To say that this has been the worst spring I've ever
experienced might be overstating matters a bit. But
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
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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