On Saturday September 22nd, youth squirrel hunters were treated to the first chances at scoring on Atchafalaya Basin fox and cat squirrels for the 2012-13 hunting season.

Public youth squirrel hunts were offered in the Basin's Sherburne WMA complex (Sherburne WMA and the Atchafalaya NWR), as well as on the adjacent Indian Bayou Area. In total, these areas provide 72,500 acres of swamp and hardwood bottomlands – excellent habitat for Delta grey and fox squirrels.

"This is a great opportunity for kids to enjoy the outdoors and get the first chances at small game hunting," Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries biologist Tony Vidrine said.

And the hunts were successful, Vidrine said.

"Our records from the check stations indicated that at the Sherburne complex, 38 youth hunters killed 53 squirrels for one squirrel per 1.4 hunting efforts," he said.

And at the Grimmett Canal launch on the Atchafalaya Spillway West Protection Levee, 5-year-old Jake Savant was excited about his take of a couple of Delta fox squirrels and a cat squirrel.

"I missed two, though," the young Savant admitted.

Hunting wasn't the only outdoor activity on the slate, however.
 
"(W)e caught some fish, too," Savant, as he showed off his catfish and bream attached to a stringer.

The day offered an all-around experience, the youngster's father said.

"We had a good time together," Lyle Savant said. "After the hunt, we found these fish in about 4 feet of water. This was one of those combo outings for squirrels and a few fish."

Another boat came to the launch later and onboard were the father-and-son fishing team of 36-year-old Jason Young and 5-year old Ian of Port Barre.

"We caught some fish," young Ian said, as he and his father reached into the livewell to show a sample of the fish they caught – a keeper bass and a sac-a-lait.

All of these anglers were taking advantage of the very low and slightly stained waters of the Grimmett Canal, a waterbody heading south from the West Spillway Levee and the Bayou Courtableau Control Structure.

The Grimmett Canal eventually winds its way south into Lake Fordoche and ultimately into the Henderson Swamp running under Interstate 10. It is a western access point to the USACE Indian Bayou Area.

Both the Grimmett Canal and Bayou Courtableau are more-often-than-not a medium chocolate color due to water diverted into these areas from the Atchafalaya River. Fishing can get quite good in the early fall when waters clear.

Savoy angler Glynn Lavergne decided to cast his sac-a-lait hopes and lures there on Wednesday (Sept. 26).

"These fish are on the dead tops and fallen laydowns," Lavergne said. "I found them by vertically jigging deep in the limbs and stickups."

Most of the 15 or so keepers in his creel were of the white crappie variety, a species more adaptable to moving, draining waters of color.

"We also call them river sac-a-lait," Lavergne said.

The sac-a-lait were taken on salt-and-pepper/chartreuse-tail Wedgetail Crappie Minnows and clear/sparkle 1 ½-inch crappie tube jigs.

"We chose these artificials because they closely resemble the small baitfish and grass shrimp the sac-a-lait were feeding on," the sac-a-lait guru said.

Both the Grimmett Canal and Bayou Courtableau can be accessed by driving on the south side of the West Spillway Levee off Highway 190 just east of Port Barre. Public launches are available: one under Highway 190 for Bayou Courtableau and the other just a short drive south on the levee to the southern side of the Bayou Courtableau Spillway Levee for access to the Grimmett Canal.