By Chris Holmes, WF360 Louisiana Migration Editor
As Louisiana prepares to kick off the 2017−2018 regular duck season in the West and Coastal Zones on Saturday, reports from the field are promising, especially along the coast.
Larry Reynolds, waterfowl study leader with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, and other staff began conducting waterfowl surveys this week, but were unable to complete the survey because of poor flying weather. “Southwest Louisiana is showing good numbers of gadwalls along with big bunches of teal in certain areas,” Reynolds reports.
Kirk Stansel, with Hackberry Rod & Gun near Lake Charles, echoes Reynolds’ reports about his area. “They say the numbers of gray ducks are up and that’s exactly what I’m seeing,” Stansel says. “We’ve got tons of feed in the marsh from all the freshwater we received from those storms. It’s looking like a good season as long as we don’t get high water in the marsh.”
Waterfowl reports are also promising in southeast Louisiana. “There was a major migration in the last few days due to a hard freeze in the northern prairie region. The birds showed up and are thick,” says Captain Ryan Lambert of Cajun Fishing Adventures near Buras. “Teal, grays, pintails—you name it, and they are here.”
However, Lambert’s enthusiasm for the first split is tempered by concern for the second. “High tides all through October and the storm surge from Hurricane Nate wiped out much of the feed in this area. We have the birds, but I’m afraid we have nothing to hold them for long,” he says.
Fresh off a successful youth weekend, Scott Dennis of Fanny’s Family Guide Service in Delacroix is also optimistic about the first split. “Even with temperatures in the mid-80s over the weekend, I had two 15 year olds get their limits of teal and gray ducks. The ducks aren’t everywhere, but when you find them, they are fairly concentrated,” he says.
Dennis is seeing primarily gadwalls and teal in his area. The good news for hunters in the Delacroix area is that the storm surges didn’t appear to have a major impact on waterfowl food sources. “I’ve seen some areas where matted, dead grass is blown against the banks, but we still have a ton of feed and it’s in good shape,” Dennis reports.
Jared Hall with Quackhead Outfitters has been spotting birds from Delacroix to Venice. “Venice has some big concentrations of teal and it’s looking like it is going to be a good weekend for a lot of people,” Hall says. “There are lots of big ducks too, just not as many as the teal. It should be an exceptional opener,” he says.
A lifelong resident of southeast Louisiana, Chris Holmes is a freelance writer, avid waterfowl hunter, and fisherman. He will be providing Louisiana migration, habitat, and hunting alerts to Waterfowl360 throughout the 2017–2018 waterfowl season.