Outdoor Corner: State of the Pier

Lyle Johnson

It’s been quite a while since we’ve had a state of the pier address, mostly because there’s not been very much to report. At least not that much positive to report. So, I’m not going to whitewash it and just tell it like it is.

I have not caught one game fish (bass, bluegill, goggle-eye, chinquapin and white or black crappie) since hurricane Ida. The only scaled fish I’ve caught is a little less than a handful of freshwater drum, better known as a gaspergou.

Things have been a little better on the catfish front. I’ve caught just enough to eat and a little to put in the freezer in case hard times are ahead. My next-door neighbor has been fortunate enough to catch a few bream, but nothing to brag on. Nothing even big enough to keep.

Malcom Smith and Nick Breaux caught the winning stringer that weighed 23.97 pounds using a Chatter bait and a jig Feb 19.

All the fish don’t die during a fish kill, and I am hearing about a few bass and other game fish caught on occasion. Although I am a consumptive conservationist and believe a harvest of all species is a requirement for a healthy population, now would be a good time to practice some catch and release, or just fish somewhere the fish didn’t experience a devastating kill.

St. Amant Bass Club held their February tournament out of Bayou Black (in the marsh, no fish kill) and proved there was a pretty good population of nice sized bass in that area. Malcom Smith and Nick Breaux caught the winning stringer that weighed 23.97 pounds using a Chatter bait and a jig Feb 19.

What has not changed around the house is the number of boats that have been hitting the water for a little fishing and plenty of boat riding. I thought the high prices of gasoline might have cut into the pocketbooks enough to slow down the traffic, but boy I was wrong.

I get to witness the folks that don’t do any “check out your boat stuff” for the first trip of the year. They put in at Hilltop or Canal Bank and ride my way. They’re pretty easy to spot as the motor runs for 15 or 20 seconds and kills.

They keep trying it over and over, expecting the motor to run to no avail. The second group has an engine that is not firing on all cylinders and can’t plane off. If there’s a couple of folks aboard, they all get up front to make the front end go down.

Then there are those who don’t even leave the dock. Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) offers its Spring Commissioning Checklist to help boaters start the season right.

Rance Gautreaux, Coby Schexnayder and Chad Schexnayder caught these 102 frogs in the Atchafalaya spillway March 11.

It also offers BoatUS.com/Spring, a one-stop-shop for everything you need to know about the yearly ritual of recreational boat commissioning. A PDF copy of the checklist is available to download, print, and take to the boat with you. Be sure to follow all manufacturer recommendations for your specific boat, engine and accessories.

Now’s as a good time as any to talk about water safety, as it will only get more hectic as it warms up more and more. Of the 24 fatalities in 2020, 20 were recovered without wearing a PFD. There have been two boating fatalities already in 2022.

Anyone 16 years of age and younger is required to wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved and properly fitting PFD while underway on a vessel under 26 feet long. 

Also, everyone on a vessel less than 16 feet long, propelled by a hand tiller motor, must wear a PFD while underway. There must also be a PFD for each person on board a vessel, and anyone riding on a personal watercraft must wear a PFD.

But in the maze of statistics are people who are not here any longer and the families that have to deal with that tragic loss. Mothers that have lost children, brothers that have lost sisters and children that have lost parents.

The hurt brought about by those losses is immeasurable and doesn’t have a place in the statistics. I can think back to two incidents in the past that involved friends of mine that resulted in seven deaths. I can still see their faces.

Of all the causes listed, a large percentage of accidents and fatalities could be prevented by changing three things. First, alcohol and water don’t mix. If you’re going to be the driver, don’t drink.

Second, wearing a personal floatation device really saves lives. Only 4.1% of boaters observed in a five-year period were wearing them. Third, pay attention. A driver not watching where they are going or what they are doing is a big factor in all incidents.

I work in the petrochemical industry, where safety is a must and well regulated. Drug and alcohol procedures have reduced those incidents to a very minimum. Personal protective equipment is mandatory and well enforced.

The one item that can’t be regulated in industry, or anywhere else for that matter, is the paying attention part. That’s a learned behavior that unfortunately is learned at the school of hard knocks or at someone else’s expense.

I love riding on the water in a boat. Most of the time it’s on a fishing trip, but a boat ride taking in the beauty of our state is incredible as well, and enjoyable to just about anyone. But each individual has some choices to make as to how the day might end up.

The choices you make could end up with a great day on the water with memories that last a lifetime. Some end up at the hospital and unfortunately for some, they ended up at a funeral home.

Boating is a great outdoor activity; don’t let yours end up in tragedy. Remember to keep the slack out and set the hook hard. Until next time, have fun in the outdoors, be safe and may God bless you!

Outdoor Calendar

  • East Ascension Sportsman’s League Meeting: 7 p.m. third Monday each month 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. Saturday, 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 and fisheries event. Website: lawff.org/bow. Email: Dana Norsworthy: dnorsworthy@wlf.la.gov
  • Louisiana Outdoor Expo: Friday through Sunday 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: Sunday 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.
  • South Louisiana Highpower Club Match: March 27—7:30 a.m., squadding; 8 a.m. on the range, Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Range, St. Landry Road, Gonzales. NRA match rifle or service rifle, 200-yard/50-rounds match course. Fee $12 members, $15 nonmembers, $5 juniors. $15 annual club & Civilian Marksmanship Program membership (allows purchases from CMP). Email Rick Mol: southlahighpower@hotmail.com

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