Outdoor Corner: Two Visitors and a Bass Classic

Lyle Johnson

As I was out around my pier this weekend letting my mind wander, sorta thinking about what I would have to do if the two tropical “you know whats” decided to come our way, I had two visitors. One was very welcome, the other not so much.

A familiar but strange noise got my attention. Actually, it was two distinct noises. One was a scratching noise in one of my cypress trees and the other was a very recognizable call of a really cool bird native to Louisiana that is making a great comeback in our area.

One of the two Pileated woodpeckers that graced me with a visit.

Turned out the noises were made by a pair of pileated woodpeckers. These giant, red-headed woodpeckers are the largest of the common woodpeckers found in most of North America. They are just about as big as a crow with a zebra-striped heads and necks, long bills, and distinctive red crests.

These big guys usually look for their favorite meal, carpenter ants, by digging large, rectangular (not round) holes in trees. Some of these holes can be so large that they weaken smaller trees or even cause them to break in half. Other birds are often attracted to these large openings, eager to access any exposed insects.

Pecking might be the wrong word to use as the enthusiastic drumming they do sounds like a loud hammering, and is audible for a great distance. But these weren’t pecking as they were in live cypress trees. They appeared to be looking for something to eat, maybe they were feeding on insects on the bark. They do have sticky tongues.

For those of you old enough to remember the old Tarzan movies with Johnny Weissmuller, the pileated woodpecker call is the one that is heard throughout the movies. Oh well, back to the task at hand. I’m by the water getting my lawnmower ready to start hauling stuff up to the garage in my little trailer when I noticed another visitor.

Not a welcome sight. Besides being ugly, the apple snail is very harmful to vegetation in and out of the water.

This was the one that was not so welcome. It was an apple snail I caught laying eggs on one of my pipes that hold my jet ski dock. So what is an apple snail. Do they taste like apples? The name sounds sort of harmless but it’s not.

They grow as large as your hand and ravenously eat the vegetation in the water. When it has eaten all the plants in the water, it will crawl out of the water to eat nearby land plants. And it lays, of all things, clusters of hot-pink eggs on anything protruding from the water: tree limbs, wharf pilings and plants too tough to eat.

They are built to be survivors. On the right side of its body it has a gill-like breathing system for breathing underwater. The left side of the body holds a lung to breath atmospheric air. It can survive almost any conditions. They can tolerate a wide variety of ph’s and salinities as high as 10 parts per thousand (full-strength sea water is 35 ppt).

The lower temperature limit is usually given as 50 degrees Fahrenheit, but the snail obviously survives lower temperatures than that in Louisiana. They’ve been known to survive 138 degrees in a lab.

Few animals eat apple snails. In Florida, the snail kite — a hawk evolved to feed on the native Florida apple snail — will eat the other species, as well. The most-effective native Louisiana fish predator is the red-eared sunfish (aka chinquapin or lake runner), but its small mouth limits it to consuming juvenile snails.

Some researchers hold out hope that humans can become the best predator of apple snails, in spite of their poor track record so far as escargot. One biologist went so far as to suggest that the giant apple snail seems to thrive best in the same range as crawfish are cultured. I dispatched the snail and washed the eggs in the water.

On Sept. 26 at Doiron's Landing in Stephensville, the 19th annual Jacob Dugas Tournament will take place. The group is proud to announce again this year the first-place prize will be $5,000. The goal is to top last year’s donation of $15,000. All the proceeds will benefit the Jacob M Dugas Foundation and be donated to the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life

Tonia Short and Tammy Campanile were fishing at their favorite catfish hole across from Manny’s on Hwy 16 when Tonia latched on to this very large spoonbill catfish ( actually a paddle fish) using 14-pound test line. The pair of lady anglers have fished this spot for years with great success. “We’ve never caught anything like this,” exclaimed Campanile.

Jacob “Jake” Dugas was diagnosed with Cervical Chordoma Cancer when he was 18 years old. His problem was a tumor in his neck was wrapped around his spinal cord and because of the complexity of the tumor, his doctors were unsuccessful in removing the entire mass.

For the next six years of his life put up a valiant fight against the cancer enduring risky operations and more radiation treatments than he cared to remember. Jake’s fight ended on May 21, 2002, at the age of 24 after the cancer spread to his lungs.

Even with all his struggles and pain, Jacob Dugas lived his life to the fullest. Is passion for fishing didn’t let him feel sorry for himself as he continued to excel at the sport. He continued his educational goals. After graduating from East Ascension High School, Jake earned a bachelor’s degree from LSU in wildlife and fisheries.

Jake’s abilities for catching bass led him to a successful although short professional angling career. Fishing in two Bassmaster Central Opens and finished in the money at Fort Gibson Lake in Oklahoma taking home a $1,400 check. He also earned an Angler of the Year in 2001 competing in the Angler’s Choice Circuit.

So it seems only fitting to honor his memory and his fighting spirit by continuing the battle against cancer by raising money for the American cancer society in his name. Since Jake’s death, family and a great group of volunteers have put on bass tournament in his name to continue that battle.

The cost for a team of anglers will be $183, with a big bass competition for $10. All the info can be obtained by calling Curt Parent at (225) 337-2996 or Phillip Waguespack at (225) 571-4169. Please save the date, come out and join us for our 17th year!