Friday, January 21, 2022

Fly fishing events highlight Spring calendar

Based on the number of events for Spring 2022, its clear that Omicron variant of Covid-19 isn't scaring anyone from getting back to some semblence of normal.  And we couldn't be happier!

When it comes to fly fishing, Spring is event season across the deep South. These events can vary in type from large commercial expos like the Atlanta Fly Fishing Show to club festivals like "Red Stick Day" to fly fishing tournaments like the “Fly Fishin For The Mission” to hybrid events like the “Sweetwater Classic” to purely educational events like “Fly Fishing 101” hosted by the Kisatchie Fly Fishers.

Here is a list of Spring 2022 events either in Louisiana or within a days drive from a population area inside our state.

Jan. 29 (Sat) – 4th biennial CENLA FLY FISHING & LIGHT TACKLE FESTIVAL, Kees Park Center, Highway 28 East, Pineville, LA. 8:30am – 3:30pm. Free admission. Presentations, fly tying demos, casting clinics, exhibitors and more. $5 lunch available. Benefits Food Bank of Central Louisiana. Hosted by Kisatchie Fly Fishers club. Website: www.kisatchiefly.org.

Feb. 4-5 (Fri-Sat) – ATLANTA FLY FISHING SHOW, Infinite Energy Center, 6400 Sugarloaf Pkwy, Duluth, GA. 9am – 6pm. Admission $15/$25, military $10. Largest fly fishing show in the South. FFI will host the Learning Center, with casting and fly tying instruction free to show attendees. Website: www.flyfishingshow.com.

Feb. 12 (Sat) – 29th annual Dr. ED RIZZOLO FLY TYING FESTIVAL, Trini Mendenhall Community Center, 1414 Wirt Rd, Houston, TX. 8:30am – 4:30pm. The largest fly tying event on the Gulf Coast features over 80 tiers as well as seminars and vendors. Featured guest tier: Jerry Coviello. Adults $10, students and seniors $5, children free. Hosted by the Texas Fly Fishers club. Website: texasflyfishers.org.

Feb. 26-27 (Sat-Sun) – 5th annual TEXAS FLY FISHING & BREW FESTIVAL, Mesquite Convention Center, Mesquite, TX. Nationally known fly fishing authors, professional guides, expert casters, fly tiers from across the country, dozens of exhibitors. Microbrew sampling. Website: txflyfishingfestival.org.

Mar. 5 (Sat) – 26th Annual RED STICK DAY, Waddill Outdoor Education Center, 4142 N Flannery Rd, Baton Rouge, LA. 8:30am – 3:30pm. Free admission. Seminars, tying demos, kayak demos, casting clinics, food, refreshments. Hosted by Red Stick Fly Fishers. Website: www.rsff.org.

Mar. 11-12 (Fri-Sat) – 2nd annual SWEETWATER CLASSIC, Percy Quin State Park, McComb, MS. Free admission, bass tournament entry $30. Fly tying demos, casting clinics, seminars, raffles, Big Bream Contest (free), CPR big bass tournament with categories for boat/kayak and bank fishing, plus Slab Master (largest crappie). Hosted by FFI Gulf Coast Council. Website: www.ffigcc.org.

Mar. 24-26 – 25th annual SOWBUG ROUNDUP, Baxter County Fairgrounds, Mountain Home, AR. 9am – 4pm, each day. Admission $10 for all 3 days, adults with kids under 12 free. Largest fly tying event in the country, over 150 tiers. Seminars, fly tying clinics, vendors. Special guests Dave & Emily Whitlock. Hosted by North Arkansas Fly Fishers. Website: www.sowbugroundup.org.

Mar. 26 (Sat) – 73rd annual NEW ORLEANS CITY PARK FISHTIVAL & BIG BASS RODEO, New Orleans City Park, New Orleans. 6:30am – noon. Fishtival free, Rodeo entry fees: adults $10, kids $5. Fly Fishing category. Also fly casting and fly tying by New Orleans Fly Fishers Club. Hosted by LA Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. Website: www.neworleanscitypark.com/big-bass-fishing-rodeo-and-fishtival

Apr 29 (Sat) – FLY FISHING 101, Booker-Fowler Fish Hatchery, Forest Hill, LA. 8:30am to 12:30pm.  Free to the public, pre-registration required, limited seats. Basics of fly fishing and casting with hands-on instruction. Hosted by Kisatchie Fly Fishers. Website: www.kisatchiefly.org.

May 4-5 (Fri-Sat) – 13th Annual BASS ON THE FLY TOURNAMENT, Lake Fork Marina, Lake Fork, TX. Free admission, tournament entry fee $70. Free casting clinics, kayak demos, casting contests, Sunfish Tourney ($5), CPR bass tournament has categories for boat, kayak. Entry fee entitles participants to door prize drawings. Charitable event is endorsed by the Texas FFI Council. Website: www.bassonthefly.org.

June TBA – 2nd annual BIKES & BUGS, Gulf State Park, Gulf Shores, AL.  8:00am to 1:00pm.  No cost, but registration requested.  Anglers will pedal and fly fish their way around the park’s Lake Shelby in pursuit of bass, bream, and anything else that bites.  Open to all lady anglers, equipment and bikes available for use.  Hosted by FFI Women Connect and FFI Gulf Coast Council.  Website: www.ffigcc.org.

June TBA – 10th annual CEDAR LAKE FLY FISHING TOURNAMENT, 12056 Cedar Lake Rd, Biloxi, MS. 6:00am to noon. Registration fee $25. A bluegill tournament, flies and fly tackle only. Sign-in required on morning of tournament. Hosted by Mississippi Coast Fly Fishers. Website: www.gcflyfishers.org.

As always, please continue to check our Calendar page for more details on each of these events, and for any new events that may come up.

Monday, January 03, 2022

LWFC Commission to vote on menhaden regulation

This Thursday, January 6th, the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission will vote on a proposal to enact a 1/4 mile buffer zone for menhaden harvest.  According to its author, the intent of the regulation is to avoid user conflict between recreational anglers and commercial pogey boats.

CCA Louisiana, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Bonefish & Tarpon Trust and other conservation groups point out this proposal was put forward by the menhaden industry itself and is unacceptable. The overwhelming majority of spawning of inshore and nearshore species takes place in the littoral zone, which in Louisiana is at least a mile out or more.  In addition, this area contains greater concentrations of menhaden – needed for the high protein requirements of spawning fish.  

While all parties would much prefer a one-mile buffer, the Commission is highly unlikely to accept that wide a buffer.  For that reason, they are asking for an amendment for a 1/2-mile buffer.

CCA and the FFI Gulf Coast Council are asking their members and other conservationists to petition the Commission to amend the Notice of Intent (NOI) to a minimum of 1/2 mile. To do so, email your comments to comments@wlf.la.gov before Wednesday at 2pm. You may also make your comments on Thursday, 9:30am at LDWF Headquarters in Baton Rouge.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year

Here's wishing everyone a merry and most blessed Christmas.  Hope Santa brings that one fly fishing gift you really need... a new rod, maybe some more flies, or perhaps a ruler to measure those 24" speckled trout you claim to catch!

While Christmas is a season of festivity, let's not forget the reason for the season: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us….” John 1:14. Please be giving to those in need, and pray for those who are less fortunate, for those in suffering, and for those away from their families this season.

We also wish everyone a prosperous and healthy New Year.  With much emphasis on healthy!  There are many great regional activities coming up in 2022.   Click on our Calendar page to discover what's happening.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Fly fishing featured in Louisiana Conservationist magazine

The featured article in the Fall 2021 issue of Louisiana Conservationist magazine is on fly fishing, with emphasis on the sport within the state. Writer Sherry Morton interviewed Alex Beane, manager of the Orvis store in Baton Rouge, John Williams, owner of Pack and Paddle in Lafayette, expert fly angler Ben Roussel of Baton Rouge and renown fly tier Kyle Moppert, also of Baton Rouge.  The article also featured flies tied by nationally recognized popping bug guru Ron Braud of Prarieville.

The article details the fly fishing opportunities here in Louisiana, from freshwater to the coastal marshes for sightcasting to redfish. Alex and John also discuss the several avenues for learning and growing knowledge in the sport - from the beginner classes their stores offer to the various clubs around the state. As Roussel points out, "Clubs build a community of like minded people" all interested in the sport, and offer monthly fly tying, events, trips, sharing reports and more. Some of the annual events in the state were also mentioned, including the annual "Rendezvous" held the first full weekend of November at North Toledo Bend State Park.

For anyone interested in a brief summary of what fly fishing opportunities in Louisiana exist, this article hits the nail on the head.  The magazine is available online (at no cost) by CLICKING HERE.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Johnson's chain pickerel recognized as FFOY

At their annual convention last night, the Louisiana Outdoor Writers Association recognized the "Fish of the Year" in both conventional and fly fishing categories.  This year's recipient in the fly fishing category was Jim Johnson for his 1.64 lb Chain Pickerel caught in Cocodrie Lake out of Forest Hill.  Bradley Cole Thurman of Meadow Lakes, TX, received the "Rod and Reel" honor with a 106.20 lb Black Grouper caught out of Port Fourchon.  Both fish are new state records.

Jim is a board member of the Kisatchie Fly Fishers of Alexandria, and a member of their Fly Tying Committee. He loves tying streamers which are effective for bass as well as other predatory species such as pickerel.

Jim says he's caught bigger "grass pike" but decided to enter this one to familiarize himself with the new LOWA record registration process. His fish eclipsed the previous 1.27 lb record held by Ardes Johnson since 2002. The overall state record for chain pickerel is 5.75 lbs taken by Chris Marien on Kincaid Lake in 1977.

Since the 1940s, LOWA has curated the state fish records, maintaining the top 10 catches by weight of each species, fresh and saltwater. In the 1980s, under the guidance of Pete Cooper, Jr. and Bob Dennie, the Fly Fish Division was added.

Fly anglers who believe they've landed a trophy-sized fish (or for some species, even a decent sized fish) should check the LOWA Fish Records website.  Registration can be printed and mailed, or filled in online. Registration fee is $25.

Monday, October 11, 2021

LWFC adopts (weak) menhaden harvest buffer zone

Last Thursday at their monthly meeting, the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission adopted a Notice of Intent (NOI) to add coastal buffer zones to Gulf menhaden harvest regulations.  The proposed changes would implement a coastwide buffer for commercial harvest of one quarter-mile (¼) mile offshore, with 1 mile buffers off Elmers to Fourchon and off Grand Terre, and a 3 mile buffer off Grand Isle.

Days before the meeting - shortly after this item was added to the agenda - a coalition of conservation groups led by CCA Louisiana, Louisiana Charter Boat Association, American Sportfishing Association, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and others issued a response in opposition to the proposal.  In a letter to the LWFC Chairperson, they stated, “Our coalition believes that a quarter-mile buffer zone is insufficient to adequately protect Louisiana’s wildlife and other fish resources from the substantial damage inflicted to the local ecosystem by industrial menhaden or pogie harvesting.”.  Later, the Fly Fishers International Gulf Coast Council announced it's opposition to the NOI, stating that "such a ridiculously small buffer zone desecrates the intent of marine conservation".

Last summer, videos and photos of hundreds of dead bull redfish (spawners) resulting from menhaden bycatch made social media and were later featured in outdoor magazines, drawing national attention and outrage from anglers and other conservationists. Nearly all this bycatch occurred within a mile – sometimes just yards – off beaches. Louisiana is the only state that does not have a buffer zone for menhaden harvest.

This past Spring, conservation groups attempted to pass a bill that would create a buffer zone. Although all groups (including the FFI Gulf Coast Council) supported a one-mile zone,, House Bill 535 ended up being a compromise with a 1/2 mile zone, with wider exclusions for Grand Isle and Grand Terre.  The bill sailed through the House, but some political maneuvering by the Senate Natural Resources Committee Chairman forced the bill to go into reconciliation just hours before the end of the session. The bill died in limbo. Conservation groups vowed to bring a similar bill back in 2022, but without the compromise.

Concerned anglers and other conservationists are being asked to submit comments relative to the proposed rule to Jason Adriance, Fisheries Division, Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, P.O. Box 98000, Baton Rouge, LA 70898-9000 or via email to  jadriance@wlf.la.gov  before Thursday, December  2, 2021.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Toledo Bend Rendezvous cancelled

For the second year in a row, Toledo Bend Rendezvous has been cancelled due to Covid-19 concerns. According to organizer Walter McLendon, the high number of cases in Texas and Louisiana was of great concern to having an event where folks are in close contact indoors.   Typically held the first full weekend of November at Toledo Bend State Park near Zwolle, Rendezvous is the largest casual weekend gathering of fly tiers in the country, with a long history of fly tying, fly casting, food and fishing, with only a minimal fee to cover lodging and meals.

Thursday, September 02, 2021

Hurricane Ida aftermath: long road to recovery

This past Sunday, Hurricane Ida made landfall near Port Fourchon, Louisiana, with sustained winds of 150 mph, and reported gusts as high as 172 mph. As such, it tied last year’s Hurricane Laura which hit Cameron, Louisiana, as the second most intense storm to hit the state, only behind Hurricane Katrina. And the 5th most intense storm to ever hit the United States.

Over the next 24 hours, Ida moved slowly northward bringing destruction in the form of wind damage, tidal surges, and flash flooding to parts of southeast Louisiana, southern Mississippi and even as far east as the Alabama coast. Over one million homes and businesses were without electricity, and an estimated $15 billion in property damage.

Depending on location, it will take weeks to months, but we’ll build back and hopefully, better.  And when we’re done building back, we’ll want to turn our attention to things we enjoy the most, like fishing. Except there may not be much to offer there. 

It'll take a couple weeks to determine if Ida - like Hurricanes Andrew and Gustav which followed a similiar course - have triggered massive fish kills across south central and southeast Louisiana.  Major hurricanes cause hypoxia in waters by a combination of wind-stirred organics, litterfall (leaves stripped from trees that consume oxygen upon decay), and backwater flooding. When the water recedes, it’s often dark tannic and with zero oxygen. Water temperatures in August are simply too high to overcome litterfall like they are in October and November. Fish require at least 2.0 mg/L oxygen. After Gustav, it was rare to find any water greater than 1.0 mg/L.

While hurricane-generated fish kills in saltwater are extremely rare, the problem for salt anglers will be infrastructure. Just about everything past a protection levee was damaged or destroyed, including stores, motels, bait shops… even the roads themselves.  The photos of Leeville above - before and after Ida - are typical of what happened to other coastal communities outside the protection levees.  Many business owners have already indicated they will not rebuild.