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.

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Events cancelled due to Covid concerns

With the recent spike in the number of Coronavirus cases, and in an effort to insure the safe health of all involved, a number of clubs, FFI councils, and other groups and agencies have cancelled events scheduled for the next few months.  Some of these had been rescheduled from early Spring due to the last spike in January.. They will next be held on their traditional dates in 2022.

In addition, several club meetings are on hold until further notice. However, those clubs using Zoom will continue to meet online.

* Note: the FFI Gulf Coast Council has a Zoom Pro account available to their member clubs for their use. Assistance is also available. *

Here is a rundown of cancelled 2021 Fall events, and tentative 2022 dates.
  • Gulf Coast Sweetwater Classic – hosted by the FFI Gulf Coast Council. Next date: March 11-12, 2022.
  • FFI Southern Fly Fishing Fair – hosted by FFI Southern Council. Next date: September 29-October 1, 2022 (tentative).
  • Florida Fly Fishing Expo – hosted by FFI Florida Council. Next date: Spring 2022.
  • National Hunting & Fishing Day – hosted by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries at four venues across the state, the 4th Saturday in September. Next date: September 24, 2022.
  • Rio Grande Fly Fishing Rodeo – hosted by the New Orleans Fly Fishers. Next date: October 1, 2022.
  • Red Stick Day – fly fishing festival hosted by Red Stick Fly Fishers of Baton Rouge. Next date: Saturday, March 5, 2022.
  • Toledo Bend Rendezvous – public weekend retreat for fly tiers set for first weekend in November. Cancelation pending no cancel fee. Next date: November 4-6, 2022.
One event that will not be cancelled is the Fly Fishers International Virtual Expo. While official dates are November 5-7, there are a number of workshops, auctions, and other activities tied to the Expo occurring in the weeks ahead. For complete schedule, go to www.flyfishersinternational.org/Virtual-Expo/Activities

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Toledo Bend Rendezvous returns Nov. 5-7

Toledo Bend Rendezvous
Friday-Sunday, November 5-7, 2021
North Toledo Bend State Park, Zwolle, LA

After cancellation last year due to Covid-19 protocols, Rendezvous is back.  The announcement was made recently by event organizer Walter McLendan.  What  is Rendezvous?  For 32 years each Fall,  fly tiers and other fly fishing enthusiasts from across several states – along with their families – gather for a weekend of fly tying, fly casting, food and fishing. With only a minimal fee to cover lodging and meals. The event is open to everyone.

The excellent facilities at North Toledo Bend State Park are ideal for a Fall weekend fly tying retreat. Activities take place at the park’s group facility, which features a commercial kitchen and dining hall, and lodging available for up to 150 people in 5 heated log bunkhouses (30 beds each). There’s also a heated central shower and restroom building with nice night lighting on all the sidewalks.

Rendezvous continues to be a gathering for some of the top fly tiers in the country, most of whom have been featured at regional and national expos.  There are no organized activities.  Whether you come to tie, or come to watch and learn, or just partake the great scenery, fishing and on-the-water location, you’ll be glad you came!

The FFI Gulf Coast and Texas Councils, along along with several member clubs, are co-sponsors of this event, and make it possible for attendees to enjoy a low lodging rate.

Fees (family or individual are the same):

  • $40 for weekend, includes lodging and meals
  • $20 one night, includes lodging and meals
  • $10 just for the day
For more info, go to http://flycasting.bravesites.com

Monday, June 14, 2021

Welcome to SweatFest 2021!

SweatFest.... a celebration of heat, humidity, hurricanes, and horseflies. As well as lots of mosquitos, and the occasional tropical storm. Conversely, it's also fun time for those who love the beach, snowballs, and cutting grass.  

Memorial Day weekend is usually the kickoff for 90 degree days and 70 degree nights, and high humidity.  Enjoy the June breezes now because come July they go away and the sweating kicks up a notch. By early September, the nights are long enough for radiative cooling to take effect, even if the days are still a bit balmy.

As for tropical weather activity, it's hard to imagine any worse than last year. A record number of storms impacted Louisiana, including the worst storm to hit southwest Louisiana since Rita (Laura). The National Hurricane Center predicts another above-average year. And as of this writing, a depression in the Bay of Campeche threatens to become Tropical Storm Claudette by the weekend, with serious rain totals for the southeast parishes.

The summer sun and heat of SweatFest bring dangers to anglers. Heat stroke is the number one threat. Bring an ice chest or cooler tote bag with water and/or sports drinks to stay hydrated. Skin exposed to high UV radiation leads to sunburn, and over time to skin cancer. Protect your skin by putting on a high-SPF waterproof sunscreen before you get on the water. Wear long sleeve breathable shirts, a rim cap or a bill cap in conjunction with a gaitor (buff). Always were some type of cover for your feet.

Also be aware that thunderstorms can be a daily occurence in summer. At the first sign of towering  cumulus clouds, start making your way back to the launch (especially if you're in a kayak). Lightning can strike from eight miles away, so waiting for lightning to approach is not a smart option!

Friday, June 11, 2021

2021 Legislative Summary: one big win, one big loss

Yesterday the 2021 Louisiana Legislative session came to an end. And so did any hopes of passing HB535, the bill to create a nearshore exclusion zone for menhaden harvest along the coast.

As mentioned previously, the House rejected the Senate amendments and subsequently, a conference committee was formed to work out a compromise. Among the six legislators in that group was Bob Hengens, the Senate Natural Resources Committee Chairman that worked to derail the bill. With only hours to work out differences, the group was unable to reach agreement before the session ended.

Commercial fishing interests also fought hard to derail HB691, a bill to restructure fishing and hunting licenses and fees, and in most cases, bring them up to the Southern average. That bill needed a two-thirds vote of both House and Senate to ratify several amendments made in each chamber, but it did so with only hours to go. Expect Governor Edwards to sign this bill into law. This bill was greatly needed to help defray LDWF budget deficits as the result of loss of oil and gas revenues, and without having an increase in 20 years, the cost of inflation.

The fight to create an exclusion zone for menhaden is far from over just because of one defeat. Public sentiment and science are too strong to let this continue. What action will be taken next remains to be seen.

Wednesday, June 02, 2021

Free Fishing Days, 2021-22 licenses now available

Each year, wildlife agencies in each state designate "Free Fishing Days" for the public to fish recreationally in public waters without a fishing license. These events are part of National Fishing and Boating Week, which runs June 5-13, 2021.

This year, Louisiana's free fishing days are Saturday and Sunday, June 12 & 13.

It should be noted that while there is no cost (license) required to fish on these days, certain species or types of fishing may still require a permit. For example, a Recreational Offshore Landing Permit (ROLP) is required to possess tunas, billfish, swordfish, amberjacks, groupers, snappers, hinds, cobia, wahoo, and dolphinfish in Louisiana waters. 

Speaking of licenses... Louisiana annual fishing licenses for 2020-2021 expire June 30th at midnight, after which you'll need a 2021-2022 license. The new licenses became available on June 1st, and are good from the time of purchase thru June 30 of 2022.

Licenses can be purchased online at https://la-web.s3licensing.com, or at local license vendors.   Acceptable online methods of payment are Visa, Mastercard, and Discover.

Tuesday, June 01, 2021

Bissett named new AFFTA Executive Director

This past Thursday, the American Fly Fishing Trade Association (AFFTA) announced Capt. Lucas Bissett of Slidell, Louisiana, as their new Executive Director. Lucas has been an AFFTA board member for the past four years, the last three as a member of the executive committee.

Lucas is owner of Lowtide Charters, a fly fishing guide service operating south of New Orleans. He graduated from University of South Florida in 2003 before moving back to his home state to pursue fly fishing guided business. He has been a champion of coastal conservation, including founding the Black Mangrove Project in St. Bernard Parish, which was featured in a award-winning documentary as well as several magazine articles and podcasts.

AFFTA Board Chair Jim Bartschi stated "“As a fellow member of the executive committee and AFFTA’s Vice Chair, Lucas has helped to shape the vision of AFFTA. As the Executive Director, he’ll be implementing that vision.".

Chris Wood, CEO of Trout Unlimited and AFFTA Board member added: “Lucas has the passion, focus, and commitment to take AFFTA to another level. All of us who fly fish should be grateful to have such a knowledgeable and energetic leader at the helm of a trade association that punches far above its weight.".

We congratulate Lucas on his appointment and wish him the best of success in years to come.

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Fly Fishing Film Tour coming to Lafayette

2021 F3T & Fly Fishing Hangout
Saturday, June 19, 2021

Pack & Paddle, 601 E. Pinhook, Lafayette, LA
3:00pm - Hangout activities
5:30pm - Films start
$20 tickets, limited to 40 seats

The 15th annual Fly Fishing Film Tour (F3T) will be making a stop at Pack & Paddle in Lafayette on Saturday, June 19th.  In conjunction with F3T, P&P will also hold one of their now-famous "Fly Fishing Hangouts" that afternoon prior to the showing.

F3T is a collection of independent short films highlighting the adventure and conservation aspects of our sport. Shot across the US, Canada and around the world, these films celebrate fly fishing in all it's splendor featuring great adventures, epics takes, and spectacular scenery.  F3T is shown at select venues across the country.

This is sure to be a great chance to see some folks you haven't seen during this long pandemic year. The Fly Fishing Hangout starts at 3:00pm, with beer and snacks, and games. The games include "Marshman Sharpshooter" casting to targets, and Team Iron Fly competition, where random-selected teams build a 5-step fly out of unique materials. Each team will have 40 minutes to tie their fly.

The $20 tickets are available locally in advance at Pack & Paddle or online at www.packpaddle.com.

Friday, May 28, 2021

HB535 postponed to Tuesday, June 1st

The Senate Natural Resources Committee did not get to consider a bill to create a buffer zone for the industrial take of menhaden yesterday as planned, due to the full Senate session running very late. Instead, House Bill 535 will be considered by the committee on June 1st at 9:00am. We strongly urge our readers to reach out to the following committee members individually and urge them to vote YES for HB535.

  • Bob Hensgens (Chairman) - sen26@legis.la.gov
  • Mike Fensi - sen20@legis.la.gov
  • Bret Allain - allainb@legis.la.gov
  • Joe Bouie - bouiej@legis.la.gov
  • Pat Connick - connickp@legis.la.gov
  • Eddie Lambert - lamberte@legis.la.gov
  • Sharon Hewitt - hewitts@legis.la.gov

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Key fisheries bills up in Senate committee this week

Earlier this month, two of the biggest fisheries-related bills of the 2021 legislative session cleared the hurdles of the House Natural Resources Committee and the full House floor vote.  Come this Thursday, they face perhaps the last obstacle when they get heard by the Senate Natural Resources Committee.

If passed by the Committee, they would then go on to the full Senate for a floor vote. Then if passed there, it's on to the governor's signature to become law.  As of now, each faces a tough task in committee. But if they pass committee, chances are very good they become law.

HB535 - Provides relative to the geographic location for the taking of menhaden (we STRONGLY SUPPORT)

This provides a 1/2-mile shoreline buffer for the commercial taking of menhaden, with a few extended zones such as Grand Isle (3-mile). While the bill has been championed by several conservation organizations, including FFI Gulf Coast Council, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, and others, CCA Louisiana has led the biggest effort. It would seem this is a no-brainer, especially given that Louisiana is one of the few states that allows menhaden harvest, and the only state that doesn't have a buffer zone. However, the menhaden industry has been lobbying state senators very hard.

HB691 - Provides relative to fee increases for the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (since amended, we STRONGLY SUPPORT)

This bill would provide the first system increase of fishing and hunting licenses in 20 years.  It would also simplify the number and extent of current licenses. The fee increases are needed as revenue shortfalls from LDWF-owned oil and gas continue to decline, and current fees are way insufficient. In addition, Louisiana is missing out on millions in matching revenue from federal excise taxes. One example of how outdated Louisiana licenses are... the resident senior hunt/fish combo is just $5. This bill raises it to $20.  By contrast, the same Texas license is $32.  Negative responses to this increase have been similiar to this "Only wealthy retirees will be able to afford this license".  I kid you not!  Since being amended on the House floor to delete kayak registration and reduce lifetime licenses, the bill has collected more support. But will it be enough to overcome a strong anti-increase sentiment among folks who really don't care about our wildlife other than how much they can take?  We'll see.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Louisiana CCA STAR tournament kicks off Saturday

The Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) of Louisiana Statewide Tournament and Angler's Rodeo (STAR) kicks off Saturday, May 29th and runs through Labor Day. One of the largest and richest saltwater fishing tournaments in the country, offering over $500,000 in prizes, STAR is open to anglers of every age. Entry fee is $35 for CCA members.

Again this year, there is a Fly Division and a Kayak Division. Within the Fly Division, there are two (2) regional divisions, East and West. The winner of each division gets a $1,500 gift card to Academy Sports. The Kayak Division has four (4) regional divisions, East, Southeast, Southwest, West. The winner of each division gets a Hobie Compass kayak. And of course, there's always the chance that a fly or kayak angler will catch a tagged redfish. The first tagged fish wins a Chevy Silverado, the 2nd one wins a Keystone Passport travel trailer, and the next 8 win fully rigged boats.

Getting back to the Fly Division. As we state every year, the best time for catching that big trout on fly is early in the contest - the month of June to be exact. One exception: the Southwest Division usually runs several weeks behind due to the influence of high river water from the Atchafalaya River.  

To register for CCA STAR, and for current leaderboard standings, go to www.ccastar.com.

Sunday, May 09, 2021

What's happening this week - 5/9

Two more clubs hold in-person meetings as we continue to transition back to normal. And one of the most important fisheries bills in over a decade gets its hearing on Wednesday.

On Monday, the Red Stick Fly Fishers will meet in-person for their monthly general meeting. Location is Broadmoor United Methodist Church on 10230 Mollylea Drive in Baton Rouge. Time 7:00pm. Bring your rod/tackle as there will be casting practice and/or instruction on the grounds.  Guests are welcome. For more info, go to www.rsff.org.

On Wednesday, at 9:00am, the Louisiana House Natural Resources Committee will convene. On the agenda is House Bill 535, by Rep. Joe Orgeron of Golden Meadow.  HB535 would create a 1/2-mile exclusion zone for the commercial reduction harvest of menhaden (pogy). CCA Louisiana, the FFI Gulf Coast Council, Louisiana Charterboat Association, and several other groups support passage of the bill. Currently, Louisiana is one of only three states that allow reduction harvest within state waters, and the only state without a buffer zone.  For more info, go to www.ffigcc.org or www.ccalouisiana.com.

On Thursday evening, the Acadiana Fly Rodders will hold a "Phoenix" meeting at Fabacher Field at Southside Park in Youngsville. Gathering starts at 5:30pm, with meeting at 6:30pm. It's their first meeting in 18 months, and the club is looking to rebuild membership. Bring your rod/reel - there's fishing on premises and lots of lawn for casting or casting instruction. The public is welcome.  For more info, go to www.acadianaflyrodders.org.


Sunday, May 02, 2021

Register this month for the Jack Rodeo

2nd annual HOSSFly Jack Rodeo
Dates: June 1 – October 1, 2021
Species: Jack Crevalle
Waters: AL, FL, LA and MS Gulf Coast

Entry fee: Free for HOSSFly members, $25 for non-members (includes HOSSFly membership).
Deadline for registration: May 31st

Fly anglers hate jack crevalle.  Hook one, and it wants to take your fly line and backing to Cuba.  And just when you stop him from going outward, comes the long haul back in.  Like towing a boat… using a bicycle!

Well here’s your chance to show Jack whose boss, and get awarded for it.  Hosted by the Historic Ocean Springs Saltwater (HOSS) Fly Fishing Club, the Jack Rodeo is a CPR tournament open to the public, including Louisiana flyfishers.  Simply catch and land a jack crevalle on fly and fly tackle (that will be the hardest part for sure!). Then take a photo of the fish on a measuring device with fly fishing gear in the scene. Submit the photo, along with documentation, to David Buckner (email on form).

The tournament is catch and release unless a state record is caught. Winners will be announced at the HOSSFly meeting on October 12th.

Click here to download the Jack Rodeo Rules and Registration Form.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

When given lemons, make lemonade!

That seems to be the philosophy lately with a lot of frustrated fly anglers. April weather has not been kind to us: lots of rain, high water, dirty water, and even below normal temperatures in areas north of Highway 190 have the fish in a funk.

For fly tiers, it's been a tough past year despite lots of free time to tie flies. Shortages of materials, and delivery times that would make Pony Express seem like an improvement. But for those with materials on hand, a vast number of Zoom and YouTube Live sessions offer opportunities to tie new patterns.

For example, the Kisatchie Fly Fishers biweekly "Virtual Tying Tuesday" sessions are recorded on YouTube.  Simply go to their YT Channel at http://bit.ly/3oBk106 .  Among the patterns you'll find are:  Lefty's Deceiver, Seaducer, Johnson's Ozark Craw, Bluegill Belly Bean, Rio Bandito, Squirmy, Christmas Tree, Frenchie, and many more.

Monday, April 05, 2021

2021 Legislative Session fishing-related bills

April brings some of the best fishing of the year, both freshwater and inshore saltwater.  And while we're enjoying the great bounty of the "Sportsmans Paradise", the Louisiana Legislative session kicks off.  The actions of our elected representatives and senators continue to determine how long we'll enjoy this paradise.

This year's session convenes on April 12th.  As each year, we look at some of the key bills that have been pre-filed and explain why we support or reject each bill. And like every year, there is that ONE BILL that conservationists are most concerned about, and 2021 is no different.

HB535 - Provides relative to the geographic location for the taking of menhaden.
SUPPORT - This is the major fisheries bill of 2021... and the consequence of the LWF Commission failing to undertake their obligation. It creates a menhaden fishing exclusion zone extending from the Texas to Mississippi borders, and one half-mile seaward from land. As presented to the Commission last October, there have been countless reports of dead spawning-size redfish - and other fish and mammals - as the result of nearshore bycatch. Furthermore, it was stated that menhaden are the primary food source for most recreational gamefish.  Louisiana is the ONLY coastal state that does not have an exclusion zone.  This bill is facing considerable opposition from the Chairperson of the LWF Commission as well as the menhaden industry.

HB226 - Provides relative to the process by which the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission can change the daily take, possession, and size limits of certain fish in Lake D'Arbonne.  
SUPPORT - Lake D'Arbonne crappie enthusiasts have seen a decline in this species on the lake due to it's popularity. Recent science shows that, unlike heritage studies, crappie can be overfished. In fact, Louisiana's crappie limits are "no size limit, 50 per day", by far the most liberal of any state. Current law requires that any changes to fish limits first be investigated by LDWF biologists, and a negative report filed with the Commission. This process can take up to 2 years, not to mention the very concept that a "negative impact" be needed to manage any fishery flies in the face of modern fisheries management and optimum yield.  While we strongly support the wishes of D'Arbonne residents to have a conservation-oriented limit on their lake, if passed this bill could lead to regional-based limits based on biomass capacity of regional waters (as in most states).

HB655 - Provides for removal of criminal penalties and reclassifies certain wildlife violations and provides for enforcement and recovery of civil fines by the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
OPPOSE - The bill basically eliminates all jail time (imprisonment) as part of the penalties and makes all game violations punishable by civil fines only. While we believe eliminating jail time in lower class violations is a good idea, there are certain violations that deserve a severe penalty. We hope this bill will be amended.

HB??? - Possible bill to increase recreational fishing license fees.
SUPPORT - This bill has been discussed openly, but not pre-filed. Louisiana is missing out on millions of federal dollars from the Wallop-Breaux excise tax, due to a change in the formula during the Obama Administration. Louisiana needs to restructure it's licensing, and having the lowest basic resident fishing fees of any state, is starving our Wildlife and Fisheries of the financial support it needs.  The funds from WBF are not just lost to our state, they end up going to other states, like California. It's like losing football recruits to Alabama, and paying for their tuition on top of that! If and when this bill is introduced, we'll provide an update on details.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Introducing the Jiggybee

For the past few months, we've heard about a great new fly from our good friend, Randy Leonpacher. It's called the "Jiggybee"...which he refers to as a cousin to his world famous Jitterbee. It's been a killer pattern for all types of panfish, from bluegill to crappie.

Randy will lead the Red Stick Fly Fishers in tying the Jiggybee on Monday, March 22nd at 7:00pm. The session will be viewable to the public on the FFI Gulf Coast Council YouTube Channel.

Randy explains the background to his new fly:

It was one of those stay-at-home, hot, mid-summer 2020 Covid-19 days.  So I decided it was a good time to tie a few flies.  I had acquired by purchase or trade an assortment of non-conventional craft, fabric & hobby store fly tying materials, great stuff for experimentation.   Naturally, I thought why not come up with a variation on the Jitterbee.  The new “cousin” would be jig-like and more “frizzy” than the Jitterbee.  Jig-like and frizzy have proven to be favorable factors attributing to the success of several flies.

I tied the first pass version fly onto my 3-4 weight when finished, ready for the next fishing trip.  It remained untested and unproven until an opportunity arose for trial in an October 2020 Lake Concordia trip.  The fly worked great during that trip, easily proving itself worthy for space in the fly box arsenal.  Although it has a couple of Jitterbee like features, there are enough differences to justify a “tweak” to the name.  So we decided to call it a “jiggybee”. 

Wednesday, March 03, 2021

March - a month of transition

Depending on where you fish, this month will either be gangbusters early or very late or even subpar from now through summer. Let's explain.

Last summer, hurricanes Laura and Delta wreaked havoc on southwest Louisiana causing massive damage to property and natural resources. There was a serious saltwater fish kill in the Calcasieu estuary, and a massive freshwater fish kill in the Calcasieu River, Bundicks Lake, several smaller lakes such as Fullerton, and in the Laccasine marsh. Fortunately, waters further east were spared.

Then in February, we had the Great Winter Storm of 2021. North and Central Louisiana got hit with record cold temperatures and heavy accumulations of snow and ice. Many areas were below freezing for 72 hours or more.  Water temperatures plummeted from the low 60s into the upper 40s and have yet to return to normal for this time of year.

Fortunately, there were only a few minor fish kills reported from the freeze. Nothing close to what happened in Christmas week of 1989.  However, those few kills occurred in the Black Lake area of the Calcasieu estuary. An area already hit hard by the hurricanes.

As a result, we have seen reports of fantastic fishing - fresh and salt - along all of southeast Louisiana. Better areas include Black Bayou, Manchac, Lake Verret, Lake Boeuf, Delacroix, Golden Meadow, Pointe-aux-Chenes, Port Sulphur, and parts of the Atchafalaya Basin. Top catches have been for speckled trout, sacalait (crappie) and pre-spawning bass. Sheepshead and redfish have also been very good to flyrodders.

Conversely, reports from central and northern parishes and southwest parishes have been slow. Crappie are still deep and bass have not yet moved to the shallows. Toledo Bend seems to be the exception, where some great catches have come in the last week out of the popular Blue Hole area. If you go there, make sure it's a weekday and get there before the armada of boats show up!

Of course, March is a transitional month. Freshwater fishing will only get better as the month goes along.  That includes all areas of the state. Despite the cold waters nows, it's very possible we'll see bream bedding up in the next 2-3 weeks. Remember that the biggest bream of the year - bluegills and redear sunfish - are early spawners.  They often bed a little deeper than the late Spring fish, so plan on having several weighted flies in your box.

Meanwhile, if you're looking for deep marsh action on speckled trout, now is the time.  That action will subside as we approach April and the fish move into the bays and lower estuaries to begin their spawning ritual.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Louisiana - a winter wonderland!

The coldest outbreak since Christmas week of 1989 has socked Louisiana and Texas with record low temperatures and combinations of snow, ice and freezing rain. Snow pack this morning ranges across western and north Louisiana in varying amounts, with Monroe getting nearly 5 inches! Sleetstorms with thunder and lightning were reported across parts of southeast Louisiana as far south as Houma.

The record cold is expected to continue through the week, with another chance of snow/sleet forecast for Tuesday night and again on Wednesday night through Thursday morning. Low temperatures will hit single digits across northern parishes, with high temperatures slightly below or slightly above freezing.

There are numerous concerns about impacts on marsh fishing. The 1989 arctic plunge resulted in massive fish kills of redfish and speckled trout, along with other inshore species. While some kills are anticipated, it probably won't be nearly as bad. First, the 1989 event took place when water temperatures were still mild and many fish were still in shallow water. Most fish were trapped and unprepared phyisologically for the traumatic change. This event comes late in the season when fish have moved to deeper water and become adjusted to cold water.

Freshwater impacts. While fish kills are extremely rare due to cold weather, there will be a negative impact. Sacalait (crappie) and bass were making their pre-spawn movements as water temperatures were moving into the 60s. As of Sunday afternoon, water temperatures at Cotile Lake were in the 40s up to 10 feet deep! With another week of very cold weather ahead, it could be as late as April in some parishes before we see bass spawning.

Coldwater fisheries. For Louisiana fly anglers who frequent the tailwaters of Oklahoma and Arkansas for trout (rainbows, browns and others), great news. Oklahoma and Arkansas will have seen considerable amounts of snow, along with extremely cold nights and wind chill effects. That means the deepwater reservoirs will supply tailwater streams with cold, highly-oxygenated water well into late summer. Should be a banner year for trout fishing!

Friday, February 12, 2021

Bundick Lake restocked from hurricane kills

One of southwest Louisiana's most popular fly fishing reservoirs, Bundick Lake, was restocked recently with more than 40,000 fish. This effort was to help rejuvenate the fishery following Hurricanes Laura and Delta last Fall. 

The lake took a direct hit from Laura, causing a high volume of organic debris to be blown into the lake. The decomposition of organics, along with high water temperatures, caused dissolved oxygen concentrations to fall below critical levels. Resulting in a massive fish kill.

Among the species stocked are: 1,200 pure-strain Florida largemouth bass, 22,000 bluegill, 8,000 redear sunfish, 10,500 white crappie, and 50 pounds of threadfish shad. The fish were supplied by the LDWF freshwater hatcheries.

The Bundicks watershed has slightly higher alkalinity than most western Louisiana waters. For this reason, it supports slightly higher fish populations and growth rates.

Hatchery Manager Kristi Butler is optimistic. "Based on preliminary sampling results, predator densities and competition for food are low. These factors, combined with the sizes and genetics of the bass we are stocking, will result in a very high success rate".

Bundick has been a popular destination for southwest Louisiana fly anglers seeking chunky redears and large crappie. The lake's countless submerged stumps, and grassy shorelines, sandy bottoms were ideal habitat for both species. Louisiana Outdoors Hall of Fame fly angler Pete Cooper, Jr., spent several years routinely fishing the lower end of the lake for crappie during late winter and early Spring.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Online tying sessions expanded

With COVID-19 restrictions still in place - and likely for the next several months - Louisiana fly fishing clubs will continue to hold their routine fly tying sessions online.  Since last April, the Kisatchie Fly Fishers - and later, the Acadiana Fly Rodders - have been conducting "Virtual Tying Tuesday" via the Zoom meeting application. Then, in December the Red Stick Fly Fishers hosted a club meeting using Zoom under the hosting of the FFI Gulf Coast Council  (owners of a pro Zoom account). 

In 2020, Virtual Tying Tuesday was only available to club members and only using Zoom. The Pro account restriction of 100 users per session was one impediment to general public broadcast.  But the greater impediment was bandwidth.  Over 50 "live" users results in some degradation.  It's a problem that Zoom has had since it's explosion in popularity the past year, and an issue they are working hard to improve. 

In December, KFF went to simulcasting VTT on YouTube.  Live streaming to the Tube allows for unlimited number of participants, and the greater bandwidth of their mature platform results in better video quality. In addition, YouTube live streams can be "cast" to smart televisions (those connected to internet).  Watching fly tying on a 48" TV in high definition is a blast! 

Equally important, YouTube sessions are recorded. Late for a session? No problemento!  Just drag the red dot on the video timeline to the far left and start from the beginning.  If you miss it all together, the video is usually available for 48 hours after the session. 

Starting this Monday, Red Stick will hold their monthly fly tying sessions on Zoom for "active" participants with live-streaming to YT for "casual" participants.  Kisatchie and Acadiana will be continuing their live-streaming as well, when they resume Virtual Tying Tuesday on February 2nd. Check their websites for links to the tying sessions.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Rainbeaux trout stockings going statewide this week

Back on December 17th, rainbow trout were stocked in four park ponds in East Baton Rouge Parish (Perkins, Forest, Greenwood, North Sherwood Forest) and one in Ascension (Lamar-Dixon).  These ponds were stocked by local recreational agencies.

This week, sixteen more ponds statewide will be stocked with this coldwater species as part of Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries "Get Out and Fish!" community fishing program. Stocking begins on Thursday, January 14th.

Here is a listing of ponds to be stocked:
- Oil Park, Jennings
- Burbank Park, Baton Rouge
- Bogue Chitto State Park, Franklinton
- Grambling City Park, Grambling
- Zemurray Park, Hammond
- Bayou Country Park, Houma
- Girard Park, Lafayette
- Turners Pond, Minden
- Parc Natchitoches, Natchitoches
- Joe Brown Park, New Orleans
- Fort Randolph State Historic Site, Pineville
- Purple Heart Memorial Park, Ragley
- Elmore Mayfield Park, Ruston
- William Polk Park, Vidalia
- Sidney Hutchinson Park, Walker
- Southside Regional Park, Youngsville

Kiroli Park in West Monroe is the only GOAF program pond not to be stocked this year.  That is due to park maintenance in progress.

All anglers ages 16 and older must possess a Louisiana fishing license. While there is no legal daily limit, anglers are encouraged to keep four (4) fish per day and release the rest.

Rainbow trout are native to rivers and lakes in western North America, but have been stocked in coldwater environments across America and the globe. In winter, several states stock in community ponds to give anglers an opportunity to catch an active fish when warmwater species are mostly dormant. These fish die off once water temperatures exceed 70 degrees. In Louisiana, depending on pond location and depth, that could be anytime between mid-March and mid-April.  However, few if any trout remain in these ponds by March 1st. 

Sunday, January 10, 2021

2021 fly fishing calendar - updates

In a normal year, by December 15th we've put together a complete calendar of  fly fishing and kayak fishing events for the coming year.  Well 2020 was not a normal year.  In fact, if 2020 were a house, we'd burn down the house, scoop up the ashes, then burn the ashes, and bury what was left in a sealed container deep beneath the ground!

The continuing pandemic has resulted in an almost complete cancellations of activities for the first half of 2021.  Here's a brief summary of regional events with intended dates in parenthesis:

  • New Orleans Fly Fishing Expo (Jan. 23) - cancelled
  • Atlanta Fly Fishing Show (Feb. 5-6) - cancelled
  • Dr. Ed Rizzolo Fly Tying Festival (Feb. 13) - cancelled
  • FFI Gulf Coast Sweetwater Classic (Feb. 26-27) - postponed to Sept. 17-18
  • Red Stick Day conclave (Mar. 6) - postponed to Fall TBA
  • Kisatchie Fly Fishers Fly Fish 101 (April) - postponed to Fall TBA
  • Sowbug Roundup (May) - cancelled

In addition, club meetings are continuing on Zoom.  Some club trips are still scheduled, but the majority have been cancelled until Fall.   Check with your local club to see what trips, if any, are taking place this year.