OUTDOOR CORNER: Wild game and seafood are holiday food staples in south Louisiana

Lyle Johnson
Jamie Laiche holds two bass recently caught in the Atchafalaya Basin. These are the kind he’ll be looking to catch this weekend in the Bassmaster Central Open held out of the Belle River public launch.

Last Saturday I made my first squirrel hunt of the season. It was a near perfect morning around 53 degrees that made it cool enough to dress a little warm. A really wet cold front passed through the night before and the rain that fell in the afternoon kept the wildlife from eating their supper.

That meant they’d probably be really hungry and active this overcast morning so I was sort of excited about the possibilities. The clear skies and wind would stay away for a couple of hours more and the ground was really wet so sneaking up on the usually wary squirrels would be a little easier.

After a couple of hours of hunting, there were three squirrels in my hunting sack. Several other opportunities had presented themselves but getting close enough to make a good shot proved a little more difficult than I’d expected.

The effects of last years’ Hurricane Gustav played a part in the success of the hunt. Plenty of those really big oak trees had blown over during the storm making nearly impossible to sneak up on my quarry.

The trees falling to the ground also resulted in the mortality rate of the young squirrels being really high so I was hunting all adult animals that aren’t as easily fooled. But my success that day wasn’t the important thing.

At some point in the hunt, I watched my breath come out as fog and my thoughts drifted to how much there was to be thankful for. Here I was, enjoying one of my favorite pastimes with my brother-in-law Goosie Guice at my side and those thoughts brought me back to a holiday that wasn’t too far away. Thanksgiving.

My memories of celebrating the holiday are easily recalled. A house full of people at my Maw Maw Marchand’s with two tables and every bit of cabinet and stove space filled with food. Another whole table was reserved for the home-made desserts that usually got us young-uns in trouble for trying to snatch some before we should.

Laughter also filled the house as my uncles cracked the jokes and my aunts displayed their unique and above average decibel levels for all to hear. Now I’m the adult and get to watch the kids and grandkids running and laughing. I’m also part of the uncles that crack the jokes and wait for the laughs.

Here in south Louisiana we like to incorporate wild-game and seafood into our holiday meals. At maw maws there was always deer roast to accompany the traditional turkey, ham and pork roast with giblet gravy. Oyster dressing was always part of the mix.

Fried turkey has become a favorite these days around the Thanksgiving meal but Goosie is an avid turkey hunter so we always have a wild one to eat. My all-time favorite of the fried birds is wild duck and we’ll have some of them this year also.

I ended up the morning with four squirrels while seeing many more and even missing a few. But this trip will go down in the memory book as one of the best. Although there is lots of food and festivity during the Thanksgiving holiday, we have plenty to be thankful for, even in the rough times.

Hey, this weekend the Bassmaster Central Open will be held at the Belle River public launch starting on Thursday. The weigh-ins will begin at 2:30 p.m. each day and the public is invited. This would be a great time to attend this kind of event as the crowds might not be too big and you can meet and greet these professional anglers.

Our own Jamie Laiche will be among the contenders vying for the $45,000 first prize. He had an unfortunate accident earlier in the year that almost put him out of the professional bass fishing ranks for good. But his determination to overcome the challenge even surprised the doctors and you can bet he’ll be giving it his all.

Because of his injury Laiche had to miss the last tournament and sits in 85th place in the standings. Tim Carmouche, another home-boy, is in 44th place and will be hard at it, giving it his best as well.

Cliff Crochet of Pierre Part is sitting in sixth place and is the only local close enough to the top of the standings with a shot at making the Bassmaster Classic. The top two in the series will qualify to fish the next Classic in Alabama in 2010.

The weather is going to be picture perfect this weekend so take the short ride to Pierre Part and witness this event first hand. Remember to keep the slack out and set the hook hard. Be thankful for all that we have, especially our families.  So until next time have fun in the outdoors, be safe and may God truly bless you.