False River bass

Steve Fontana holds two 4-pound bass he caught on back-to-back casts while working the banks of False River late last week. Bass have moved into the shallows for the spawn after the lake refilled from a months-long drawdown to stabilize the lake's bottom.

Come Monday we should know a whole lot more about how well recovery plans are working to restore False River as one of our state’s premier freshwater fishing lakes.

We’ll have a chance to check out the results of Sunday’s annual Kiwanis Open, a long-standing, bass-fishing celebration in New Roads.

If fishing talk during the past four weeks is proof, then the annual drawdowns and other recovery management plans is working, at least on largemouth bass.

The reports? Bass were moving to the newly flooded banks from their wintertime haunts in the flats and deep-water ledges and were blasting a variety of lures.

“Know those little yellow flowers we see in our lawns and gardens during the fall and winter? Well, the bass were in those flowers,” Steve Fontana said.

The plants grew after last fall’s drawdown exposed the bottom in the shallow flats and along banks of the near 14-mile Pointe Coupee Parish oxbow lake.

Why all the fuss? About three decades ago, and much to the consternation of fishermen, canals were dug to drain farmlands, a move that added more than 50,000 acres to the lake’s watershed. Even worse was all the sediment that ran, almost unchecked, into the lake for years.

The mushy sediment destroyed habitat for bass, bluegill and chinquapin, even catfish, and opened the way for increased populations of gar, buffalo and other species sportfishemen didn’t target.

To shorten a long story, concerned fishermen engaged the local police jury and state legislators to move to mitigate the damage. Wildlife and Fisheries stepped in to develop management plans to help restore a lake that was, through the 1950s and into the 1980s, one of the more productive gamefish lakes in the nation.

Drawdowns helped dry the bottom and hardened bottoms help the production from spawning gamefish species.

“The lake filled back to normal, and the fish (bass) moved into all that new vegetation,” Fontana said. “And they’re hungry. There was a good shad spawn last year, and the threadfin shad are everywhere in the shallows in the early morning. After the sun gets up the shad move to deeper water, but those first couple of hours are something.”

That information should steer you to the best lures. Willowleaf spinnerbaits in shad colors and shad-colored jerkbaits, maybe even the old Rebels and Rapalas Dr. Foster Sanders used during the spawn 40 and 50 years ago to catch braggin’ sized largemouths.

The latest reports are that some of the largemouths spawned on Tuesday’s full moon — some — and the bass spawn, the movement to establish spawning beds continues.

Hunting regs

March’s Wildlife and Fisheries Commission meeting produced two significant changes to the 2020-2021 hunting regulations.

First, an amendment will ban the “sale of untested deer urine products in Louisiana,” a move that goes beyond the 2019-2020 season rule banning the possession and use of untested deer urine products in the state. These rules are to protect the state’s deer herd from chronic wasting disease. While our neighboring states have found CWD in its wild deer, Louisiana has not had a positive CWD test.

The second changed South Zone dove hunting season dates. The new three-split dates will be Sept. 5-16, Oct. 17-Nov. 29 and Dec. 19-Jan. 21.

Another commission action has, through emergency declaration, closed this year’s spring turkey season on the Grassy Lake Wildlife Management Area. Flooding is the major reason.

Get your cameras

Wildlife and Fisheries is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Louisiana Natural and Scenic Rivers Act with a photo contest open to all photographers with a special youth/15-and-younger (as of June 1) division.

The concept is simple: the contest is to “promote the beauty of Louisiana's designated natural and scenic rivers.” Submitted photos must be taken in Louisiana, and the LDWF staff’s suggestion is images “should portray the wildlife, fisheries, natural habitats or recreational opportunities Louisiana's natural and scenic rivers provide.”

The entry deadline is June 1. Details on website: wlf.louisiana.gov/page/myscenicriver#.

The virus

The Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana has postponed its annual 25th annual Coastal Stewardship Awards banquet because of the coronavirus. It's been moved from March 27 to July 24 at the same site The Lyceum on Third Street in Baton Rouge.

CRCL boss James Karst said already purchased tickets will be valid and tickets will remain on sale for the event which will highlight the 15th anniversary of hurricane Katrina and Rita, and the 10th year since the BP-Deepwater Horizon oil disaster.

Organizers of Major League Fishing and the FLW tours announced they will suspend “all public gatherings associated with their events through April 12,” but will not cancel nor postponed any of their fishing tournaments, and will continue to monitor the spread of coronavirus for events after April 12.

And FLW postponed this weekend's high school and college bass tournaments.