Outdoor Corner: Louisiana's Posted Paradise

Lyle Johnson

“Don't it always seem to go, That you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone?

They paved paradise, Put up a parking lot.”

Those words are from a Joni Mitchell hit song back in 1970.

At 68 years of life, I’ve seen a lot of things. I remember when La. 44 (Burnside Street) was gravel except in the city limits of Gonzales. I remember when Hwy. 30 was built, and I’ve seen plenty of things come and go.

The part of those lyrics above that really hit home for me more times than I’d like to remember is, “That you don’t always know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.” I remember as a kid, a place to hunt was not far from your front door.

Signs like this one are becoming the rule rather than the exception. Go to www.joinlasc.com to help out.

Where Hwy. 30 is between I-10 and La. 44 was my hunting grounds in my youth. I’m not mad at progress, I just have good memories there. My brothers and our friends would spend hours in those woods year-round, including the hunting we enjoyed. Public places where a person could hunt were everywhere.

Progress took a lot of huntable land; deer leases and posted signs took the rest. One place we thought would never be touched was waterways. How could that ever happen. Nobody owned the rivers, lakes and canals, or did they?

My first experience with this issue was about 35 years ago fishing in the marsh around Leeville with a well-known guide, Steve Shook. We went into a canal through a small opening and began to fish.

Shook commented, “Usually this opening is blocked off with a barrel. They try to keep people out.” About 10 minutes later a man in a boat came in to ask us to leave. When he saw who it was, he told us we could stay. We left anyway, with us all wondering what had just happened.

It’s only gotten worse. In case you don’t know, more and more of our states’ waterways are being posted by landowners to public use. If you saltwater fish, you’ve probably seen this happening.

Louisiana Sportsmen’s Association (LASC) actually got its start with the posting of a waterway in the Lake Verret area that had been open to the public for years. A small group of folks got together to see what could be done to open the waterway back to the public. What they found were obstacles both legal and unethical in their way, and they seemed insurmountable.

The Louisiana Sportsmen’s Coalition is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting public access to our waterways. Some of you may be familiar with them and their mission to restore navigation rights of navigable waterways in our state to be opened for the public to use once again.

Kevin and Darrel King caught these 40 sac a lait on black and chartreuse jigs on the trees in the lake Verret, Bayou Corne and Crackerhead area dead in canals fishing 12 to 15 inches deep under a cork Jan. 17.

The Coalition is instrumental in protecting the right to fish and hunt on the waterways of Louisiana by fighting against the closure of waterways in our state and in establishing legislation to protect use of our waterways for ourselves and for future generations.

Things have gotten much worse, with landowners holding the trump card because of a bill passed in the 1800s using a map from the same time that gives them ownership of the water bottoms. Folks fishing spots they’ve fished all their lives are being harassed, threatened, ticketed and fined on water that does not even have a posted sign on it.

The Bassmaster organization, after years of holding many tournaments -- including the Bassmaster Classic many times -- has deemed south Louisiana off limits to their tournament trail in fear of getting anglers in trouble because they can’t determine where they can legally fish. This problem costs Louisiana businesses millions of dollars a year.

Between 1999 and 2012 the Bassmaster’s Classic was  held five times in Louisiana. Four of those times it was hosted out of New Orleans fishing in the Louisiana Delta. In 2001 Kevin VanDam won the Classic fishing the Orange Grove area. That area is now part of our posted Paradise.

In what seems to be somewhat of a modern-day David and Goliath story, a $49 membership will help to regain the privilege of fishing our navigable waterways.

LASC’s pledge is to represent all sportsmen of Louisiana, charter guides, recreational anglers, commercial fishermen and persons in the outdoor industry related to their rights to fish and hunt on waterways or lands of this state:

  • To create a unified body of representation that will allow a spoken voice to be heard in the Louisiana Legislature, Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries, the United States Congress and other agencies.
  • To strive for conservation of our valued coastal marine resources.
  • To strive to get legislation changed to protect the use of our waterways for us and generations to come.
  • To become a place of one unified voice to fight against the blocking or gating of navigable waterways.

LASC has put legislation twice before our political leaders in the past four years, making some gains and some allies in our legislature. This year more legislation will be introduced, and we’ll need all the help we can get. With the persistence of LASC working with our state legislators there is still a fighting chance to make some headway.

To become a member, send a check to LASC 41465 Pertuis Acres, Gonzales, La 70737, or join online at: https://joinlasc.com. So until next time, remember to keep the slack out and set the hook hard. Have fun in the outdoors, be safe and may God truly bless you!

Outdoor Calendar

  • East Ascension Sportsman’s League Meeting: 7 p.m. third Monday in the meeting room upstairs at Cabela’s. Supper will be served. warrenh3@eatel.net 
  • Becoming an Outdoors Woman/Shotguns: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. March 19, Waddill Wildlife Refuge, North Flannery Road, Baton Rouge. Operation, proper handling for hunting/recreation, safety, shooting and cleaning. Equipment provided. No personal firearms. For 18 and older. Fee $35. Limited class size. State Wildlife & fisheries event. Website: lawff.org/bow. Email: Dana Norsworthy: dnorsworthy@wlf.la.gov
  • Louisiana Outdoor Expo: March 18-20 at Lamar-Dixon Expo Center. Rods, reels, bows, and more – you can find it all with special Bowie Outfitters Expo pricing at the Louisiana Outdoor Expo. Friday: Noon to 7 p.m., Saturday: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sunday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets Adults: $12, Kids: 6-15: $6, 5 and younger: free,
  • Sunday: All Kids are Free 
  • 42nd Kiwanis Of Pointe Coupee Open Bass Tournament: March 20 at Morrison Parkway public launch, New Roads. Safe daylight, $150 a team in advance, $175 tournament day. Registration includes Big Bass contest, jambalaya, drinks and door prizes. Call Kenneth St. Romain (225) 718-1319.

Need an event publicized? Contact Lyle at reelman@eatel.net