Hurricane Fish

The public boat launch at Port Fourchon took a beating.

By Jay Potter

By September 2nd, four days after the storm, electrical workers had righted the poles holding those crucial power lines, but their crews and trucks flooded the dead end of old LA Highway 1 on Port Fourchon.

LaPlace, Louisiana and other communities remained completely dark and flooded and numerous interstate exits and other byways were under water.

Though still on September 19th, parts of sides the road from New Orleans to Venice, La. were piled 10 feet high with marsh grass, mud and other junk. On the east side of the Mississippi River, south of Braithwaite, nearly every home that sat across the road from the levee, was picked up by rushing water and deposited on the levee or in the road.

Hurricane Isaac rolled through the South Louisiana marsh on August 29th, in some areas producing an 11-foot storm surge and gusting winds up to 85 miles per hour. Roofs were ripped. Siding and gutters torn asunder. Even a part of historic LA Highway 1 from Port Fourchon to Grand Isle was washed away.

Fort Jackson, near Triumph, LA. Flooded all over, lots and lots of water standing there more than two weeks after the storm.

The winds weren’t nearly as bad as those in Hurricanes Andrew, Katrina, Rita or Gustav, but the coast got whacked, and the areas down the river that maintained during Katrina took it right on the chin this time.

Since the water receded from many areas in South Louisiana (aside from large portions of Plaquemines Parish, where thousands of cattle perished, houses were gutted and floodwater still stands) many areas have been just grinding along, fixing what broke and moving on to the next issue.

Hurricane fish. Check out the blue on the end of his tail. Lit up!

Right after the storm, on Labor Day, September 2nd, I think the fish felt the same way. They weren’t exuberant or full of hubris as we like to say, but they soldiered on through the gumbo roux that was the South Louisiana inshore waters. Like the island’s residents, most had returned to their usual spots, and a few were doing their best to go about their business, which for redfish is eating.

At least I found something that looked normal.

 

While not shocking, it was easily the muddiest water I’ve ever seen, a nice “cafe au lait” color. I wanted to get a look at some of Isaac’s impact and test out the fishing, and since it was a holiday, it was a no brainer.

In a few hours on the water, I had a few tails bitten off, so fish were active. And for the first time in a while at our Fourchon spot.

I also had some bites from small trout, so it was really good to see them moving back inshore. In ended up catching the fish on a Gulp! new penny flatsworm.

It was an odd trip though, there were utility workers everywhere, I’ve never seen that many trucks in and out all day. Predictably, there was no one else fishing that day, and I saw some sights on the way home.

Geared up but not weighed down. You can see the catamaran that allows us to stand and sight fish.

Airline Highway and other roads were still closed, covered with water. The Blind River boat launch and St. James boat club in Gramercy were swamped. There was a large shrimp boat tied up in the canal that had previously been a ditch. Various stenches of death and decay crept into my nostrils as I drove with the windows down. I even saw some of the  de-oxygenated “black water” that has been responsible for the inevitable hurricane-following fish kills to which Louisiana is accustomed.

On the 18th, I made a trip down the road from New Orleans. This was where I witnessed the worst of the damage. There were cattlefields turned brown by standing water and eerily devoid of cattle. In Ironton, a 134-year-old church had its insides gutted by water. In Port Sulphur there was a large FEMA set-up outside the Registrar of Voters Office. In Boothville, trailers were upside down. In Venice, utility trucks and cranes filled the road to Venice Marina. There was brown and mud and stink everywhere. It was like Hurricane Katrina Jr. for many areas.

One positive is that the Mississippi River was greenish and clear. This means the water is low and some salt water has started moving in. This trend will continue around the marsh, making for clearer water and more fish up in the marsh.

The mighty river doesn't look so brown and churned up. It looks downright inviting.

It may seem hasty to head down to fish that close on the heels of such a disaster. Seeing as how the Gulf Coast is so important to us, it was a rather easy decision though. I wanted to see what the storm had wrought at places I love. I wanted to check on some of the people we know along the way. And I felt I needed to check the fishing, if for no other reason than to reassure myself things will return to normal. Not one person I have asked minded seeing people come to fish as early as the weekend after the storm. They could all use the economic boost, but for many of them, our presence also signals a return to some sort of normalcy.

 

Even though we know that every summer and fall another hurricane is always looming in the Gulf.

Stray the course.

 

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