Observers say grass is returning to the lake
Luling outdoorsman Bruce McDonald doesn’t hold back when speaking about what Lake Cataouatche was to fishermen not all that long ago.
“It was unbelievable,” McDonald said. “Five or six years ago, this was a world-class lake.”
Back then, the site of the 2011 Bassmaster Classic was covered in hydrilla grass and water spouts. McDonald says the grass, in conjunction with the Davis Pond Diversion—a U.S. Corps of Engineers project designed to inject fresh water from the Mississippi River into the area—created something of a fishing utopia. But not long after that tournament took place, the grass coverage was gone and,with it, much of the potential to catch plentiful fish.
“We went from a 10 to a 0 within one year’s time,” McDonald said.
But things could be changing.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has theorized that increased sedimentation in the lake has blocked out sunlight and inhibited the growth of vegetation on the lake.
But observers, McDonald among them, have noted the resurfacing of grass upon the lake in recent weeks. “I did see the grass coming back in May,” he said. “I was quite surprised to see it.”
McDonald said that at its peak, the lake provided an amazing habitat for fish in large part because of the grass, which he estimated to cover almost three quarters of the lake.
“It just got better and better,” he said. “The fish had a great place to grow and survive. That, combined with the genetic survey of the LDWF, led to an unbelievable survival rate for the fish.”
During the Bassmaster Classic that took part there, well-known angler Kevin VanDam won the tournament with a three-day total bass weight of 69 pounds, 11 ounces. It was a performance that commanded worldwide attention.
VanDam credited Lake Cataouatche for much of that success, while offering some prophetic advice.
“He said that lake was the best place he’s ever fished in North America,” McDonald said. “‘Please take care of this lake,’ he said. “(The grass) died about a year after that.”McDonald said the lake was a true destination spot for fishermen from all over.
“You’d see anywhere between 20 or 50 boats and trailers out there,” he said. “The majority of them were from Florida. You’d ask, ‘why did you drive all the way here?’ And say, “this is where we can catch a big bass. Before, if you wanted to catch a 10-pound bass, you went to Florida.”He also said the weakening population of fish was only one side effect of the loss of grass, noting migrating birds that had a place to come and feed were much less likely to do so without grass.”
While the promising vision of grass is beginning to reappear, McDonald said the lake won’t return to its peak in the snap of a finger. But, with a bit of help, the lake might soon reclaim its past glory.
“It will never be an overnight thing,” McDonald said. “The pond project could be beneficial depending on how they do it. They could potentially blow this area up (positively) as far as fishing goes and it could be back before people know it.”