Fish of the Year

Fish of the year

Bradley Cole Thurman came all the way from Meadow Lakes, Texas, to Port Fourchon to take this Louisiana state record 105.2-pound black grouper, and his catch was named 2021's Fish of the Year in the Rod & Reel Division by the Fish Records Committee of the Louisiana Outdoor Writers Association. Lecompte's Jim Johnson earned the same award in the Fly Rod Division with a 1.64-pound chain pickerel taken in Cocodrie Lake near Forest Hill. For more information about the Louisiana Top 10 Fish Records, email committee chairman Lyle Johnson: fishrecords@yahoo.com.

Finally, the worm has turned, and this stretch of cooler weather should help fishermen and hunters put meat on the table.

For hunters, mornings in the 50s mean more comfortable squirrel and deer hunts, and the cold front’s north winds will push the last remaining doves into our southern climes for the days remaining in the dove-hunting season’s second split.

The front is as meaningful, maybe more, for fishermen. While the folks who’ve been able to get out in the weeks since Hurricane Ida have noticed increasing activity in both fresh and brackish waters, cooler air temperatures and decreased periods of sunshine mean cooler water temperatures which translates into more active predator species like bass, speckled trout, redfish, drum, sheepshead and flounder.

And, with shrimp and cocohoe minnows in the marshes, all those species are chowing down. Add in the huge schools of shad showing up in fresh waters, and white bass, goggle-eye and catfish are doing the same.

Anglers can’t sleep on this time: the first major cold front opens a window on this feeding spree, a period when the big fish don’t seem to care about things like a bright sun or a rapidly rising barometer. Later in the fall and into the winter, those two factors, coupled with colder water temperatures, will reduce these fish-catching windows.

Spinnerbaits, VuDu Shrimp, topwaters, jerkbaits and soft plastics will work, but make sure these lures match the size of the forage species the predators are eating. Color will matter less, but it’s a time to use the “bright colors on bright days and dark colors on dark days” lesson older anglers learned many years ago.

It’s also wise to understand Ida changed the marshes, especially those in Lafourche and Terrebonne parishes. Reports indicate weirs and dams have been washed out, a situation that has caused canals and bayous to widen, thereby bearing little semblance to those same waterways before the storm.

And, federal folks reported Bayou Lafourche from the Intracoastal Waterway to Belle Pass is open to traffic, while the Corps of Engineers continues to address problems from “some sunken items in the bayou, and vessel and debris removal of the waterway, north of the GIWW, is continuing.”

Snapper

Louisiana recreational red snapper landings through Oct. 3 totals 611,933 pounds (73%) of our state’s 832,493-pound allocation. The reminder is the season is open daily with a four-per-angler limit of red snapper measuring at least 16 inches long.

And, recreational and commercial seasons for lane snapper in state and federal waters will close at 12:01 a.m. Monday. The season will reopen Jan. 1.

New tagging regs

Most deer hunters know they can report using deer tags by phone, but that validation phone number changed in the past week. It’s now (225) 267-9998, and the old “844” number printed on licenses issued before Oct. 11 is no longer active.

And, beginning last week, hunters can use their smartphones to report using a tag and validating taking a deer (and turkeys next spring) by logging into their LouisianaOutdoors.com account, then clicking “E-tag/Text-to-Tag” to prompt steps to report using their tag.

State Wildlife and Fisheries managers indicated hunters will not have to attach the tag to their deer “as long as you complete the electronic tag before moving the animal. You must have a physical copy or a picture of your harvest tags on your smartphone to use this feature.”

Deer and turkey hunters must set up a personal account on LouisianaOutdoors.com. After that, the smartphone reporting system works like this: first, send any text to (225) 267-9988, then confirm your identity before the procedure asks if you’ve moved the deer. If “yes” then hunters tap “exit” and must use the paper tag, but if “no,” then tap “continue,” and reply to all of the next prompts.

After completing this process, hunters will receive a confirmation, and can move the deer.

In the event there is no cellphone service in your hunting area — and we’ve all been there — hunters need to use their paper tags then validate using one by calling the report number (225) 267-9998) or go online within 72 hours of take the deer.

If you need more Text-to-Tag information, go to this Wildlife and Fisheries website: wlf.louisiana.gov/page/electronic-tags