Oh yeah, the second split of the duck season — really on all migratory waterfowl — begins Saturday and runs the balance of the 60-day season in the state’s three waterfowl hunting zones.
And if the tens of thousands of duck hunters across Louisiana expected to see more ducks than the smattering here for the first split — and who wouldn’t expect to see more after the onset of the seasons’ first major frigid blast? — then don’t get your hopes up, not yet.
Phone calls around the state produced mixed reports, the worst of which is there appears to be so few ducks through the central part of the state, from just south of Alexandria through the Atchafalaya and to Terrebonne-Lafourche parishes marshes, that two hunters said they’re ready to pack it up at their camps and beg hunts from friends in the southeast and southwest marshes.
“Been driving around the afternoons after work and haven’t seen much between (highway) 71 and I-49,” Donnie Blanchard said. “It doesn’t look good. A few ducks, no geese, and that coming after what, for us, was short on action in the first split. Yeah, we did well on opening weekend (of the first split), but it was hit and miss, mostly miss, after that.”
Folks watching the skies in the southwest marshes have seen more ducks during the past week, but continue to see what they call “bluebills,” the lesser scaup most Louisiana hunters call “dos gris.”
It’s a migrant usually seen in big numbers east of the Mississippi River — and there were loads of dos gris rafted on Lake Pontchartrain during the past three weeks — but a bird that made up sometimes as much as half the birds in the bag for hunters from Pecan Island west to the Cameron Parish marshes and flooded agriculture fields.
Down in St. Bernard, eastern Orleans and Plaquemines parishes, migratory watchers are hopeful for more water in areas east of the Mississippi River for their morning hunts, and pray they'll be free of fog in the early hours.
There were hunters’ complaints about the 2 p.m. close on public lands. Hunters cited fog curtailing early morning access, then a late rising tide that left some areas dry and without birds through the midday hours.
But the eyes-on-the-skies report is there are more teal, pintails, gray ducks and spoonies filtering in the area on the latest cold front, and could be more arriving on an approaching front that will push morning temps into the low-50s Saturday.
Adding optimism is a partly cloudy Saturday with a southeast wind that could push water back into some areas before rain sets in Sunday and Monday in advance of another, weaker cold front early next week.
The State Waterfowl Study team is flying this week for the December aerial survey to give the latest estimate of any increases in duck counts for holiday hunting.
Just another note for fishermen about giving the duck hunters time at the launches and in the marshes before running into these areas for a day’s fishing. The trout and redfish, and in some cases bass, will be there at 9 a.m., so give our waterfowling brethren a chance to have their time in the blinds.
Oh, the snow
Asked the social media question about fishing in the snow, and old friend Donald Quick was the only guy coming back with a response from Calcasieu Lake. Seems Kevin Broussard at Cajun Paradise Lodge went out in Friday’s snow and, Quick said “caught three limits of reds and released another 50 here in Big Lake.”
Bass, redfish and trout showed up in boxes in the St. Bernard Parish marshes and areas off the Intracoastal Canal, and retired Air Force officer and good friend Tom LeBlanc reported the cold weather sent him back to Sulphur Mine Lake (from Bason’s Landing in Golden Meadow) and no fish.
Historically, this lake produces decent catches in cold conditions, and Tom and his crew worked areas along Old Bayou Blue and nothing there. On the way back to the landing, he reported catching 40 13-15 inch specks culled from many more small trout, and that two other boats there earlier caught limits.
Now is the time to consider fishing sunshiny days, when sunlight will warm the water and get trout and redfish to move to the flats to feed. Remember concrete and other rock structures help channel the sun’s warmth into the water. So do pipes and platforms, and trees help, too. If you don’t believe that, then why did the snow melt faster around the base of trees than anywhere else in your yard of in and open field last Friday and Saturday.
The highest barometric pressure next week is coming Wednesday.
National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s Marine Forecasts: nws.noaa.gov. Find the “Coastal/Great Lakes Forecasts by Zones – Gulf – New Orleans, La.” and a map with 13 different nearshore, offshore and Lake Pontchartrain wind and waves predictions for the next five days.
Weather Underground: wunderground.com. Current conditions, a 10-day forecast, and hour-by-hour predicted temperatures, winds, precipitation and barometric pressure.
National Weather Service’s River Forecast Center: water.weather.gov for river stages.