Video: Two sides of the river
July 18, 2012 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in 2012 Coastal Master Plan, BP Oil Disaster, Hunting and Fishing, RESTORE Act, Wildlife

This was originally posted by Vanishing Paradise.

By Chris Macaluso, Louisiana Wildlife Federation

When you invite staff from two of the most prominent outdoors publications in the country to experience south Louisiana’s tremendous fishing, you cross your fingers that the weather will allow you to show off everything the Mississippi River Delta has to offer.

Unfortunately, when the staff from Field & Stream and Outdoor Life magazines came to Buras, La., they were greeted by a stiff 20-25 knot wind fanned by Tropical Storm Debby.

Despite tides three feet above normal and white-capped waves in normally calm inland ponds, the intrepid guides at Cajun Fishing Adventures were able to improvise and put our guests on some fish.

On the first day, ten boats carrying the writers, photographers and Vanishing Paradise staff concentrated their fishing on the east side of the river. After bucking and bouncing through three-foot waves in the Mississippi River, the boats meandered through a maze of crevasses, cuts and sloughs that help spread the life-giving water and sediment from the river into the wetlands between the Mississippi River and Breton Sound.

The marshes on this side of the river are the true representation of Sportsmen’s Paradise. Mottled and wood ducks, roseate spoonbills, herons and ibises all took to the sky as boats passed while large alligators and otters slid from grassy banks into the water to escape the oncoming vessels. Lush, seed-bearing vegetation lined every bayou, canal and bay. Submerged grass mats lined the banks, filtering the sediment and harboring schools of forage fish like mullet and menhaden as well as the predators like redfish, largemouth bass and flounder. Those grasses are also food for millions of migrating ducks and geese when they come to Louisiana’s coast each fall and winter.

Redfish chased the minnows and crabs dislodged by the rising tides into marsh waters less than two feet deep. Berkley Gulp jerk shads on light jig heads and spinnerbaits tossed into narrow pockets and worked tight along grass beds produced 15 beautiful redfish, a couple bass and a handful of flounder for my boat. Others boats fished cuts in the main river channel for reds and even a couple hard-fighting striped bass.

The next day, we experienced the contrast between Buras’ east and west sides. On the west side of the river, levees have cut off all the natural cuts and crevasses that connect the river to its wetlands. Consequently, the marsh on the west side is vanishing faster than any other landmass in the world. Three decades ago these wetlands stretched more than 10 miles into the Gulf of Mexico. Now the area is home to wide expanses of featureless, open water and is largely void of fish and waterfowl habitat.

But when the conditions line up just right, the fishing can still be incredible, as we soon discovered. Our four-man crew landed more than 50 speckled trout and redfish in a four-hour stretch, but even these fish are dependent on healthy marsh and wetlands existing somewhere.

If we don’t take action soon, we could lose much of the marsh we still have. The Louisiana Legislature recently unanimously approved a comprehensive plan to restore the wetlands and create stronger hurricane protections, while the recent passage of the RESTORE Act should give us funds to get started making this plan a reality.

Last week, Field & Stream and Outdoor Life magazines posted articles online about their experiences on the delta, including, "Louisiana Delta: The Biggest Habitat Catastrophe You’ve Never Heard Of." Meanwhile Field & Stream writes that “It was the hard work and relentless advocacy of sportsmen” that made the ‪RESTORE Act‬ a reality.

We need sportsmen across America to join us as we fight to reconnect the river to the wetlands and restore this great national treasure. We’re delighted to see two of America’s most influential outdoors magazines spreading the word.

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