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OUTDOOR CORNER: How will the Catouatchie phenomenon last?

Lyle Johnson
Mike Anderson displays a 8.3 pound bass he caught recently from Lake Catouatchie that was brought to Cabela’s in Gonzales to live in their live tank.

At the last East Ascension Sportsman's League meeting, Jim Hebert gave a big bass report and stated that an 8.3 pound lunker caught in Lake Catouatchie on April 19  by Mike Anderson. Anderson had a great day, also landing another trophy over five lbs, a 4.8 and several three pounders to boot.

“I was using a Zoom brushhog in “watermelon/red” color with 20lb Berkley Transition/Fluorocarbon string,” Anderson stated. “That line that I am using is helping me get more bites. I switched from a braided line to this Berkley Transition, it just disappears under water.”

Anderson also stated that he brought the fish to Cabela’s to donate it to their freshwater aquarium.

While filming a segment for Ascension Outdoors, seen exclusively on EATEL FiberEdge TV on channel 4, we got a chance to look at the big female. The big sow had obviously already spawned because the stomach receded in instead of bulging out with a heavy egg sack.

This fish would have easily weighed over 10 pounds if she’d been caught a little earlier. Stringers like this and better have been coming out of Catouatchie for over four months. I personally know of at least 4 bass over 10 pounds caught during this time. Eight pounders have been caught pretty regular and five, six and sevens too numerous to count.

I had one opportunity to fish Catouatchie once this year and enjoyed one of the best days fishing ever, along with my son, Wesley. This was about half way through this bass bonanza and I thought this has to end soon. I was really mistaken because it hasn’t stopped yet.

In the previous five or six years the small lake has been known for its quantity of bass way more than the quality. Fifty to one hundred bass was not out of the question on a really good day. Your string would usually have plenty of decent size fish and five pounders were not out of the question. But this year -  phenomenal. The only lakes that have been producing those kinds of results are in south Texas on the Mexican border. Not to mention they are a hundred times larger.

So just what is behind all the quality and quantity of largemouth bass? Most people I talk to attribute this phenomenon to the Davis Pond Freshwater Diversion. Wetland loss along the Louisiana coastal zone has long been recognized as one of the state’s most pressing problems.

A lot of issues play a role that have created the loss of land but in my opinion, the levees we’ve built along the Mississippi River for flood control bear the brunt of the responsibility. The levees block nature’s spring overflows while keeping the life-sustaining fresh water, nutrients and sediment from doing their job.

The Davis Pond Freshwater Diversion imitates historic spring floods, providing a controlled flow of fresh water and nutrients from the Mississippi River into a target area in the Barataria Bay estuary. This massive undertaking is located on the west bank of St. Charles Parish, two miles below Luling, and it’s  expected to restore past ecological conditions by combating land loss, enhancing vegetation and improving fish and wildlife habitat.

This is accomplished with the four iron-gated 14' x 14' box culverts built into the Mississippi River levee. An inflow channel 535' long x 85' wide directs river water into the structure, while an outflow channel more than 11,000' long x 120' wide extends behind the structure into the ponding area and, ultimately, into the estuary. The total project area comprises 10,084 acres, including the 9,200-acre ponding area.

The first gallons of Mississippi River water began its trek in the Barataria estuary in March of 2002 when it was completed. Davis Pond now diverts up to 10,650 cubic feet per second (cfs) of the muddy gold into a marsh that’s thirsty for it. Water going through the structure occurs under regulated conditions determined by monitoring basin salinities and fish and wildlife resources.

A lake that was once known more for catching redfish and “marsh” bass has become one of the premier fishing spots in the south. But bass are not the only fish that have benefitted from this project. Bream, chinquapin, sac-a-lait and monstrous sized catfish can be added to the list.

There are a few projects on the books for Blind River/Lake Maurepas that will introduce Mississippi River water into the swamps to supply much needed nutrients that will revitalize the new growth of our cypress trees. It will also stop the “sinking” of the swamp. Fish and wildlife will benefit in incredible ways, just like every other Mississippi River diversion has done.

The wheels of government turn much too slow for projects that are proven to work so get involved any way you can. 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 truly bless you.