So, Coastal Zone hunters got in the first shots of the 60-day duck season Saturday, and the hope is they were successful in putting roasted birds on their tables.

If success is triggered by numbers of ducks, their opening weekend should be much better than last year.

That's because there were nearly twice as many birds in the state’s southwestern marshes and agricultural fields as were estimated to be there the week before the 2018 opener.

That was the word late Thursday from Larry Reynolds, the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries’ Waterfowl Study leader.

Because of foul weather last year, Reynolds and his crew flew only the southwest area during the week leading up to opening day. Going back more than 50 years, the LDWF’s annual aerial surveys have loads of estimated duck counts.

And while this year's flyovers showed 1.04 million ducks living in the coastal and Catahoula Lake areas — the THIRD lowest November estimate since this survey began in 1969 — the estimate of 597,000 total ducks in the southwestern parishes is more than twice the 247,000 count from November 2018, but is 40 percent of the 2008-2017 average of 994,000, Reynolds reported.

Except for mottled ducks, all species counted higher than last November.

“Over the entire surveyed area, all dabbling ducks except shovelers were below long-term averages, and except for blue-winged teal (166,000 versus 183,000), they were less than half long-term average, and coots were 47 percent below the most recent 10-year average of 906,000,” Reynolds said.

It was a different story for diving ducks, which were above their long-term November averages. Reynolds noted “notable concentrations” of mostly gray ducks on the west side of Rockefeller Refuge and in the marsh south and east of Calcasieu Lake. For the southeastern marshes, “the largest flocks of mostly blue-winged teal were seen in the marsh north of Pointe a la Hache, and east of Venice.”

With an estimated 103,000 ducks, Catahoula Lake held to the most recent 10-year average, and had more diving ducks than normal for November.

Reynolds also noted high coastal-marsh water levels, which are, he said, is “not optimum for foraging ducks in most areas across southeast and southwest areas ... overall habitat conditions appear to be only fair at this time in coastal marsh. In the agricultural habitats, conditions appear about average with mostly managed water on the landscape and little natural shallow flooding.”

While there has been a progression on Canadian and Arctic cold fronts pushing through the Midwest, most duck watchers expect the next Arctic blast — it’s due to push into Louisiana late Monday — to send more ducks into the coastal marshes.

Reynolds said these first numbers represent a preliminary report with more estimates coming this week after flyovers in the state’s northwest and northeast parishes.

For Veterans Day

LDWF secretary Jack Montoucet has opened Monday, Veterans Day, to add a day to the recreational red snapper season.

Just last week Montoucet signed an emergency order opening a weekends-only (Fridays through Sundays) season until further notice.

Louisiana remains short of nearing its 2019 recreational quota of 816,439 pounds. The latest LA Creel total is 779,159 pounds through Sunday, Oct. 27.

The kids had fun

More than 130 folks turned out to I-10 Park in Jennings last Saturday for the latest Get Out and Fish! Event. They were able to take home some of the 1,000 pounds of adult-sized channel catfish stocked by the agency’s Inland Fisheries Section staff, and prizes for the fishermen catching the heaviest fish in “Catfish” and “Other Species” (presumably bass) categories.

The categories were divided by age groups, and it took 4-pounders to win Catfish category prizes in all groups.

The top “Catfish” anglers by age group included:

Little Angler (8 & younger): 1, Joey Fruge, 4.17 pounds. 2, Jennifer Gonzales, 3.83. 3, Maisen Rawls, 3.71.

Junior Angler (9-15): 1, Aryen Woods, 4.82 pounds. 2, Kyle Cox, 3.81. 3, Joshua Simar, 3.2.

Adult Angler (16 & older): 1, Marshall Thomas, 4.01 pounds. 2, Amy Carrier, 3.61. 3, Brodie Fontenot, 3.6.

And, the “Other Species” winners were:

Junior Angler: 1, James Oustalet. 2, Peyton Herpin. 3, Landon Touchet.

Adult Angler: 1, Alice LeJeune.

For more Get Out and Fish! Events, go to the LDWF’s website: wlf.la.gov/get-out-and-fish-1.