It was cold, yep, but not as cold as it was in the early 1960s, nor in 1989 when south Louisiana’s daytime temperatures were in single digits venturing only into the teens briefly — and staying there nearly a week.

Don’t know how may of you remember those respective early January and late December dips to send us into frostbitten shock, but sometime this week we might be reminded of what effects those two Arctic visits had on our environs.

Most times our wildlife can find places to hide and remain relatively warm, but it’s our fish that take the biggest hit.

As memory serves, that early '60s blast left fish floating in Bayou St. John and other bayous along with rivers and canals in the Pontchartrain Basin. It wasn’t until sometime around New Year’s Day 1990 when the effects of the 1989 Christmas freeze revealed its impact.

It was so cold that holiday time that Caminada Pass iced over — yes, it was that cold — and several days later, all sorts of fish we’d like to have seen in our ice chests later that year were floating across south Louisiana’s coastal waters. Redfish, speckled trout, white trout, drum, even flounder and an assortment of forage species were victims.

Guys called from the coast two weeks into that January talking about hooking redfish on the bottom and dragging lifeless fish from deep Fourchon waters.

And his words are easy to remember: “It didn’t take me more than 10 minutes to find out I didn’t want to fish anymore that day, and I started thinking about how bad we were going to have it come the next spring and summer. There were lots, and I mean lots, of dead fish everywhere.”

So, today, after this recent thermometer's run into low teens around here, state fisheries biologists are asking anyone brave enough to get on the water — or maybe you can spot them from a camp or the bank — to help them identify fish kills.

Yes, the kills are coming and they’re likely to begin showing up this week.

While kills in freshwater usually are confined to shad and other smaller species, even bluegill, Wildlife and Fisheries biologist Jason Adriance said the cold water will hide most fish killed by the Arctic blast, but will begin rising to the surface when water temperatures rise.

“Typically, water temperatures below 40 degrees for any more than a day cause problems for spotted seatrout (speckled trout), whereas red drum are slightly more tolerant and will begin to experience problems in the mid-30s,” Adriance said. “The rate at which the water cools is also important. If fish have a chance to acclimate and move, the potential for survival is higher.”

Persistent northerly winds through the recent freeze compound the problem. The four species Adriance identified — speckled trout, redfish, white trout and black drum — live in the coastal marshes and can become trapped in areas where north winds blow out enough water to rapidly chill shallower water and cause fish kills.

Fisheries Section biologists and managers are asking for your help in the coming days to better monitor fish kills.

Adriance further asked the public to identify “significant numbers of dead or dying fish,” and report the location (including good directions to the fish kill site), the approximate quantity and species of fish, and their condition — dying, dead and/or decomposing — along with your name, and contact phone number.

The reporting website: wlf.louisiana.gov/page/fish-kills.

  • And, from the LDWF’s Enforcement Division, creel and size limits for affected species will be enforced.

Last weekend

The day before last Sunday’s Valentine’s Day, more than 130 high school teams were joined by 14 Junior Bassmaster teams for a B.A.S.S. Nation East Winter qualifying tournament held from Bayou Segnette State Park in Westwego.

The youngsters and their adult “captains” braved the increasingly cold temperatures and north winds and came out with impressive catches.

Zach Henderson and Nick Ward from John Curtis Christian School topped the High School Division with a solid five-bass, 17.09-pound catch topped by a 4.32-pound largemouth.

Lafourche Bassmasters’ Levi Thibodeaux and Holden Delatte were second at 15.1 pounds, and their teammates Casen Rogers and Trey Martinez were next at 13.89  to lead their Lafourche buddies to the overall team title.

Central High’s Victoria Lemmler (she’s picked up the nickname “Bug”) and Emma Simon wowed the field with a 5.11-pounder, a catch which earned by big bass honors.

Despite the conditions, 83 teams weighed in at least one bass. All 288 bass weighed were released alive, and organizers touted the 4.22-pound average weight of all boats to be “impressive.”

For the Junior Bassmasters Division, the Denham Springs-based Junior Southwest Bassmasters team of Jackson Rogers and Caden Sellers stole the show with a solid five-bass limit weighing 11.62 pounds and the big bass at 3.28 pounds.

After that it was all Lafourche Bassmasters’ juniors team of Matthew Fontenot and Cole Billiot. Their five-bass, 7.35-pound catch took second place, and followed their win in the in September’s West Fall qualifier held from Doiron's Landing in Stephensville. And, their teammates Cooper Blanchard and Matthew St. Germain took third with three bass weighing 4.58 pounds for their second top-four finish during this school year.

Fishing

While we’re going to see warmer weather during the next week, remember water warms much more slowly than does the land, and action likely will be much slower than it was two weeks ago.

Expect to find extra-low water levels along the coast. Rain and the runoff of snow and sleet are going to leave water murky in most areas, especially in canals, bayous and rivers.

Show me the money

At its February meeting in Baton Rouge, Louisiana Operation Game Thief handed out $4,200 to those providing tips leading to convictions of wildlife violators.

The report stated the LOGT board “reviewed 13 cases that included public tips from informants. Seventeen subjects were apprehended and 71 offenses were written in regards to the reviewed cases. The cases reviewed consisted of deer, migratory game bird, turkey and convicted felons in possession of firearm cases."

The program uses donated funds to pay those reporting game violations, and the report indicated LOGT has awarded $446,810 since the initiative began in 1984.

Donations can made by contacting LDWF Enforcement Division’s Lt. Will Roberts: wroberts@wlf.la.gov.

To report wildlife and/or fisheries violations, contact the LDWF’s 24-hour toll free hotline — (800) 442-2511 — or use the tip411 program, by texting 847411 to LADWF.

LOGT keeps all information confidential, and informants can remain anonymous.

Reminder

The pandemic has forced State Wildlife Division biologists and managers to cancel its annual series of presentations for proposed hunting seasons, and brought about Wednesday’s 6:30 p.m. Zoom meeting.

It’s there the Wildlife Division folks will outline proposed changes to the 2021-2022 seasons and take public comment (see Outdoor Calendar for Zoom application).

Note here the deadline for submitting comments is March 4. State wildlife biologist Tommy Tuma (email: ttuma@wlf.la.gov) is handling comments. You can mail comments: Tommy Tuma, LDWF Wildlife Division, P.O. Box 98000, Baton Rouge, LA., 70898-9000.

Survival?

Old friend and esteemed New Iberia sportswriter Glenn Quebedeaux let out the secret that Bundicks Lake was his favorite fishing hole, and bemoaned the fact that 2020 hurricanes Laura and Delta killed thousands of fish there.

Now, he’s hoping the latest weather-related tragedy, last week’s Arctic blast, didn’t take a toll on the more than 40,000 fish stocked in Bundicks Lake by Wildlife and Fisheries earlier this month.

LDWF Inland Fisheries reported the lake, “took a direct hit from Hurricane Laura, causing a high volume of organic debris to be blown into the lake. The decomposing debris lowered dissolved oxygen levels in the water, causing the fish kills.”

After weekly water quality tests confirmed dissolved oxygen levels had returned to normal, the LDWF reportedly stocked 1,200 pure-strain Florida largemouth bass, 22,000 bluegill, 8,000 redear sunfish (chinquapin), 10,500 white crappie, and 50 pounds of threadfin shad to serve as a forage base. The stocked species came from the agency’s fish hatcheries.

“As luck would have it, Inland Hatchery biologists had several ponds remaining to harvest from the 2020 crop, and we had some surplus fish,” hatchery biologist/manager Kristi Butler said.

Butler said the agency is “coordinating an effort to stock the lake with additional fish this year.”