Duck stamp

A brand-new winner

Eufala, Alabama, artist Eddie LeRoy won the annual Federal Duck Stamp competition with this painting of a pair of black-bellied whistling ducks, which will stand as the 2020-2021 Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp for next years' waterfowl seasons. It was LeRoy's first federal duck stamp win.

There’s nothing like a strong Arctic cold front to make a duck hunter happy. It’s almost like getting an early Christmas present wrapped up in camouflage gift wrap.

Across Louisiana’s Coastal Waterfowl Zone — an area stretching from east to west across the state’s marshes — the hope is Tuesday’s frigid blast that rolled into the Deep South will send all the ducks needed to make for a successful first split in a 60-day duck season.

While West Zone hunters are getting ready for this Saturday’s opening day — the East Zone will open Nov. 23 — Coastal Zone hunters got their first shots in last weekend, and will continue until all three zones shut down first splits Dec. 8.

For Cajun Fishing Adventures boss Ryan Lambert, opening weekend was good, not great, but filled with enough action to stir a wild waterfowler’s soul.

“Every blind had limits Saturday,” Lambert said midmorning Tuesday. He was in a blind on the east side of the Mississippi River and across the river from his lodge in Buras.

“We’ve got 13 this morning and are waiting and hoping a few more will come along,” Lambert said through a strong north wind blowing into his cellphone. “The birds are sitting down in this wind, staying out of the wind and not moving. That’s what they do when the wind gets this strong.”

What caught Lambert’s attention in the season’s first days were the composition of the ducks he and his fellow guides saw.

“Lots of teal, bluewings and greenwings, and tons of ringnecks. I’ve never seen so many ringnecks here,” he said. “We’re usually taking teal and gray ducks with a few pintails, but the ringnecks are here.”

Lambert said the cold front had already pushed ducks into marshes along the big river, but high winds put them on the water as soon as they found a resting place in the lee of the wind.

“I’m hoping this will mean good numbers through the weekend,” Lambert said. “I believe it will.

“There were lots of birds taken on opening day, but it settled down Sunday. There were 400 boats converging on this area for opening day. It was incredible. Hunters from Texas, Georgia and Florida were here because their season doesn’t open as early as ours. There was a lot of pressure on the ducks that were here.”

A second opinion

Dub Noel was at Cherry Ridge in the southwestern marshes near Gueydan for what he termed “an OK” opening day.

“It just seems like opening weekends are getting worse every year,” Noel said. “We’re in a part of the Coastal Zone, and just 10 miles north is the West Zone with all the rice fields and nothing to put (hunting) pressure to move those birds for our first week.”

Cherry Ridge’s opening day was good by most other standards with four blinds bringing home limits with three blinds coming up one or two ducks shy of a limit, but Sunday hunts were a bust.

Noel said the limits didn’t come easy: “It’s Louisiana, and opening day should be great. Normally, we see lots of ducks, but not now. We need to go back to East and West zones, because (three zones) isn’t working for us. It was much better in our area when we had two zones,” he said.

“I think the season opens too early here, and we’ll know more after this cold front. It should bring in more ducks.”

Fishing’s good

More from the Three Amigos, Tom LeBlanc, Ron Aime and Cesar Garcia, who punched another speckled trout ticket fishing waters in and around Sulfur Mine Lake west of Golden Meadow.

“About half the trout we caught were really nice, and half were on the small side, and we had a lot of throwbacks,” LeBlanc said. “And the bite came in spurts.”

Again, this crew found moving water produced the most action, but fishermen should know this cold front will push more and more fish into the deeper water for three or four days. The bite will slow through Thursday’s rainy forecast before we get enough sunlight to warm the water.

Know, too, the barometric pressure will remain above 30.25 inches through Friday before falling to 30.15 inches over the weekend. A high barometer most often means a slow bite in coastal and freshwater areas.

Down in Buras, Lambert said guides are taking good numbers of speckled trout, reds and bull reds.

For fishermen

With the duck season opened, it’s time to suggest a later arrival at launches across south Louisiana. This gives duck hunters a chance to handle all the stuff they need to get into boats and to their blinds.

And after you get on the water, remember duck hunters have a limited number of days to do what they like to do, so give them time to hunt before you invade the marshes.

Besides, it’s too cold to make crack-of-dawn casts.

Area 5 deer

For the folks heading into Deer Area 5 — parts of the Atchafalaya Basin in St. Martin, Iberville, Iberia and St. Mary parishes — here’s a reminder the Wildlife and Fisheries Commission approved changes in the deer season following this year’s prolonged high water.

The biggest change is the a reduction in the number of days to take antlerless deer.

Here’s the latest state Wildlife and Fisheries statement: “Either-sex harvest has been amended to allow bucks only harvest during primitive firearm season Nov. 9-15, and during modern firearm season dates Nov. 16-17, Dec. 14-15, and Dec. 21-22. Either-sex hunting will still be allowed during the modern firearm season dates Nov. 29-Dec. 1, and during archery season, except when bucks only is in progress.”