OUTDOOR CORNER: Morganza, Bonnet Carre spillways gates closed

Lyle Johnson
A satisfied customers of Captain Schlumbrecht with a spec from Lake Pontchartrain.

Well, it’s finally happened! All the gates are closed on both the Morganza and Bonnet Carre Spillways and the water is receding.

No levees in our area have been topped and flooding has been held to a minimum.

The project at Bayou Chene kept at least two feet of backwater flooding from the Morganza Spillway out of Pierre Part and Morgan City. A 32-foot high barge that measured 120 feet by 500 feet was sunk at the mouth of the bayou to act as a guide for a 1,000-foot wall.

Sheet pilings were then driven and rocks were added to stabilize the wall to hopefully keep out the water that would certainly have flooded St. Mary Parish. It was a successful operation copied from a similar project in 1973, the last time the floodway was opened.

The Bonnet Carre Spillway has been opened to the public, so the long awaited bonanza of fish and crawfish will begin to be harvested. Already reports of crawfish being caught with set nets have been circulating. It may be a little crowded on the weekends, but now would be a great time to go and catch a few mudbugs for yourself.

About 26 miles to the south in Lake Pontchartrain, the closing of the spillway is great news. Even with all the fresh, dirty water from the Mississippi filled the lake; the fishing has stayed pretty steady.

Captain Greg Schlumbrecht of To Fish Charters has lots of openings in his calendar. “Lyle, a lot of folks hear about the muddy water in the lake and stay away,” stated Captain Greg, “But the salt water is heavier than the fresh, so only the top two or three feet is dirty water. We’ve been catching fish all along.”

The bait of choice right now is live shrimp that can be found at Dockside Marina in Slidell, near the Hwy. 11 Bridge. Give Captain Greg a call at 985-960-1709 or check him out on the Web at www.tofishcharters.com.

This weekend the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Law Enforcement Division will take part in Operation Dry Water from June 24-26 with increased patrols for operating or driving a boat while intoxicated. The agents will be out in force patrolling state waterways for boat operators whose blood alcohol content exceeds the state limit of .08 percent.

“We want people to be safe and have fun while boating recreationally,” commented Lt. Col. Jeff Mayne, LDWF’s state Boating Law Administrator.  “But alcohol use has become the leading contributing factor in fatal recreational boating accidents.  We recommend that boaters avoid drinking alcoholic beverages at all times, and we will have zero tolerance for anyone found operating a boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs on our waters.”

Alcohol can impair a boater’s judgment, balance, vision and reaction time.  It can increase fatigue and susceptibility to the effects of cold-water immersion.  Sun, wind, noise, vibration and motion intensify the side effects of alcohol, drugs and some prescription medications.

As a state, we had 32 fatalities from boating crash incidents in 2009.  Alcohol was again the leading primary cause of those boating fatal incidents leading to 24 percent of the fatalities.  Nationwide, statistics from 2009 reveal that 16 percent of all boat incident fatalities were a direct result of alcohol or drug use. LDWF agents issued 216 DWI citations to boat operators in 2009.

Impaired boaters caught this weekend can expect penalties to be severe.  In Louisiana, a DWI on the water carries the same penalties and fines as on the road and includes jail time, fines and loss of driving and boating operator privileges.

Boating and water sports will always be a part of our culture and recreation because of the availability of water to play in. Sometimes what brings so much pleasure for many can bring grief to a few.

According to the Louisiana Dept of Wildlife and Fisheries, there were 21 boating crash incidents in the month of May. Four of them resulted in fatalities. Ascension and Livingston Parishes accounted for three of the accidents and one of the fatalities.

Summertime down on the coast is in full swing as well. I made a couple of trips to Fourchon and Grand Isle at the end of May during the week. The usual collection of roadside warriors that line La. 1 were nowhere to be seen, I guess it was just a little early.

My brother Alan made a trip down last Friday and the gates must have opened up as the road was full of anglers pitting their skills against the fish. Everywhere there was a spot, there were people fishing.

On May 27 the Louisiana Dept of Wildlife and Fisheries opened Elmer’s Island to the public for the first time since the oil spill last year. The roadway on the island was full of anglers as well as the beachfront played host to more folks that were fishing and crabbing.

Grande Isle is back up to full speed as well and Mayor David Carmadelle invites everyone down for food, fun and festivities. When the wind is down, fishing in the surf has been nothing short of spectacular. 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.

A satisfied customers of Captain Schlumbrecht with a spec from Lake Pontchartrain.