Duck hunters

Duck action was excellent the first week of the season near Buras, said longtime guide Ryan Lambert. While duck numbers have declined since, first-rate catches of redfish and speckled trout have remained constant.

Like kings walking down a sidewalk lined with paupers, Louisiana guides have an embarrassment of riches.

In most coastal states, being able to boat five legal redfish is an accomplishment worth talking about for weeks. Likewise, holding up a strap loaded with ducks of every color and creed is a picture shared with real friends via text and virtual friends on social media.

In those states, it would be preposterous to even consider the stars aligning to make both happen between a single sunrise and sunset. But to many Louisiana guides, like Ryan Lambert, it’s just all in a day’s work.

“We have it so good down here,” Lambert said last week from one of his iconic green-roofed lodges in Buras. “Limits of ducks and limits of fish within just a couple of miles of each other.”

Customers who hire the crew at Cajun Fishing Adventures start their trips with a gourmet dinner in the evening before catching a few Zs and arising for an early breakfast. They then climb aboard radar-equipped boats that take them to the east side of the Mississippi River, where they transfer to duck boats that drive them directly into their blinds.

At 10:30 a.m., the guides call the hunt and usher the clients back to the lodge, where they feast on a hearty lunch.

“Then they rest while the guides are getting the boats together and changing clothes,” Lambert said. “Then it’s out to fish until dinner time. It’s all about hunting, fishing and eating down here. It’s a pretty good life.”

It was an especially good life earlier in the month, Lambert said.

“The first six days of the duck season were unbelievably good,” he said. “We had limits in every blind. Then the ducks left the building. Usually, there are 10,000 out in the bay, but right now, there are none. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Lambert guesses the mass exodus had two main causes.

“When you have 400 boats go out in one day out of Venice, and you put that kind of pressure on them, it’s going to have an effect,” he said. “Plus, with the full moon coming in, they just moved out to the Gulf. They’ll go 10 miles out, and just come in at night to feed.”

The bags during the good first week were comprised mostly of teal, Lambert said.

“We had lots of bluewings, which is unusual for us during the big-duck season. Usually they’re gone by now,” he said. “But we didn’t have that many fronts between teal season and big season.

“We also had more ringnecks than I’ve ever seen in my life in the Buras/Venice area. Plenty ringnecks, but there’s been a distinct lack of gadwalls and pintails.”

Lambert said canvasbacks haven’t yet arrived, but he’s watching the trends across the continent and expects them to make it to Louisiana any day.

He was also hopeful an approaching front would push more ducks of all varieties down and force the ones in the Gulf to move back in to protected water.

Although the duck hunting in recent days has trended downward, that’s certainly not true of the fishing, Lambert said.

“The fishing has been really good,” he said. “In fact, two days this week, I told the people, ‘I can’t take your money; the birds aren’t here.’ So we just fished. You can’t help that the ducks aren’t there. You have to be honest.

“Most of us are catching between 20 and 40 trout per trip, and we’re getting our redfish limits. Yesterday, we caught a few trout, and the tide was falling hard, so I told the customers, ‘I know for certain we can catch limits of redfish sight-fishing,’ so that’s what we went and did.

“The water is crystal clear. Once it gets cold, the algae drops out and it gets gorgeous. You can see every fish in the water.”

The trout are exclusively on the west side, Lambert said, because a jump in the river has dirtied the water on the east side.

“You can also go a little further west toward Port Sulphur around Lake Washington,” he said. “They’ve got trout there. There’s a few in Buras and some around Hospital Bay.”

As long as the weather stays moderate, Lambert sees no slowdown in the fishing action, and he expects more duck days like the first week than the second one.

An embarrassment of riches — indeed.