New Outdoors photo

Robert Boothe, right, of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries drives a LDWF vessel back to shore as volunteers prepare to unload the crab traps collected during the Derelict Crab Trap Rodeo held in the Barataria Basin on Saturday.

Gray is a color we easily can dislike now that we’ve had enough gray days to fill our winter quota.

It’s not only the clouds, but it’s also the rain they carry that’s going to plague us for weeks to come.

And, after a trip into the marshes, bayous and canals in eastern Orleans and St. Bernard parishes over the weekend, our fishing problems have been magnified by a combination of north winds and the usual lower — in this case much lower — wintertime tides.

There’s not water in those marshes: canals are at least three feet below what we’d consider “normal,” and marsh ponds are near bone dry after producing as many as 50 bass and 20 redfish on a day’s fishing in October. Similar low-water reports are coming from the Barataria and lower Terrebonne waters, too.

Fishing along the still-high Mississippi River — of course, there’s plenty of water there — isn’t much better.

Even worse, this week’s rain will keep water along the coast muddy, but not provide enough rain to begin filling these areas, and with all the water coming down the swollen Pearl River, odds are the areas around Lake Borgne will be muddy well into the early spring.

River watch

So much for the early February prediction of a falling Mississippi River, because it ain’t falling. Wednesday’s river readings of 36.6 feet at Baton Rouge and 14 feet at New Orleans are forecast to jump to respective 39.5 foot and 15.5-foot readings by March 3.

The Atchafalaya River at Morgan City is, at 6.42 feet, in a minor flooding stage.

The Pearl River at Pool’s Bluff near Bogalusa is at 62.32 feet just a foot lower than the all-time record of 63.3 feet.

What to do?

Hunting seasons are not over yet, and if you know someone with access to fields where blue, snow and Ross’ geese are spending some time, then you can get in on the conservation order for those species.

Squirrel, rabbit, wild quail and snipe seasons run through the end of the month, and you can spend some time on the Internet finding licensed hunting locations in south Louisiana and Mississippi to hunt quail. Some of these places have pheasant and chukar, too.

Ponds might solve the fishing dilemma.

And this, too

Years ago, at a time matching this early February doldrums, David Reynerson said it was “home” time, especially after all the days he and his hunting friends had spent in deer stands, duck blinds, chasing after beagles on rabbit hunts and heists in the woods treeing squirrels.

Honey do’s usually come first, but back in the days when Reynerson had his gunsmithing store in Central, he said it’s time for hunters to clean up and properly store their rifles and shotguns.

“I’ve known lots of guys who end their hunting seasons by putting their guns in the back of the closet and not touching them until the week before the next hunting season,” Reynerson said.

“Can’t do that. Hunters should clear their weapons before setting them down for months,” he said.

“And, if you had a problem, any problem, with your rifle or shotgun, then know’s the time to get it fixed.

“I can’t tell you how many disappointed faces I’ve seen over the years from guys bringing in a rifle or a shotgun the week before the seasons starts and we have to tell them it’ll be a couple of weeks before we can get it back to them.”

The logjam at gun-repair shops was the reason, and the guys who waited until two weeks before the season opener got ahead of them, and probably had to wait, too, because the guys who brought their weapons in a month before the opener started the backlog of gunsmithing work.

Cleaning a weapon is easy, and here’s hoping you saved the take-down instructions when you bought the weapon. Otherwise, your can find these how-to’s, for most weapons, on the Internet.

Gun-cleaning kits are wide available. About the only item lacking in most kits is a brass wire brush, which you’ll need to remove mud and rust from exterior metal parts.

Reynerson said a cleaning the receiver, bolt, chamber and barrel tops the list, and wiping down stocks and foregrips is easy with a soft rag.

After using solvent to remove filings and spent powder, all metal parts should be oiled.

Reynerson said the biggest mistake is leaving too much oil on the stored weapon.

“Oil attracts dust and dirt and make it harder to get your shotgun or rifle ready in the days leading up to the next season,” he said. “A light coat, a very light coat is all that’s needed.

“And, when you store the weapon, make sure to store it barrel down to prevent oil seeping into and ruining the stock.”

As with any weapon — cleaned bullets and shotshells, too — store them away from a child’s reach. If you have a trigger lock, use it. These are not toys.

Tackle, too

The next weeks can provide time to check out rods and reels and straighten out the disarray of tackle all of us have have a good fishing year.

Check for nicks on rods, and pass yarn through the guides. The yarn will tell you if there’s a burr on the guide, something that can fray monofilament and even braided line and could cost you putting that monster fish in the boat.

Reels need to be cleaned and oiled periodically, and hooks need to be checked and, if needed, replaced on hard-plastic lures. You can take time to re-dress spinnerbaits and buzzbaits, and discard rusted hooks.

If you have rods with cork handles, it might be time to get very light sandpaper, say 400-600 grit, to remove the layer of body oil and grime from those handles to ensure a good grip for future trips.

And boats

Time to check batteries and connections, for frayed wires, bilge pumps, gaskets and all the other things that can turn a fishing trip into a nightmare. If you’ve used ethanol gas, check for water in gas tanks. Water accumulates in tanks during cold weather.

Trailers, too. Might be time to repack wheel bearings, check for rust and make sure the lights work.