Spillway opening will bring the fish

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

Better fishing, crawfishing expected with flood waters

If bald eagles hanging around the rain-swollen Bonnet Carre’ Spillway in Norco are any indication of what’s coming with today’s opening of the levee, then the public is grabbing fishing lines and nets.

At 10 a.m. today, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will begin opening the bays of the weir to ease the rising Mississippi River. Flush with the rain and melted snows coming from upriver, the Corps decided to open the spillway only a week after saying it wouldn’t happen.

With the roar of water flowing through the needles of the spillway bays, the Corps anticipates the river would reach the water flow trigger of 1.25 million cubic feet per second for the opening by today.

On Monday, eagles and Great Blue Herons flocked along Bonnet Carre’ Spillway Road to catch fish in the newly created shallow waters. The road was closed from Norco to Montz as water began moving across the road.

The overflow not only brings fish, it is also rich with nutrients.

Chris Brantley, project manager at the spillway, said the eagles are catching fish, along with the herons, and he expects a big crop of crawfish because of the opening.

The floodwaters will also bring highly sought freshwater fish like large mouth bass, crappie and catfish.

“The opening helps replenish a lot of our ponds and after the opening there will be good fishing,” Brantley said.

Overall, the ecosystem will benefit from nutrient-rich waters of the Mississippi River.

Also, the Corps has an environmental monitoring plan that includes monitoring the water quality entering the spillway and the Pontchartrain Basin. This plan includes monitoring several wildlife and fish species.

“We’re trying to get a big picture of what’s happening in the ecosystem because of the inflow of fresh water,” Brantley said.

The Corps will tag sturgeon and then release them into the river.

The Corps also is studying the invasive Asian Carp, which is not native to the river, to determine if they’re displacing other fish species, he said. Up to 500 of these fish will be tagged and released to monitor their movement.

In 2016, 200 of these carp were tagged and released, but not one has been recovered, according to Brantley. The study is to determine if the fish are staying in the spillway or going to the Pontchartrain Basin.

Brantley said it’s possible the fresh-water carp are dying in the spillway’s brackish water. The fish is from the goldfish family.

The high waters also will displace wildlife as they did with the 2016 spillway opening.

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) advised the public to be on the lookout for wildlife such as deer, snakes, alligators and others seeking higher ground.

To report nuisance alligators, go to http://www.wlf.louisiana.gov/wildlife/nuisance-alligator-contacts. To report nuisance wildlife, go to http://www.wlf.louisiana.gov/wildlife/nwco.

If a bird or mammal has been injured, contact a certified wildlife rehabilitator listed at http://www.wlf.louisiana.gov/wildlife/rehab.

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