Here we go again: Thank goodness Barry isn’t as strong as the four we remember divided equally between the years 2005 and 2008.
And be glad is isn’t, or was.
Or will it be?
As minimal a storm as Barry is, there’s nothing stands in memory of a tropical cyclone passing through southeast and south-central Louisiana when the major rivers were in continued flood stage-plus, and came ashore exactly during the high-tide peak for July.
Friday’s message board lit up with concerns about the Verret Basin and the fish living there. First thought was to pray for all the longtime friends living and working in the broad expanse contained in Barry’s path.
Even if the initial impact didn’t meet dire warnings blared Friday from every media source — say in the Florida Parishes — Barry’s track will take it into southern and central Mississippi, and we all know all that water has to move someplace. Unfortunately, that’s us.
With Lake Pontchartrain continuing to take on the Mississippi River through the Bonnet Carre Spillway, those rivers, the Blind, the Amite, the Tickfaw, the Tchefuncte and Bayou Liberty, likely will remain high just because Pontchartrain will be dealing with river flow and a storm surge.
Then, there’s the Pearl River, which, just last week, was falling and clearing, and appears ready to accept all anglers no matter their pursuits.
We’re likely not going to worry about the Atchafalaya Spillway. Our country’s largest overflow swamp is overflowing, and that flow likely means we won’t see a repeat of the devastation Hurricane Andrew wrought through this beloved swamp. (Remember the estimated 175 million dead fish, including 5 million bass, in Andrew’s wake.)
Andrew affected the Verret Basin, too. Lots of dead fish, lots in 1992, and the concern is a repeat of that fishery disaster could be repeated when predictors said Barry’s path likely would be directly over this chain of bayous and lakes stretching from just south of White Castle down to Morgan City.
A major fish kill in these waters would come at time when the Verret Basin’s bass, bluegill, sac-a-lait and catfish stocks appeared to have fully recovered nearly 17 years after Andrew.
If there are fish kills, and to some degree there always is after a storm, then help Wildlife and Fisheries document those kills. Take photos with a cellphone. Note the location and estimate the species at the kill site.
LDWF staff has worked out a fish-kill reporting plan into saltwater and freshwater districts. Here are locations and the phone numbers:
Saltwater fish kills — Coastal Area 1-North, Lacombe, (985) 882-0027; Coastal Area 1-South & Area 3, New Orleans (504) 284-2030; Coastal Area 5-Bourg (985) 594-4139; and, Coastal Area 6, Lafayette (337) 262-2080.
Freshwater fish kills — District 6, Lafayette (337) 262-2080 (Acadia, Avoyelles, Evangeline, Iberia, Lafayette, St. Landry, St. Mary, Upper St. Martin, Vermilion parishes); District 7, Baton Rouge (225) 765-2336 (Ascension, Assumption, East & West Baton Rouge, East & West Feliciana, Iberville, Lafourche-west, Livingston, Lower St. Martin, Point Coupee, St. Helena, St. John the Baptist, St. James, Terrebonne parishes); District 8, Lacombe (985) 882-5228 (Jefferson, Lafourche-east, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. John the Baptist, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, Washington parishes).
It’s expected LDWF staff will return to offices as early as Monday to assess damages.
Fish kills usually do not appear until two or more days after a storm. Low dissolved oxygen content usually is the cause.
The LDWF has a fish kill brochure on its website:
Time to wait
Knowing the reaction of some folks to witness disaster, the best advice today is to avoid the inclination to visit hard-hit locales. Unless you have business to be in places like Buras, Venice, Shell Beach, Grand Isle, Fourchon, Belle River and points south, stay home.
Let the folks get cleaned up and ready for business before trekking to marinas or to sightsee. This is not the time.
If Barry doesn’t wreak the havoc we expect from a storm, then our prayers will have been answered, and we can get after the fish in the way our Sportsman’s Paradise has provided.