Louisiana see fishing surge

Following storms, parts of Louisiana see fishing surge – COASTAL RESIDENTS SAY fishing improves after a hurricane. In Louisiana, fishing in some areas has improved considerably following hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Katrina struck eastern Louisiana nearly three months ago. Less than a month later, Rita swept through western Louisiana. Besides the damage to man-made facilities, the storms wreaked havoc on the state’s coastal natural resources.

However, several parishes on Louisiana’s mid-coast escaped major damage to most facilities.

Veteran fishing guide Bill Lake of Houma, La., said his area, Terrebonne Parrish, suffered wind damage from Katrina and water damage from Rita, but that the area’s fishing has improved.

“We are having one of the best speckled trout fall and winter seasons I can remember,” Lake said. “I have been charter fishing for 15 years and have never seen the numbers of fish that we are catching in lower Terrebonne Parish right now.”

In a recent two-week period, Lake said his guided parties averaged 100 fish a day. According to Lake, Rita’s tidal surge pushed a lot of fish into local fishing areas.

“When the storms came in, most of the trout were still out in the Gulf of Mexico and were just transitioning into the lakes and bays,” Lake said. “All the tide surge did was push them in earlier. They were not hurt; they just rode the tide.

“Fishing is unbelievable. The lakes and bays are swollen with fish and even a novice can catch limits of speckled trout, it is so good.”

The storms moved a lot of fish out of their customary fall-winter haunts, however. Lake said fishing for redfish is down considerably in the inner estuaries such as the shallow marsh and ducks ponds where they are normally located. He believes damage to the marsh areas is the cause.

However, a half-hour drive south in Dulac, La., guide Lance Ledet, who missed a month of guiding following the hurricanes, said fishing for redfish is better than normal this time of year.

“I have been seeing more bull reds than I normally see in the shallows, and I’ve been seeing a lot of sharks, too..”

The marshes closer to the Gulf of Mexico, Ledet said, do not seem to be damaged as badly as the marshes farther inland.

Lake said the redfish populations should migrate back to their normal areas by March or April.

“Most people don’t have any concept of what happens when you get a 10-foot tide surge. It’s unbelievable the way the fish were moved around. But we will take a tide surge over a direct hit any day.”

Fishing guides and marinas in Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes are getting the bulk of the Louisiana fishing business because of the damage to facilities and habitat across the rest of coastal Louisiana, Lake said.

“I stay pretty busy in the winter months, but this year I have been inundated with calls from the east and west of us. All their infrastructure was wiped out. The fish are there, but there are no boat docks, no motels and most of the guide services were wiped out. There are probably 250 guides in Louisiana out of work right now.”

One area undamaged by the storms was the Gulf of Mexico, Lake said. Although littered with dead animals and floating debris, offshore fishing in the gulf has been extremely good.

“Two weeks after the storm, they were out there catching redfish and lemon fish just like normal,” he said.

Another reason sportsmen travel to Louisiana is to duck hunt, and duck hunting in Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes might be the best in recent history, said Lake.

“Everything to the east and west of us had a heavy dose of saltwater which killed all the grass, but our duck ponds here in Terrebonne and Lafourche have plenty for the ducks to eat,” he said.

“This year is starting off like it was in the ’70s. There are thousands of ducks on the leases and everybody is killing limits.”
By PAT ROBERTSON

Special to The State

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