If the teal season is a taste of things to come, 2007 should be a banner year for Lakes Salvador and Cataouatche duck hunters.

Spring surveys by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recorded an overall duck population increase of 14 percent over last year. Most of those ducks will be flying south to Louisiana in the next couple of weeks.

According to Fur and Refuge Division Supervisor Todd Baker, these two St. Charles Parish lakes have the groceries to hold them.

"The Salvador management area itself is in really good shape as far as food. It hasn't changed much in the last 3 years," Baker said. "But in Lake Cataouatche, we are seeing significant changes every year."

Baker described the phenomenal growth of hydrilla and other aquatic vegetation on the lake due to the Davis Pond diversion.

"We're seeing a 25 percent increase of vegetation over last year, and next year there'll be even more," he said.

During teal season, duck hunters did exceptionally well in the lake itself, he added.

Hunters can legally build a blind on either lake as long as it's made of natural material.
"But it's first-come, first serve," cautions the supervisor, "You cannot reserve a spot."

Duck hunting should be spectacular with one caveat -- the diversion doesn't open wide.

"One thing a hunter has to consider is the diversion," Baker warned. "We have the groceries but if they open up the diversion and put a foot of water over the food, the ducks will leave."

Fortunately for area duck hunters, the Corps of Engineers is working on improvements, and
doesn't plan to open the diversion wide this season.

Further west, the grass isn't as green -- literally. Pointe aux Chenes is going to do significantly better than last year due to increase in aquatics.

"But outside of the impoundments, we did not see the recovery that we expected," Baker said, adding that frequent strong tides didn't allow vegetation to re-root in places below Houma that were swept clean from the storms.

Forecasts of good duck hunting on Salvador WMA and Cataouatche don't stop with the habitat.
Baker is seeing more wood ducks than ever in the area. And the area's two most frequent visitors, blue-winged and green-winged teal, had record breeding seasons.

Blue-winged teal jumped 14 percent to an estimated 6.7 million birds. This is the third-highest estimate since 1955 (48 percent above the long-term average).

Green-winged teal also increased 13 percent to 2.9 million birds (55 percent above the long-term average).

The successful breeding season was mainly due to improved habitat conditions on the breeding grounds.