OUTDOOR CORNER: Looking back on the year in outdoors

Lyle Johnson

What a year! 2010 gave us many things to review in the outdoors and I suppose number one on everyone’s list was the oil spill. On April 20 at 10 p.m., 41 miles off of the Louisiana coast, the Transocean Deepwater Horizon Rig exploded with 126 people aboard. Unfortunately 11 people perished while fortunately 115 were rescued. Except for a supply boat at the rig, the fatality number would have been much higher.

The loss of human life was of course the worst part of this incident and nothing can fix that with the exception of learning from the mistakes made so it won’t happen in the future.

The effect on our commercial seafood industry and recreational fishing and hunting that includes our folks that make a living as guides was massive. Most of the blame in my opinion goes directly to the “blown out of proportion” coverage supplied by the regional and national media that’s never satisfied until it bursts the sensational bubble. People in all aspects of the industry are still affected because you can’t sell Louisiana seafood.

Our state opened a 23 million dollar, state of the art research lab built to replace the outdated and hard to get to facility on Grand Terre Island, just east of Grand Isle. There is a 12,000 square foot laboratory containing a wet lab where the dissection of specimens takes place along with a dry lab where all the microscopes are.

There’s a library, a conference room, offices and many other work areas that include a lab dedicated for LSU biologists to study oysters and other bi-valves. This part of the facility was essential for the testing of our seafood during the oil spill and will be utilized for long after.

Educational facilities that include a large room that can be divided into two classrooms or conference rooms connected to a lab with five fish tanks. One of them is the “Touch Tank” where kids can actually experience the “feel” of many different salt water species.

On July 31 a very special event took place in Dutchtown. That Saturday in July, the East Ascension Sportsman's League hosted its 50th annual Kids Rodeo at Twin Lakes Mobile Estates. 217 kids from all over took part in this incredible event that hopefully will happen for another 50 years.

The East Ascension Sportsman's League has had much to celebrate over the years, but none compare to the Annual Kid’s Fishing Rodeo. All the time and effort put in by the volunteers from this great organization pays off in spades with the benefits the kids take home. Congrats to the East Ascension Sportsman's League.

2010 was a very good year for two Ascension parish youngsters as well. Joe Stassi and Emily Winter each took awards in the Louisiana Outdoor Writers Association’s Youth Journalism Contest.

Stassi captured a fourth place award for a story he penned about a duck hunt he took with his father appropriately titled, “Duck Hunting at Dawn.” Winter snapped a beautiful photo of a stream in Arkansas titled, “Stream of Serenity” that earned her a third place finish in the photography division of the popular contest.

On Aug. 3, ESPN Inc. announced that it was selling all its interest in BASS. Good riddance, I say and I also say welcome to Jerry McKinnis and his two partners, Don Logan and Jim Copeland. McKinnis’ background in TV production of fishing shows along with the business expertise of Logan and Copeland will be just what the doctor ordered for the professional bass fishing sport.

We lost one of the outdoors most loveable and talented photographers and writers in 2010. On Tuesday evening, Sept. 7, Bob Dennie succumbed to skin cancer culminating a long, hard fought battle that was seasoned with grace and courage.

Dennie was the former Chief of Information and Education, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries-Editor, Louisiana Conservationist magazine, LDWF and National Correspondent for award winning “Escape to the Outdoors” radio program that aired on 490 stations.

Writing and Photography Credits in: Outdoor Life, Sports Afield, Field & Stream, Southern Outdoors, Time-Life Books, Louisiana Conservationist, OWAA National Photo Awards and Photography Sweepstakes Winner, Louisiana Press Association.

He was also a two-time winner Governor’s Award for Conservation Communication, Official photographer for the New Orleans Saints for 17 years, 1st Place NFL Hall of Fame. He won the Charles Buckley Award—1996 and he was inducted into Louisiana Sportsman’s Hall of Fame in 2004.

Although his credentials are pretty impressive, what we’ll miss most is the human being that Bob Dennie was; missed by family and friends for a long time to come.

2011 will bring many challenges and rewards as well. One thing I’m confident of is that we’ll make it through if we apply the God-given ability to persevere through the tragedies and celebrate the victories. Ring out the old and bring on the new; happy new year and remember to keep the slack out and set the hook hard. So until next time have fun in the outdoors, be safe and may God bless you.