Open spillway means opportunity for fishermen

Photo by Anna Thibodeaux - This fish attempted to jump onto Bonnet Carre' Spillway Road in flood waters.

Strong crop of crawfish on the way as well

For the numerous anglers in St. Charles Parish, the recent opening of the Bonnet Carre Spillway represents strong opportunity.

The opening of the spillway bays have opened the door to an influx of freshwater fish and an easier means to catch them in the now more shallow waters of the spillway.

Chris Brantley, the spillway’s project manager for the Army Corps of Engineers, said the results were already apparent in the days immediately after the opening.

“Oh yeah, right now you’re seeing a lot of fishermen out here to catch carp and buffalo and some of the other fish in the tail bait waters,” Brantley said.  “They’re snagging these big, large fish and taking ‘em home … once the (Mississippi River) water is up, it introduces a lot of fish into the spillway.”

The floodwaters bring freshwater fish like catfish, crappie and large mouth bass. Brantley added that once the water starts to recede, it creates a strong environment for crawfish population, and the area should see a strong crop later this year.

A measurement of the water depth of a section of the spillway.

“Crawfish need to have a period of flooded areas and then dryness in the spring and summer … the spillway is almost ideal for that,” Brantley said. “What we see is the spillway dries out and that allows the crawfish to go down into soil, do their reproduction and their young are born, hatched and put into the flood waters following winter.

“It should be a very good crawfish year in the area, not only in the Bonnet Carre Spillway but also over the Atchafalaya (Basin).”

Recently, the Army Corps opened 20 additional bays to funnel excess water, bringing the total number of open bays to 188 of a possible 350.

“They’re snagging these big, large fish and taking ‘em home.” – Chris Brantley

Though the spillway openings have been more frequent in recent years, Brantley said each opening begins the same cycle as have been the case in past instances.

The Corps will also perform environmental monitoring during and after the spillway operation is complete. Water quality monitoring is also underway.

Some of the wildlife that live in and around the spillway, meanwhile, could be displaced, including deer, snakes and alligators.

“There’s a lot of wildlife in the spillway for sure, and some will go up and over the levee to escape the rising flood waters,” Brantley said. “But we also have high ground in the spillway, and a lot will retreat to that area as well.”

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