Crawfishing explodes in spillway as water subsides

Michelle Stuckey
June 24, 2011 at 8:54 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

Blake Duhe, of Norco, caught 100 pounds of crawfish at the Bonnet Carre Spillway on Tuesday. All 350 bays on the spillway were closed by Monday morning.
Thelezia Folse
Blake Duhe, of Norco, caught 100 pounds of crawfish at the Bonnet Carre Spillway on Tuesday. All 350 bays on the spillway were closed by Monday morning.
Thousands of fishermen threw out their nets and traps in the Bonnet Carre Spillway on Monday and Tuesday, pulling in hundreds of crawfish each.

The spillway was spotted with fishers in pirogues and waders hoping to benefit from the shrinking nutrient-rich waters that made crawfish populations extremely concentrated in the area.

When the last spillway bay was closed on Monday, fishermen rushed to the area. The spillway has been closed for more than a month while 330 open bays diverted water from the Mississippi River to Lake Pontchartrain.

Blake Duhe, a Norco resident, took the day off of work and headed to the spillway at 6 a.m. on Tuesday. By 9 a.m., he had caught 100 pounds of crawfish ready to take home and boil for his neighbors.

“I think I got too many,” he said, laughing. “We’re leaving them biting.”

Duhe said that he has been crawfishing in the spillway for 30 years and that the best time to go is right after the spillway is closed.

“The fishing will be really good this week and probably for two weeks,” he said. “The holes will dry up even more and the crawfish will become even more concentrated.”

Duhe only had 18 nets at the spillway, but he said by the end of the morning he was only using 12 nets and he was getting “picky” by only looking for the really big crawfish to add to his massive catch. He said that on a regular fishing day during the summer, he would be lucky to catch 10 percent of the crawfish he caught on Tuesday.

Chris Brantley, project manager at the spillway, said that catfish are also biting in the spillway right now and he expects the good fishing to continue through the weekend.
“This weekend probably will be hectic with a lot of folks coming out,” Brantley said.

While fishing is allowed and most boat launches are open, the spillway is still closed to 4-wheelers, dirt bikes and more, Brantley said. He also hopes that excited fishermen will remember a new rule enacted this year at the spillway: all people in boats must have a personal flotation device.

“Just be safe when you are anywhere around the water,” he said.

Local environmentalist Milton Cambre headed out to the spillway on Monday and Tuesday to assess the situation after water began receding.

Cambre said that besides a huge crawfish population, the vegetation and other wildlife was flourishing in the area.
“There's an abundance of crawfish, and the river water has also spurred growth in the vegetation…which will be good for the habitat,” Cambre said. “Anything that depends on the wetlands will benefit.”

Cambre said that wildlife populations, such as ducks, that live in the surrounding wetlands will be healthier thanks to the nutrients that the water brought to the area.
Spillway Road badly damaged
Parish officials have confirmed that the road going through the Bonnet Carre Spillway was damaged by the opening last month.

Renee Simpson, public information officer for the parish, said that the damage has not yet been fully evaluated but that it is likely to be similar to damage that occurred during the last spillway opening in 2008.

“It has not been assessed yet, but it’s going to be comparable to 2008,” Simpson said.

When the spillway was opened three years ago, it caused almost $500,000 in damage to the road and the repairs took six months to complete.

“We hope that since we did declare an emergency related to the river levels that there will be some FEMA money available to reimburse the parish,” Simpson said.

View other articles written Michelle Stuckey

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