opened the first splits of their 60-day seasons.

The West Zone is somewhat misleading in that it stretches across our state’s coastal marshes and attracts ducks from the Central and Mississippi flyways. The East Zone gets its migrating waterfowl mostly from the Mississippi Flyway. The country’s other two flyways are the Atlantic and Pacific.

The southwestern parishes in the West Zone had banner opening weekends earlier in the month with the bulk of the take being grays, bluewing teal, pintails, shovelers and ringnecks.

In the eastern part of that zone, the freshwater marshes in western Terrebonne and along and around the Mississippi River, grays, ringnecks, pintail and greenwing and bluewing teal showed up in mixed day-by-day reports of good-to-average hunting success.

Hurricane Ida reduced food sources, mostly submerged aquatic vegetation, in the marshes between the Mississippi River west to western Terrebonne Parish, and, well, where’s there’s no food you won’t find ducks.

For the most part, East Zone hunters complained of low or no water in their favorite places, a factor that reduced their efforts to potholes in what usually is submerged timber and in the batture areas along the Mississippi River north of Pointe Coupee and West Feliciana parishes.

A cold front Monday helped in both areas, but unless heavier rains replenish water levels in the north-central and northeast parishes, East Zone hunters will be in for a miserable second split.

On the water

Unless it’s because of the lingering effects of Hurricane Ida, or the succession of winds from recent cold fronts, finding speckled trout east of Terrebonne Parish has been a chore. Dirty water isn’t conducive for late fall trout catches.

Redfish is another story. Reds up to 30 inches are abundant in the marshes south of U.S. 90.

Bass and sac-a-lait continue to dominate freshwater action in the Verret and Atchafalaya basins. The only drawback in the Atchafalaya is a fluctuating water level, and action in both basins (as is every freshwater spot in the state) depends on fishing days when the barometric pressure is less than 30.20 inches.

Getting the picture

State Wildlife and Fisheries and LSU have partnered in an effort to determine the extent of commercial fishery losses from 2020 and 2021 hurricanes — Ida, Laura, Delta and/or Zeta. A survey is being prepared for an “impact report,” which is a first step in seeking federal disaster aid.

Survey teams are asking commercial fishermen, seafood producers, dealers and processors along with charterboat operators, marinas, bait shops, and any other marine fisheries businesses to participate.

The survey is available online: lsu.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_5ySexo3D1j4G8nk

If you need more, email Jason Froeba at jfroeba@wlf.la.gov

The violators

State Wildlife and Fisheries Enforcement Division agents have been busy in the early days of the hunting season.

Just last week, agents filed federal migratory bird charges against 21-year-old Braydon Krepper for allegedly taking 37 mourning doves in St. Mary Parish. The legal daily limit is 15. He was also cited for “...failing to maintain field possession and failing to possess the required Harvest Information Program (HIP) certification.” The doves were seized and donated to charity.

Earlier this month, agents were tipped off about Steven McNemar, 46, taking a deer over a baited area in the Kisatchie National Forest in Grant Parish. The Georgetown man allegedly had four baiting sites on KNF lands, a method prohibited on national forests.

The report stated, McNemar “...confessed to harvesting an antlered deer with a rifle during archery only season.”

McNemar faces fines up to $350 and up to 60 days in jail, and a civil restitution of $2,033 to replace the illegally taken deer.

Earlier in the hunting season, and in Grant Parish, agents cited 18-year-old Nathan Smith, of Pollock, for allegedly taking a deer during illegal hours, and cited Bobby Seals, 52, from Pollock, for allegedly possessing an illegally taken deer and possessing a live game quadruped without a permit.

Agents were responding from a tip about a hearing a nighttime rifle shot, then found Smith and Seals cleaning a freshly taken antlerless deer “... on Seals’ property. Smith confessed to taking the deer after hours with his rifle in the backyard of Seals’ residence. While at Seals’ property, agents also located a penned fawn that Seals said he found months earlier.”

Smith faces fines up to $1,850 and 240 days in jail, while Seals faces fines up to $1,450 and 210 days in jail. Civil restitution fines for both could reach $1,624 each.