Outdoor Corner: Unusual but not Surprising

Lyle Johnson

I’ve been “on the water” most of my 67 years -- fishing, sight-seeing and pleasure riding. I’ve enjoyed my time on the water, especially now that I live on the Diversion Canal.

This juvenile manatee was spotted by Ascension Parish Department of Public Works crew found in the Fish & Frog Bayou Locks.

I fish a lot at night on our pier, and believe me, there are things that don’t go “bump in the night.” They go “splash in the night.” Splashes that sound larger than a human jumping in the water happen almost every night that I can hear.

Very large garfish are present, along with the occasional alligator. Believe me, there’s big stuff out there we don’t ever see. I’m not always sure what it is as my imagination runs a little wild at times.

Sometimes you might hear stories of “things” folks see that might seem out of place or downright impossible. “Man, you ain’t gonna believe what I saw the other day,” is a phrase you might have heard before. There’s a sign on my road back in the swamp that says Beware Rougarou. You see what I mean?

I remember a few years back that a dolphin was sighted way up Blind River near I-10. We had a photo submitted on Ascension Outdoors TV two years ago of a black tip shark caught in the Atchafalaya River four miles above I-10.

This Manatee was spotted in the Amite River earlier this year by Chris Trahern near Lake Maurepas.

But there is one sighting that is becoming more and more common, that in years past if someone told you, they might be accused of drinking a little too much. That would be manatees. I remember the first time I saw the “Caution Manatee” sign at the boat launch at Hilltop Inn. I thought to myself that someone went to extremes to pull this practical joke off.

But now every summer the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) have called for a manatee watch around coastal areas of our state as sightings have increased over the years when these marine mammals migrate from Florida to Louisiana during summer months.

The Division has placed caution signs at boat launches throughout south Louisiana advising boaters to be aware of West Indian manatees. The sightings around here were sparse and even doubted by most people for a while.

But as 2020 has been a “different” year in many ways, it seems to be the year of the manatee in our area. At least two sightings have been verified in the Amite River near Lake Maurepas, one at the Diversion Canal at Blind River and one at one of the pumping stations in Ascension parish. (See photo)

The caution signs are located from Cameron and Calcasieu parishes in southwest Louisiana across the state to St. Tammany, St. Bernard, and Plaquemines parishes in southeast Louisiana. Manatees have made their appearance in Louisiana marshes, as well as freshwater rivers and lakes in the southern part of the state.

The West Indian manatee is a federally threatened species. It is illegal to touch, harass or harm them. Because of an increase in manatee populations and the success of conservation and habitat restoration efforts, Manatees were down-listed from an endangered species to a threatened species in 2017.

"Our primary concern is manatees being injured by boat propellers,'' said Keri Lejeune, LDWF's Endangered Species Biologist. "Manatees are slow-moving, curious animals. If a manatee is spotted while boating, boaters should idle and disengage propellers until the animal is at a safe distance and out of harm's way.”

The manatee caution signage will help alert boaters and the public that manatees can be found in Louisiana waters and provides contact information to report sightings to LDWF.'

West Indian manatees do not live in Louisiana year-round. They are a transient species in Louisiana and native to Florida. They periodically travel along the northern Gulf Coast from Florida during the summer months toward Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas and may spend some time during the summer in Louisiana.

Manatees need warm water to survive and do not thrive well in water temperatures below 68 degrees for extended periods of time. Manatees that travel to Louisiana should begin the journey back to Florida in early fall. In our area, the sometimes friendly mammals frequent Flat Lake to feed on the easily attainable, underwater growth there.

Any manatee sighting information, with pictures and video footage, if possible, should be reported to LDWF's 24-hour hotline at 1-800-442-2511 or to Keri Lejeune, Endangered Species Biologist, at klejeune@wlf.la.gov .

Sighting information allows LDWF biologists to track waterways in Louisiana that are used by manatees and to respond promptly if a manatee is injured and for potential rescue efforts. Be on the look-out, you never know what you might see out there.

Jerry Hopkins killed this 5x5 bull elk on August 26th. He made the shot with a Browning 300 X-Bolt WSM at 250 yards hunting in Ruidoso, New Mexico.

The Ascension Area Anglers Open will take place Oct 24 at Doiron’s Landing (Either side) in Stephensville. It’s a pick your partner event with a $100 entry fee that includes big bass. Payout will be based upon participation: $1,000 First Place Based on 50 Boat Field / $2,000 First Place Based on 100 Boat Field and $500 will be awarded to the First Place Big Bass.

The proceeds from this tournament help to defray travel costs for Louisiana anglers qualified for B.A.S.S. Nation Nationals. Another project that Ascension Area Anglers have supported over the years is the Fishing for Tucker Bass Classic that takes place in February every year.

Fishing time is slated for a 6 a.m. start, with 3 p.m. being the time for putting the rods down and a 4 p.m. weigh-in. So until next time, keep the slack out and set the hook hard. Remember to have fun in the outdoors, be safe and may God truly bless you!