Is there anything better than seeing a child’s face on Christmas morning?

Hardly.

For us older folks, about the only experience to rival this once-a-year yuletide thrill is to be at a child’s side when he or she catches his or her first fish.

It’s a day you’ll never forget — and it's sure they won’t.

Today, and for the next few days, BREC ponds (Baton Rouge) at Perkins Road, Forest, Greenwood and North Sherwood Forest community parks are holding enough rainbow trout to provide that jump-through-their-skin excitement.

BREC annually get permission from Wildlife and Fisheries to stock rainbow trout in these ponds.

And, to sweeten this special event, BREC has tagged five trout at each location. Catch one and you’ll win a prize through Jan. 31 if there are any tagged trout by then.

Catch one and take a photo, then submit the photo to: conservation@brec.org. The BREC staff will set up a pickup time at Palomino Road Park. You can win only once.

There are a few rules and suggestions: BREC asks you fish between sunrise and sunset, take only the daily limit of four rainbows, and try to use a net to remove the fish from the ponds (especially if you’re going to return them to the water).

Of course, if you're 16 and older you must have a state basic fishing license (some older folks are exempt).

Then there are the fishing tips: These are smaller fish and using the same tackle as you would use for bluegills is best. Usually the trout are close to the bottom, so rig with a sinker at the end of the line and put the baited hook 8-14 inches from the sinker. You can use a cork and drop line, but you have to vary the depth of the hook until you find the depth the trout are holding that day.

Bait? Well, salmon eggs, red wiggler worms, Crappie Niblets, small marshmallows and canned corn have worked over the years.

Please remember to leave the ponds cleaner than what you found. Discard your trash.

This week

So the youngsters are at home — yeah, some of them have been at home for a while — but school is out and it’s time to get them into the outdoors.

After Saturday’s rain, we can expect good fishing conditions through midday Wednesday. A cold front is predicted to move in late Wednesday and Thursday’s rain is the advance for 30-degree mornings and chilly, but sunny, afternoons through next weekend.

When you talk about winter fishing — and the winter solstice comes Monday — you have to consider barometric pressure and water temperature.

After last week’s three cloudy days and cold overnight temperatures, it’s not likely two sunshiny days helped bring water temperatures back to a point where the bigger fish decided on a prolonged feeding spree.

And Friday’s 30.4 inches on the barometer didn’t help, because a high barometer all but shuts down the action in freshwater and some coastal marsh areas.

The barometer will fall through Thursday morning, before starting to rise over 30.3 inches Christmas Day and stay relatively high into the weekend.

A bright sun for the next three days should increase activity among the bait fish, which, in turn, sets species like bass, sac-a-lait, speckled trout, redfish and other saltwater fish to more robust wintertime feeding periods.

The bugaboo, or course, is water.

Days of north winds have blown water from the marshes on both sides of the Mississippi River.

That means you need to be careful of where you run your boat. Getting stuck on a mudflat isn’t the best way to enjoy a holiday fishing trip.

With days of north winds in the offing, water levels in the marshes aren’t likely to get higher anytime soon.

The best “water” news is the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers are down when compared to three of the past four years.

Fishable waters for bass, reds and specks in the Venice area is when the river is below five feet on the New Orleans gauge — and it is. While the river hit the 15-foot mark on the Baton Rouge, a signal that river water is moving into Old River, the level is predicted to fall below that mark this week.

And the Atchafalaya Basin’s level is more than fishable, and the only downturn in the action on bass and sac-a-lait comes on those high barometer days.

The secret in all areas is to find deep water. All species will retreat to the depths to stay comfortable during cold weather, and will tend to move into shallower water when water temperatures rise.

What’s more, it’s important to find structure that moves the sun’s warming rays into the water. Things like rock jetties, bulkheads, piers, concrete pilings, shell reefs, even trees will direct warmth into nearby areas. These places can be 3-5 degrees warmer than other waters, which means targeting those spots should be first on your list.

Da ducks

Still waiting on the early reports from this weekend’s second-split opener.

Last week’s cold front appeared to push more, and bigger, ducks into the state with more gray ducks, pintails and mallards spotted in some coastal areas than were seen during the first split. And scouts said they’re seeing more greenwing teal.

Even better, the forecasted snow and ice in the Midwest should push even more ducks here for the days after Christmas, a time when we’ve had periods of warm, muggy conditions in four of the past five holidays.

The bonus in the northern parishes is more specklebelly geese have moved in and should provide limits as the geese move to the southwestern fields.

Gag grouper

Wildlife and Fisheries sent out a message from the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council asking for recreational and commercial fishermen and divers to send along any information concerning what federal biologists termed “strange things” they need to know while working to develop a stock assessment on gag grouper in the Gulf.

They want the info by Jan. 10. To report, go to the “Something’s Fishy with Gag” tool on the GMFMc website: gulfcouncil.org.

To shave or not

Some 110 Enforcement Division agents in Wildlife and Fisheries decided not to shave last month to raise more than $4,500 for the Lydia Cancer Association, a cancer patient assistance program in New Iberia.

In its No Shave November fundraiser the agents helped patients undergoing treatment in Iberia, St. Mary, St. Martin, and Vermilion parishes.

And they’re watching

Some of the major cases Enforcement Division agents worked during the past month included acting on a tip to cite 42-year-old Andre Granier for allegedly using another’s recreational hunting license, hunting without resident hunting and big game licenses, and failing to comply with deer tagging requirements.

The report indicated an agent found Granier with an 8-point buck the reporting party said was taken near the Paradis Canal and La. 306. If convicted, Granier faces up to $900 in fines, 165 days in jail, and an additional $2,033 in civil restitution penalties for an illegally taken deer.

Another tip came in on 56-year-old Wallace Vicknair, of Breaux Bridge, for allegedly killing a doe during illegal hours (at 10 p.m.) from lands near Henderson enrolled in the Deer Management Assistance Program “without a permit from the owner/lessee.”

The report said the agent seized Vicknair’s rifle and the antlerless deer. Vicknair faces fines up to $1,300, jail time up to 180 days and $1,624 in civil restitution, the replacement value of the antlerless deer.

-Worse yet, two Winn Parish men, Drew Purvis, 28, of Winnfield, and Stephen Young, 29, of Atlanta, for alleged “multiple deer hunting violations and theft charges.” Three others were cited during the investigation.

The two were cited for taking deer during illegal hours, taking over the daily limit of deer, hunting from a moving vehicle, shooting a firearm from a public road, hunting on DMAP land without permission, violating deer tagging regulations, violating outlaw quadruped night hunting regulations, simple criminal damage to property, and theft.

Purvis also received citations for hunting without the proper licenses, having an open container of alcohol in his vehicle, driving under suspension and failing to use a turn signal.

The report stated agents obtained “game camera photos of Purvis and Young cutting locks to enter onto private property that is enrolled in DMAP near Winfield. Agents also received a photo of one of the men stealing one of the 12 game cameras that were stolen from the property … photographic evidence that Purvis and Young harvested four antlered deer, four antlerless deer and five hogs on Nov. 21 from the DMAP land. Six of the deer and the five hogs were harvested at night.”

Agents also cited Winnfield’s Sierra Fredericks, 19, and Jeremy Mercer, 23, for possession of the allegedly stolen game cameras, and Slade Anderson, 26, for “possession of the two deer that were taken during the day.”

The fines could total more and $3,000 with jail time up to five years if convicted on the theft charges.

Civil restitution penalties for Purvis and Young could add up to $13,814.