Oh, boy, was it hot, and if teal hunters found Saturday’s opener of the 16-day run hotter than 2018’s special September season, well, that’s because there are more teal in the state than this time last year.
Larry Reynolds, state Wildlife and Fisheries’ Waterfowl Study leader, added several flyovers conducted last week and came up with a surprising estimate of 127,000 teal — all bluewings — after what he said he observed from his time in the air Monday and Tuesday.
Reynolds’ first reaction came from his aircraft monitoring of the his portion flown over the rice fields, marshes and Catahoula Lake. Last week, he said he needed to crunch the numbers from other staff biologists.
So, the numbers came in better than first believed, and are more than double the Waterfowl Study group’s 2018 count of 59,000. The count hit 110,000 in the southwest marshes and rice fields; 12,000 in the southeast marshes; and, 5,000 on Catahoula Lake. Last year’s estimate was 48,000 in the southwest and 5,000 in the southeast, but it was 6,000 on Catahoula Lake.
“We’re still below the last five-year average of 158,000 and 45 percent below the long-term average of 230,000,” Reynolds said.
Other notes from his report included:
- Since 1969’s first September flyovers in Louisiana, the five lowest estimates are 50,000 in 2013, 59,000 in 2018, 97,500 in 2016, 99,000 in 2002 and 126,000 in 2009;
- The survey also includes mottled ducks, the state only native duck, and the 15,000 estimated this year is down from 2018’s 16,000, and far below what Reynolds said was a count of 28,000 in the most recent 10-year average. This survey is the second lowest on record with 12,000 coming in 2016;
- Most bluewings were seen in the “agricultural habitat” (rice fields) in the southwest;
- While there we no concentrations of bluewings, “notable flocks were seen in rice fields north of Lacassine National Wildlife Refuge, southwest of Gueydan, and north of Intracoastal City; and, the largest numbers in the southeast were seen in the brackish marsh southwest of Myrtle Grove and the fresh marsh east of Venice;”
- Habitat conditions in coastal Louisiana declined compared to last year, mostly because of the prolonged high-water period during spring and summer. It means, Reynolds noted, “conditions have not been conducive to germination and growth of seed-producing annual vegetation, and very little of it was seen during the survey. Lower production of delta duck-potato was seen at Atchafalaya and Mississippi river deltas compared to last year,” and submerged aquatic vegetation (food for dabbling ducks) was termed “spotty” across the coastal marsh.
- High water and warm temperatures appeared to have hastened the growth of both giant salvinia and water hyacinth south of White Lake and west of La. 27, north of Rockefeller Refuge and Grand Chenier,in the upper Terrebonne marshes, the Caernarvon freshwater diversion, and the mouth of the Mississippi River.
- Reynolds termed habitat quality “average to below average.”
The next flyover estimates will come the week before the Nov. 9 opening of the 60-day “big duck” season in the state’s Coastal Waterfowl Zone.
The final recreational red snapper numbers aren’t in yet, mostly because Labor Day wasn’t in the LA Creel model set for the start of the late-May season. If you recall, Wildlife and Fisheries secretary Jack Montoucet added Labor Day into the mix while announcing the season would close near midnight Labor Day.
Going into the that final four-day holiday weekend, LA Creel data showed our state’s private recreational and state charterboat operation caught 734,103 pounds of the state’s 816,439-pound allowed recreational quota. And while the chart on the LDWF’s website indicated the recreational sector took 92 percent of quota, the numbers show it was 89.9 percent.
The final number is expected sometime this week.
Until further notice, the rifle, pistol, skeet and archery ranges on the Sherburne Wildlife Management Area are scheduled to be closed on Mondays beginning Sept. 30 for maintenance. The range will remain open sunrise to sunset Tuesdays through Sundays.
No female crabs
If you’re going to set out crab nets or traps, you have to know there’s a 35-day recreational and commercial ban on the taking of all female crabs through Oct. 13.
Commercial crabbers are allowed to female crabs as an “incidental” catch, but females can make up only 2 percent of their catch.