One man’s bane is another’s boon, and Louisiana’s outdoorsmen will find truth in that statement this weekend.
Fishermen across south Louisiana will look at the current cold and wind and beg for a change. They’re also contending with strong upticks in the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers levels as further blows to their sport.
The weather and those rising rivers, especially on the Mississippi, are making sharp cuts into what were string bass catches near Venice for the past two months. The rise hasn’t hit Atchafalaya anglers that hard, but the cold weather and a rising barometer have, and will, through the weekend.
And strong north winds will blow vast areas of the marsh dry just when the marshes were ready to complete the movement of speckled trout into bays, canals and bayous.
That’s the “bane:” Ask duck hunters about the “boon” part.
“It’s great,” Randy Stillwell said. “We’re ready for Saturday. Man, it was snowing in Memphis (Tuesday into Wednesday), and it’s going to be real cold in Missouri and Arkansas.
“The north wind has moved in thousands of new ducks, and the Mississippi River is filling some prime spots with water just about the time when the new ducks are coming in.”
Stillwell and his buddies hunt the state’s East Waterfowl Zone. To be more exact, they hunt areas off the Mississippi River north of Sicily Island and east to St. Joseph. It’s a place loaded with agricultural fields and, for Stillwell, pits and small oxbow lakes off the Mississippi River.
Those pits and oxbows have been dry the past three months and have filled with vegetation, the just right seed-bearing plants ducks need to fill their gullets after long flights.
Reports from the northern parishes indicate more and more specklebelly geese have joined ducks in the rain-moistened agriculture fields in the northeastern parishes. The geese will feed on the green shoots that came with last week’s warmer weather.
“It’s perfect, or about as perfect as we can expect for this time in the season,” Stillwell said.
East Zone hunters will begin their longest-ever split since seasons were implemented for duck hunters more than 70 years ago. Saturday opens a 51-day run - the East Zone had only a nine-day first split - to the last Sunday in January.
“All we can hope for now is that it stays cold and gets even colder and there’s more snow in the Midwest to move the ducks here,” Stillwell said. “It’s not time to worry about hunting areas out, not when we’re seeing more ducks here than we’ve seen in more than 10 years.”
The West Zone, which ended its first split Sunday, is closed and will reopen for the second split Dec. 17.
The Department of Wildlife and Fisheries issued an advisory this week warning hunters to stop parking “on shoulders and grassy areas along interstates and highways.”
During the current hunting season, the advisory indicated that Louisiana State Police are finding more and more vehicles parked off the road, notably on the shoulder and in grassy expanses on Interstate 10 between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, during hunting season. It’s in the area of the Maurepas Swamp Wildlife Management Area.
The LDWF warning stated parking trucks in these areas is “illegal and strictly prohibited. The shoulders of the road are designed for emergency stopping only. The parked vehicles pose a threat to motorists when they re-enter or exit the road and can be a hazard to motorists stopping for emergencies.”
Vehicle owners parked in these areas could face traffic citation fines and have their vehicles towed at their expense.
Plant a tree
Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana organizer Hilary Collis said volunteers can help CRCL plant some 800 cypress trees Friday and Saturday in the Jean Lafitte National Park’s Barataria Preserve.
She asked volunteers to register at the Coalition’s website: www.crcl.org. The trees will be planted along Bayou Segnette. Boats will launch from the Louisiana Swamp Tours docks at 9706 Barataria Blvd. in Marrero.
Collis said the work will run from 9 a.m. to no later than 4:30 p.m. both days.
She said the project is designed “to protect marsh ecosystems from erosion threats and from invasion by the exotic Chinese tallow tree. The restored marsh will also provide critical habit for wildlife.”
Partners in the project include CRCL, Shell, Entergy, the state’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, Restore America’s Estuaries and the Jean Lafitte Park and Preserve.
For details, call Collis (225) 413-2228.
The first efforts in the annual Christmas Bird Count program begin Dec. 14 in Crowley and continue Dec. 15 in Claiborne Parish.
Other dates and areas before Christmas include Dec. 16 in the Lacassine-Thornwell area; Dec. 17 on the Sabine and Catahoula National Wildlife refuges, in the D’Arbonne area near Farmerville and in Louisiana-Mississippi areas around Vicksburg; Dec. 18 in the Sweet Lake and Cameron Prairie areas; and, Dec. 21 on Grand Isle.
Contact Marty Floyd - email: firstname.lastname@example.org - for details.