Outdoor Corner with Lyle Johnson

On June 9, Joe L. Herring passed away at 89 years of age. Joe was born in Ruston and lived out most of his 67 years of marriage to his darling wife, Rosalie, in Baton Rouge. He had a long and storied career as a wildlife biologist with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries.

I first met Joe with his involvement in the East Ascension Sportsman’s League. He was the man I knew for his column in the Sportsman’s League’s monthly paper, “Know Your Members.” In his column, Joe would interview a member and tell their story. Herring was very adept in his writing so one would really get to know the member in the story.

As time went on I got to know him better and enjoyed him for the great man he truly was. I became President of the Louisiana Outdoor Writers Association eight years ago, and he was our longest active member for over six decades. Joe was a Past President and Life Member of LOWA, and has been a member of since 1956. This gave me the opportunity to realize some of the many accomplishments in his life.

Joe loved and appreciated the freedoms we enjoy in our country and was in the National Guard three years while at LA Tech. He served in the U.S. Army at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma for two years and the U.S. Army Reserve for six years.

After marrying Rosalie, they moved to Alabama where Joe started his career as a wildlife biologist. Joe moved back to Louisiana in 1955, taking a job with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries as a district supervisor in Monroe. He then moved to Baton Rouge and held the position of Chief of the Fish & Game, followed with Assistant Secretary for LDWF, then Chief of Game. He retired from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries as Secretary in 1995.

Here are just some of the many accomplishments listed in Joe's LOWA bio: LOWA past president; Louisiana Wildlife Federation past president; Kiwanis past president; Louisiana Wildlife Biologist Association past president; Louisiana Chapter of the Wildlife Society past president; founder and board member of Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries Foundation; Southeastern Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies past vice-president; Boone & Crockett Club official big-game trophy measurer (since 1960), Pope and Young official big game trophy measurer.

Awards: Louisiana Wildlife Federation Governors Award, Conservationist of the Year; Louisiana Wildlife Federation Professional Conservationist of the Year; Louisiana Wildlife Federation Conservation Educator of the Year; LOWA Conservationist of the Year; SEA Fish & Wildlife Agencies Clarence W. Watson Award; SEA Fish & Wildlife Agencies, LOWA Charles Buckley Award, LOWA Arthur VanPelt Award.

Special Recognition Awards: KALB-TV; National Champion Team small bore rifle; Acadiana Sportsman League; Sportsman Emeritus Award; LOWA; Charles "Chuck" Buckley Award along with other numerous other awards and recognitions I’m sure, if anyone knows them all.

But there’s one thing I know about Joe. He never intended to or set out to win one of these many well deserving accomplishments. Joe Herring had a servant’s heart, great character with a principled life style. This and his love for the outdoors catapulted him to a leadership role in every organization he was involved in.

Here is an excerpt from his obituary. After a list of some of his accomplishments, this is what his family loved about their dad and “Paw”: Joe and Rosalie raised 2 daughters, Sandy and Jan, spending their weekends taking Sandy to horse shows and Jan duck hunting to the 'Marsh Hilton' in Pecan Island and an annual dove hunt. Joe and Rosalie attended every Lee High game their daughters cheered at and had Sandy and Jan in church every time the doors were open.

The mold was broken when God made Joe and Rosalie parents and grandparents exemplifying servant's hearts toward their family and friends. One of Joe's favorite pastimes was entertaining family and friends at an annual fish fry in their backyard, crawfish boils and cookouts. He loved cooking and sharing life stories with everyone. Joe, also known as Paw, loved his family.

The Diversion Canal

It’s nice to be back on the Diversion Canal where there is plenty of water. Out west there is not a lot of it this time of the year. Even though I haven’t been doing any fishing around here, I would like to give a state of the pier address, just other folks' piers.

Lake Verret and Lake DesAllemands usually take the spotlight for catching catfish under a cork in the cypress trees. The last two years have been phenomenal as folks from all around our area go there and catch plenty of catfish.

Around home the preferred method of catching catfish on a rod and reel is to tight line on the bottom. On the last day of our trip home, my next-door neighbor, Scott Dubree, sent me a text about his success catching catfish on his pier.

This would not normally be surprising at all because the Diversion Canal is normally home to plenty of catfish. What made this a little different was the method he was using. The catfish were being caught with night crawlers, under a cork from 1 ft. to 4 ft. deep.

In three days he’d caught around 50, which was very shocking to me because of the method. On Sunday a friend of his joined him and together they caught 64 catfish using the same method. Wow! Out of curiosity I asked him what got him to try fishing under a cork instead of tight-lining.

“I could feel something hitting my line when it was going down to the bottom, so I added a cork and immediately began to catch them,” he said.

Another friend, Layne Gautreaux, made a post on social media about the nearly thirty catfish his wife, Donna, caught fishing in the same method. She used night crawlers and wieners when she ran out of worms under a cork.

The same question was asked; why did you try under a cork when fishing on the bottom is the way to go?

“She wasn’t having any luck bottom fishing and remembered how they are caught in Lake Verret and gave it a try,” Layne stated.

I have some neighbor across the river (don’t know their name) that I’ve never seen fishing in all the 17 years I’ve been there. Even they have been catching and cleaning catfish, as well.

I’ve noticed many schools of shad swimming on top, so I’m thinking that is the reason for all the catfish being caught so close to the surface. But if it’s one I know for sure, figuring out fishing is not easy. As sure as you think you’ve got it, it changes. Remember to keep the slack out, and set the hook hard. Be safe in the outdoors, and may God truly bless you!!

Lyle Johnson serves as President of the Louisiana Outdoor Writers Association.