Michael Furtman_Bluewings.jpg

Michael Furtman


Duck season opens in Louisiana's West Zone on November 11, followed by the East Zone on November 18. Unfortunately, severe drought continues across the state, and poor habitat conditions appear to be impacting duck numbers.

“The 2023 November survey estimate of 584,000 ducks in Louisianas coastal region and Little River basin is the lowest on record,” said Jason Olszak, waterfowl study leader with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF). While some species (mallards, shovelers, wigeon, ring-necked ducks and canvasbacks) were up from 2022 estimates, the numbers remain extremely low compared to long-term averages.

“More significantly, annual decreases were observed in the species that make up the largest proportion of Louisianas wintering ducks and bag limits: gadwall (-54 percent), green-winged teal (-60 percent), blue-winged teal (-23 percent), and pintail (-12 percent). The estimate for scaup was less than 1,000, and the mottled duck estimate remained unchanged,” Olszak reported.

Olszak noted that the drought conditions in coastal southwest Louisiana are likely the worst in 20 years. “The largest concentration of ducks observed in the southwest were in pumped agriculture fields west of Bayou Lacassine,” Olszak said. 

Captain Bill Lake is a long-time fishing guide and avid duck hunter. “Fishing throughout lower Dularge, Ive been seeing blue-winged teal every morning since opening day of teal season in September. Lost Lake and the surrounding area have been thick with teal, but there are not many big ducks yet. I personally hunt in Bayou Black in Gibson. Ive been out building blinds the past week and have not seen much except for scattered teal and wood ducks. Our ponds are loaded with good feed and other vegetation. We should do well with teal just like last year. I'm looking forward to another good season and hopefully some big ducks in the mix,” Lake said.

The aerial survey confirmed Lake’s observations. “Wetland habitats in the southeast are relatively unchanged from last year. Marshes south of Houma continue to hold good amounts of submersed aquatic vegetation and ducks, but also continue to hold large expanses of water hyacinth,” Olszak reported.

Despite the low duck numbers and generally poor habitat conditions, hunters participating in the recent West Zone youth and veterans' hunts found some success. Captain Ryan Lambert’s Cajun Fishing Adventures in Buras hosted a few veterans, who took heavy straps of gadwalls, pintails, teal and more.

“The coming season looks good, and we have a cold front coming in Friday night,” Lambert said.

A little further south in Venice, John Randle hosted three youth hunters over the weekend. “The boys shot pretty easy limits both days. It was all teal (mostly greenwings) except for a pair of gray ducks on Saturday. The ponds we hunted were light on feed, but the teal were packed with tiny dark seeds, so they are finding food somewhere nearby,” Randle said.

A bit further west, in the Cocodrie area, Captain Anthony Kyzar with Cajun Fishing and Hunting Charters also had a good youth weekend. “There were a good many ducks in the area: blue- and green-winged teal, scaup, redheads, gadwalls, wigeon and pintail,” Kyzar said.

The low river has pushed more saltwater into the marshes in southeast Louisiana, threatening water supplies as far up as New Orleans. The increased salinity has taken a toll on the submerged aquatics in some areas.

Steven Savoye hunts in the Pointe-a-la-Hache area. “While out tending blinds last weekend, we saw very few ducks. The saltwater has definitely affected the area, and there's very little grass in the ponds,” he said. Anglers running throughout the marsh in nearby Hopedale reported seeing few ducks while traversing the area.

A mild cold front is moving into the state, bringing cooler temperatures and some much-needed rain. The overcast skies, rain and cooler temps will make it feel like duck hunting weather. Hopefully more birds are on the way too.

Mottled Duck Reminder: The season is closed for mottled ducks during the first 15 days of the season in both zones, and the bag limit will be one bird per day for the remaining 45 days.

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