February 2014 - Volume 34, Number 2


Will there be more or fewer turkeys in the woods when the season opens next month? This state biologist said things are looking pretty good.

Spying on mothers walking their children is considered inappropriate in most cultures ­— unless, of  course, you’re eyeballing turkeys for the annual poult survey that gives interested parties a reasonable forecast for upcoming turkey seasons.

Those interested parties would be Louisiana hunters and the state’s Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, whose task it is to help ensure plenty of game for folks to shoot.

As the LDWF’s Wild Turkey and Resident Small Game Program Leader, Jimmy Stafford takes his poult counting very seriously. And based on relevant observations, he believes turkey hunters will enjoy a good level of opportunity this season.

February is prime time for hunters to send their beagles in search of swamp rabbits. And choice parcels of public lands in the Atchafalaya Basin are perfect targets.

Hunting swamp rabbits with beagles in February is a thrilling social adventure for many Louisiana hunters. In fact, the latest hunting surveys conducted by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries show there are 22,100 rabbit hunters taking an estimated 180,100 rabbits.

And St. Landry’s Anthony Sharp is one of those Louisiana beaglers, and he’s part of at least three generations that have made running rabbits with hounds a family tradition.

“I have been rabbit hunting with beagles all my life,” the 34-year-old hunter said. “My grandfather hunted rabbits with beagles, as well as my father and uncles.”

Why struggle to put a few wimpy trout in the boat when legions of sheepshead can be caught at the rigs and well heads just off the coast. Here’s how to catch these renowned bait bandits.

Doc’s spanking-new bay boat, a 24-footer, was primed for its maiden voyage. Doc himself seemed uncharacteristically pumped for the occasion; lately his fishing had seemed more perfunctory than the traditional obsession we all recalled while growing up together.

This period spanned from New Orleans The Times-Picayune’s McFadden Duffy through By HEK through Bob Marshall to Todd Masson. Quite a stretch.

But from the look on his face on this Endymion parade night at his French Quarter bungalow, the anticipation to wet his new boat had gotten Doc’s fishing groove back, almost like during Fat City’s heyday. His face looked like it did the night he won the “dance-contest” at Kenny Vincent’s South Side.

Trout and redfish action in the Sulphur Mine at this Pointe aux Chenes hotspot is hard to beat this month, no matter what the weather does.

February can be a tough month for coastal anglers. Frequent fronts, blustery winds and low water conditions can definitely be a challenge, even to the most experienced among us — and the wet, bone-chilling cold doesn’t exactly invite us to go outside and play on the water.

But anglers with salt water in their veins can only endure the inside for so long before cabin fever sets in and you’ve just got to go fix that ache in your gut for a stretched line and a bent rod.

A February fix might seem unlikely unless you know where to go. Fortunately, at least for those of us in the southeastern part of the state, a fix is not that hard to find.

Find an area that has some deeper water — preferably with an oyster bottom — and some cleaner water and some tidal movement, add any sign of bait in the water and throw in some nearby shallow flats or oyster reefs and you’re likely to have found a winning combination.

If a bunch of tobacco-chewing rednecks come to mind when you think about hog hunting, think again. This Forest Hill woman is breaking the mold and controlling the numbers of nuisance hogs in her neck of the woods.

The sun was just beginning to peek over the horizon on a clear morning. The early morning light revealed our group of hog hunters as we sat in silence on four-wheelers strung along a woods road.

Catch dogs wearing their protective vests and collars sat on the four-wheelers with us. We listened intently and watched the catch dogs for any sign that they might hear something in the distance.

What does every angler need to catch fish? A rod, of course. But choosing the right rod for the job means more than just walking into a tackle store and getting the cheapest offering.

Dawg! What a job!

Here I was in the heart of Terrebonne Parish, field testing handcrafted rods on speckled trout with a “rod master” and a “master of rods.”

I actually get paid to do this.

Lance Dupre, owner of Swampland Tackle (985-852-1703) in Houma, built the rods. The 53-year-old with a ready smile and a devilish goatee has been building rods full time for individuals, corporate customers and guides since 2002.

Bobbers keep lures dangling in front of wintertime crappie, but casting a rig from which feet of line is dangling can be a major pain. Here’s the solution.

In most activities, a slip-up is a bad thing. Botched snap that leads to a recovered fumble, dropping an easy fly ball, missing that breakaway slam dunk — all bad.

But for crappie fishermen, a slip-up can actually refer to a well-planned tactic for tempting those tasty schooling fish.

Bobby Murray knows this game well. He holds the first Bassmaster Classic title, but he also holds a lifetime interest in crappie fishing.

Tactics are many, but when the fish hold over structure like brush piles, Murray knows keeping a bait on fish’s radar is essential for consistency.

Pair up your bass baits for knock-out results.

It’s great when that first cast meets with aggressive reception, but often, it takes some dialing in to determine the fish’s preference. Notwithstanding the oft-proven merits of junk fishing, a handful of examples show us that certain lure pairings hold particularly strategic benefit. Like a boxer setting up his opponent with jabs and then sneaking in a body shot or a Major League pitcher throwing the changeup, there’s more to successful bass fishing than randomly grabbing lures and hoping for the best.

Head to Delacroix’s Oak River this month for boatloads of specks — even if cold weather and high winds make you think about staying home.

Last year the winter action in Oak River was good. In fact, better-than-good.

Capt. Ron “Ahab” Broadus (504-914-6063) said his February calendar from last year records some outstanding redfish catches and some decent speckled trout catches in a month not known for much in the way of productivity.

The majority of his action came from up in the Orange Bayou section around Bay Lori and in Lake Batolal, where he caught fish at the cuts in Oak River and drifting around points in Lake Batola while fishing plastics under a cork.

But last winter didn’t bring much in the way of cold down here to the southeastern part of Sportsman’s Paradise — at least not like this winter.

This winter is one for the books. We don’t often hear phrases like “polar vortex,” “arctic express” and “Hercules” in reference to extreme weather conditions. With summer heat waves or tropical storms, yes, but with winter?

Who woulda thunk it?

February is the best time to target crappie, and this issue contains tips for putting them in the boat -- and the seven water bodies that should be on your itinerary.