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Austyn Matherne, Samuel Holcomb and Brtton Holcomb, from left, were among the many who participated in the fishing rodeo at Walker’s Sidney Hutchinson Park. Britton had just finished playing flag football in the park with her team and joined her mother, Stacey Holcomb, and the others at the lake for the fishing rodeo.

Happy New Year, and here’s hoping you outdoorsmen in our Sportsman’s Paradise will withstand the surge arising from our COVID-19 experience.

If you didn’t know it, fishing license sales were off the charts, not only in our state but also across our fair country. Increases of as much as 26% have shown up in reports from Southern states.

Numbers haven’t been posted for hunting license sales, but an eyeball check of activity on both state and federal public hunting lands showed more hunters followed the procedures to access Louisiana’s near 2 million open-to-the-public acres to hunt deer, squirrels, ducks, rabbits, woodcock and geese.

Today, in the first days of this new year — and knowing we remain under this pandemic’s horrible spell — it’s up to us sportsmen to make a pledge to introduce a youngster to the adventures most of us learned to enjoy from someone who, years ago, took the time to teach us the skills needed to enjoy the outdoors for so many seasons and so many years.

The smiles on their young faces, the telling and retelling of their new experiences will last forever.

Go ahead! Make the pledge.

On the water

Been to the Pontchartain Basin lately?

Checked out the area Monday and — Wow! — every landing was jammed. The reason has to be the lack of trout in the Delacroix area.

Ran to The Wall and there were very few boats on the Bayou Bienvenu of the billion-dollars storm wall protecting New Orleans.

The MRGO side looked much different, and counted at least 50 boats at The Wall and down two miles in the MRGO, and there were more boats in the bass-fishing spots in the marshes off the Intracoastal Waterway.

A guess is most folks were fishing live shrimp, although reports during the Christmas holidays were speckled trout stopped feeding on shrimp. This area remains open in the fall inshore shrimp season and a handful of trawlers were working in the Intracoastal.

A note here is that the water was nearly two feet lower throughout the marshes and the MRGO. That’s the result of days of north winds with winter winds strong enough to move water. The water was muddier than it was three weeks ago.

Another relatively productive area is the Terrebonne Parish marshes. Be careful of water levels there, too.

With the Wildlife and Fisheries marine biologists under the charge (from the Wildlife and Fisheries Commission) to conduct another speckled trout population study, the 2020 increase in fishing-license sales resulted in increased pressure on trout numbers.

Yes, it was a productive trout season. Yes, spring and summer catches were better than the last two years in some places — the exception was in waters in the Venice and down-river areas — but it’s likely we’re going to see the same results in the population survey as that which launched the discussion on lowering the daily creel limits and increasing the minimum-size limit.

Another result of the increased pressure on trout is showing up in the MRGO area.

The better trout catches are coming from deep water. OK, so it’s winter and the combination of colder water temperatures and lower water levels tend to send most fish to deeper water where conditions are more comfortable for trout, redfish and largemouth bass, and where most of the forage fish live, too.

But, fishing pressure can send fish to seeking deeper water, too.

Bass and sac-a-lait are biting in the Atchafalaya Spillway, but you have to pick the days between the fronts to find them actively feeding. High barometric pressure hanging over us a day or two after a front is the reason to explain these two species inactivity, and the reason why catches fall off under bright blue skies.

Hunting

Duck hunters continue to hope the next cold front brings more birds to the marshes, and maybe all the snow and ice in the Midwest from the New Year’s Eve storm will be the answer to their prayers.

Friday morning’s take was the best of the second split with greenwing teal, gray ducks, ringnecks and pintails showing up for hunters. Still, it’s only one day, and hunters in the marshes across the Coastal Zone know their opening days’ success didn’t hold in the days after opening-weekend hunts.

For deer hunters in woods and fields around the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers, the bucks are in full rut, and lots of deer were heading to processors. Hey hunters, there’s a freezer with some room in Baton Rouge.

The commission

The presentation of 2021-2022 resident-game and migratory bird seasons along with changes in the Deer Management Assistance Program headlines the agenda for Thursday’s 9:30 a.m. Wildlife and Fisheries Commission meeting in Baton Rouge.

Other agenda items include:

An update on feral hog control;

A presentation on the developing Louisiana National Estuarine Research Reserve;

And, the election of chairman and vice-chairman.

There will be a limit of 40 allowed in the Joe Herring Room and Wildlife and Fisheries headquarters on Quail Drive, and the meeting will be available via Zoom.

Public comment will not be allowed during the meeting, but can be made by email: comments@wlf.la.gov with a deadline of 2 p.m. Wednesday.