Lake Fausse Point, Louisiana

May 15th, 2005

Rotten Spring
By Roger Stouff

To say that this has been the worst spring I've ever experienced might be overstating matters a bit. But not much.

While I'm hesitant yet to apply a cause, there's no doubt that since mid-April when the pecan trees went to bud and the robins came back, my fishing experiences on my part of the Atchafalaya Basin have been pretty dismal.

I took my vacation the first week of this month, my two cousins came from Ft. Worth to fish with me all week and our results were disheartening. We caught few bass and bream and lots of gaspergou (freshwater drum), choupique (bowfin) and catfish. Saw tons of garfish, too, everywhere we went. Some of them boys were flat-out huge.

I know that since Hurricanes Katrina and Rita (hereafter known as KatRita as my pal Catch Cormier has been referring to them on the Louisiana Fly Fishing website) the crawfish population has been dismal too. That's bad enough news for hungry Cajuns such as we are down here, but it's also bad news for the fish because crawdads are a major forage for bass and 'gills.

The worst-hit areas have been the Florida Parishes, those Louisiana counties north of New Orleans, where I'm told there's a near-total absence of freshwater fisheries. Of course, you've heard from FAOL writers that the saltwater fishery is kickin', and it certainly is! An unexpected benefit from KatRita has been fabulous redfish and speckled trout action, not to mention bumper crops of shrimp and crab, but I'm not geared up vessel-wise to chase those guys. Besides, I'm really accustomed to being up to my ears in bluegill and bass this time of year. I have caught nary a shellcracker, crappie or the like save for the smaller ones.

It is also true that, in addition to KatRita, we had a very mild winter. Never hit freezing, actually. The fish may have spawned out early and I totally missed them, but I am doubtful that this is the exclusive problem. In fact, I don't think any one answer is the full one. The winter also didn't kill off the summer's growth of hyacinth and hydrillia, so many canals are choked full of vegetation.

I have a buncha great flies from Rick Zieger, and a brand new eight-foot seven-weight bamboo rod commissioned from Louisiana rodmaker Harry Boyd. Both have been fished a bunch but seen little action. The water's gorgeous down here, most places I go, and we're actually finally getting a little rain, which should also be a good thing.

Thus, I'm just at a loss to explain things, and of course, at a loss to write things. It may have been the saltwater KatRita pushed in here; it may have been the organic muck both storms churned up from the bottom of my primordial swamps, or it might have been the mild winter. It might have been all three. I hear Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries is stocking hard in some areas of the basin as they're finding gamefish in low numbers and isolated pockets.

So here I am, and that's the way it is down here at least. I'm not speaking for all of Louisiana, of course, so please don't consider this a report on all our fishing. North and west of the Atchaflaya River Basin things are great, and if gas weren't nearly three bucks I'd be on that quick...and some freshwater and brackish coastal areas are reporting typical catches. I think the variables under scrutiny how much saltwater got in and how long it stayed in, for instance here after Rita we had zero wind, zero rain and the salt just hung around for weeks. Many waterworks districts could not supply water during all that time. And remember, Katrina hit 200 miles from me and Rita hit 120 miles from me! Also the average depth of the fishery water. A shallow water system would be churned up worse than a deeper water fishery and all that organic matter when it decays eats up all the oxygen.

Today is Sunday and I have been working for over a month now on a fifteen-foot hybrid vessel I'm calling a "pinou." I call it that because it's a cross between a pirogue and a canoe. Today I'm launching it, and if it paddles well instead of like a barge, I hope to use it to access out-of-the-way locations and pocket waters in search of better fishing. It's heavier than I would have liked and longer, but it may do the job nicely. Wish me luck! ~ Roger

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