BR.highriver0140.030919 bf.jpg

Timothy Emerson Jr., upper right, looks over the muddy water almost completely covering the giant 'BATON ROUGE' letters as the high water on the Mississippi River flows past the city March 8, 2019, in Baton Rouge. Emerson, who is in the military, was doing personal physical training running atop the levee.

Now that watching the Mississippi River has become a pastime for Louisiana outdoorsmen, it’s good to see the river is cresting along its lower stretches before all that water from every state between the Appalachians and the Rockies send their winter/spring runoff our way.

It’s what our Rep. Garret Graves told fellow Congressman Jared Huffman, D-California, this past Thursday at a federal fisheries hearing in New Orleans — that Louisiana gets all that water, and all those troubles and we’re left to handle all those problems when the water gets here.

And for most of the past 10 years there’s been lots of water.

Thank goodness the river is falling now. It had a 39.9-foot reading Saturday on the Baton Rouge gauge (nearly five feet higher than flood stage), and 16.0 feet at New Orleans. The 28-day projections are 26.5 feet in BR and 11.3 feet at N.O.

This time last year the river wasn’t falling, and that led to opening the Bonnet Carre Spillway twice in 2019. Some folks believed the Atchafalaya Spillway should have been opened, too, but it wasn’t.

It’s no deep, dark secret this sustained high-water flow creates problems here. Lengthy periods of high, cold, muddy freshwater isn’t good for commercial shrimp and oyster operations, especially the spring, brown shrimp season.

What the high water has done is create — naturally — restorative marshes outside the areas where the Mississippi River has cut its way through banks on the river’s east side south of the Empire-Buras area. There’s no denying the marshes built during these high-water periods have helped the state’s battle against subsidence and resulting land loss in this area.

Yes, recreational and commercial fishing suffers, but when the water falls out recreational anglers familiar with down-river locations will tell you fishing for bass and redfish is off-the-charts good.

We can only pray the soon-to-come runoff from our northern neighbors will come in a trickle and not a gush. We can use the break. We can use a year when the river gets close to summer lows when our Louisiana summer arrives in May, not August.

Flood closures

Wildlife and Fisheries biologists and managers closed State Deer Area 5 — the Atchafalaya Basin — to deer hunting after the river hit 18 feet Friday at Butte Larose.

It also closed Blount, Catfish Bayou, Dobbs Bay, Hogpen, Lac a Sostein, Goose Lake, Ross and Union Point roads along with Catfish Bayou, Twin Lakes, Icebox, Everett Lake, Chaney Lake, Elbo, Patton Lake Drain, Patton Lake Handicap, Lincecum, Jacks Bayou, Blackhawk, Bee Bayou and Alligator Bayou ATV trails on the Richard Yancey Wildlife Management Area south of Ferriday. This is a popular late-season squirrel-hunting WMA.

Women’s Fishing 101

Wildlife and Fisheries is teaming with the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Foundation to host Women’s Fishing 101 workshops April 18 and April 25 at the Waddill Wildlife Refuge on North Flannery Road in Baton Rouge. These workshops have respective companion weekend fishing trips set May 29-31 and July 31-Aug. 2.

It’s for women 19 and older to learn the basics of fishing and “utilizing Louisiana’s aquatic resources.” Registration opens Monday, and the reason for publishing this early is because these 30-women workshops fill quickly.

To register, go to the LDWF’s website: wlf.louisiana.gov, then find and click on the “Education” tab, then to “Fishing Programs/Education,” then click on “Women’s Fishing Workshop.”