There are days when there are “coming” ducks and days with “going” ducks, and waterfowl hunters greeting Saturday’s opening morning saw both, but in Louisiana’s coastal marshes separated by a little more than a hundred miles — as the teal flies.
In Cherry Ridge’s freshwater marches, south of Jennings, Dub Noel and hunters filling seven blinds found “coming” ducks.
Eastward, east of the Mississippi River, longtime Cajun Fishing (and hunting) Adventures boss Ryan Lambert found there were enough “going” ducks to make for a terrific opening weekend.
“I read the duck count was terrible, but that wasn’t the case for our weekend,” Noel said.
The “terrible” part came from a late-week State Waterfowl Study team report indicating the lowest-ever preseason survey in the state’s southwestern marshes.
Noel said the guides brushing blinds in the days leading to Saturday’s opener saw ducks, mostly teal and ringnecks.
When a cold front pushed into south Louisiana late Friday, the spigot opened and ducks flowed into the marshes.
“The mallards were the key,” Noel said. “There were no mallards and no geese Friday morning, and Saturday mallards were everywhere diving into the decoys and there were other big ducks.”
Geese were, too. Although only three specklebelly geese showed up in Cherry Ridge’s cleaning shed, Noel said he was entertained Saturday night by a serenade.
“I walked out the camp after sunset and the sky was filled with geese. You could hear them calling. Geese were everywhere in the sky,” Noel said. “It was a great opening weekend. Limits Saturday. Limits Sunday and limits Monday … better than last year, and when we went to G&H (seed company in Gueydan), everybody was talking about having great opening-day hunts.”
The front and its north winds helping hunters in the southwestern marshes was pushing through the eastern reaches of the Mississippi River at shooting time Saturday. That meant southerly winds for Lambert’s crew.
“The wind was blowing so hard, and the ducks were flying to find a place to get out of the wind,” Lambert said. “It means the ducks were getting up and going somewhere and it was to small, isolated places in the marsh.”
It means very few decoying birds in places where blinds have any semblance of open, windswept water.
There was another factor: The 35 mph winds and its direction shoves beaucoup water into the marshes, and pushes water too high over dabbling ducks food sources.
“The ducks couldn’t feed, and when that happens, they’re going to move, too,” Lambert explained. “We have good (duck) food sources here. The (Mississippi) river came up early and saved (from hurricanes) the aquatic vegetation, like duck potatoes, and milfoil and all the other grasses they (dabbling ducks) eat.”
Other areas east of the Mighty Mississippi weren’t as fortunate. Remember Hurricane Michael’s destructive path through Florida, well the storm surge pushed vegetative-killing saltwater into duck habitat from Delacroix in Louisiana east across Mobile Bay and into the Florida Panhandle.
“We saw lots of ducks in the week before the season,” Lambert said. “The high water covered the duck potatoes and the pintails couldn’t get to it. So they left. They’ll fly north, feed for a couple of days, then come right back here.
“We have the food and other areas don’t, and we’ll have the birds,” Lambert said.
The by-the-way part of Lambert’s weekend is there were ducks and hunters took their limits Saturday and Sunday.
“Lots of teal,” he said. “We had limits by 7:20 (a.m.), and the days were special, but it could have spectacular if not for the wind.”
State Wildlife and Fisheries managers issued an advisory to hunters and fishermen planning to use the Pass-a-Loutre Wildlife Management Area about the dredging project under way in Sawdust Bend on the WMA.
It was scheduled to begin Saturday and work is projected to run through the entire duck and goose seasons.
“WMA users should be aware that there will be a 30-inch sediment conveyance pipeline submerged in Pass-a-Loutre and Dennis Pass, reportedly marked with lighted markers,” the advisory stated. “In addition to the pipeline there will be increased boat traffic on the WMA between the Head of Passes to the dredged material disposal area on Dennis Pass. Additionally, WMA users are cautioned to refrain from utilizing dredge equipment such as pipes, pipeline markers, vessels or any other equipment associated with this project as this poses a safety issue for both the WMA users and dredging contractor.”
Need more? Call LDWF biologist manager Vaughan McDonald (225) 765-2708 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.