OUTDOORS: An outdoors look at 2001

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 3, 2002


During the first year of the 21st century we, as a nation, faced the most serious threat and toughest challenge in the country’s history.

The terrorist attack and resulting war on terrorism makes anything else seem insignificant. Despite the impact of these events life goes on.

In fact, the activities we are are allowed to participate in as a benefit of being a free nation seems nearer and dearer than ever before. That in mind, here are my top 10 outdoor events and issues of 2001 for Louisiana sportsmen.

1. After months of blame placing, buck-passing and name calling, the War Between the States of Louisiana and Mississippi finally ended with an agreement concerning non-resident fishing and hunting license fees. Earlier this year when LDWF raised non-resident fees to help fill a budget shortage, Mississippi retaliated with huge fee increases for non-resident La. deer hunters.

While sportsmen from both states now pay more to enjoy the others natural resources there is peace between state agencies and politicians.

2. The three-year drought that plagued hunters, fishermen and crawfish farmers finally ended. Increased production of mast crops, mainly acorns and lush vegetation provided nutrition for deer, squirrels, turkey, rabbits and other game and non-game birds and animals. Coastal marsh ponds suffering from saltwater intrusion bloomed with vegetation so badly needed for waterfowl.

High river systems and rains earlier this summer will help reverse the downward trend in the crawfish crop.

3. The second go round for the Bassmaster Classic, fishing’s biggest event, was under a lot tougher conditions than the record-setting event held two years earlier. As 26,000 fishing fans packed in the Louisiana Superdome and a nationwide audience watched on ESPN, veteran Kevin Van Dam picked up his $100,000 first place check.

The weigh-in capped four days of kids fishing events, tournament weigh-ins and a fishing and outdoor show in the Convention Center.

4. Despite another summer of numerous shark attacks and frequent unwanted catches by Gulf Coast fishermen, the restrictions and bans continue. Both federal and state agencies are standing by 1993 statistics that show sharks are in need of protection due to overfishing and have not recovered although shark attacks are at an all-time high.

5. We said goodbye to a Louisiana fishing legend, Captain Charlie Hardison who died this summer following a lingering illness. Earlier this spring, Hardison was inducted into the Louisiana Sportsman’s Hall of Fame.

He operated an offshore charter business allowing fishermen the opportunity to catch red snapper, amberjack, grouper, lemonfish, sharks, king mackerel and other species for more than 40 years.

6. A January arctic blast that resulted in a minor fish kill was confined to a small area. A major kill that could have brought a halt to several consecutive years of excellent speckled trout and redfish catches was avoided when thousands of fish were killed in shallow bays around Delacroix Island, Pointe a la Hache and to a lesser extent Shell Beach and Lafitte. Freshwater fishermen in the northwestern part of the state were not quite so lucky as 280,000 sacalait, largemouth bass, bream and shad were killed in the John K. Kelly Grand Bayou Reservoir.

7. In a confusing change, the state duck hunting zones were revamped to allow more hunting days along the coast during the first split. Hunting spots south of U.S. Highway 90 including areas like Lake Salvador, St. Bernard Parish marshes and Venice, although located on the eastern end of the state are now part of the West Zone.

8. Nutria or at least more attempts to rid the state of the marsh-eating rodents managed to make headlines again.

For the first time, recreational hunters are allowed to hunt nutria during daylight hours with no bag limits.

Proposed earlier this month, was a $4 per nutria bounty for trappers to provide more incentive to pull 400,000 out of the marsh for the next five years to help prevent coastal erosion.

9. The new 62,000-acre Maurepas Wildlife Management Area north of U.S. Highway 61 and south of Lake Maurepas opened for public hunting this season under controversial circumstances.

Hundreds of camp owners and former hunting lease holders were told they could no longer use their camps and have until this June to dismantle and remove them from the area.

10. A ban on motion decoys by California, Washington, Pennsylvania and some national Wildlife Refuges sparked a nationwide debate on whether their use is ethical. Claims that the decoys make duck hunting too easy has prompted discussions about further bans or reducing hunting days and/or bag limits.

Louisiana hunters, some 55 percent who use them have nothing to worry about, at least for now.

The LDWF has no plans to ban their use.


DON DUBUC is the outdoors reporter for L’Observateur. If you have an outdoors-related question for Don, send an e-mail to lobnews@bellsouth.com.