A duck hunt last week with Cajun Fishing Adventures' Ross Montet in Buras featured low duck numbers, which wasn't a surprise to the guide — even after a pack of nearly 100 gadwalls flared as his boat entered the open water near the launch.

"Last year, that would have been 3,000 (birds)," Montet said. "Last year, I limited out 40 times; so far this year, I have only limited five (times)."

For Southeast Louisiana hunters, this waterfowl season has been tough, at best. Hurricane Issac's storm surge scoured out duck groceries, and lower-than-average duck migration have resulted in fewer duck in the lower Mississippi Delta, according to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries.

According to the LDWF'S December waterfowl survey, the overall duck population was estimated to have dropped a 15 percent compared to last December.

Ryan Lambert, owner of Cajun Fishing Adventures, said the Hurricane Isaac's storm surge amplified the ongoing impact of saltwater intrusion and the erosion of duck habitat.

"You have a storm like (Hurricane) Issac, even if it's a small storm surge that stays for two to three days, (and) it kills the bugs and freshwater aquatics," Lambert said. "It also leaves the marsh vulnerable to erosion; it really has led to a disastrous season for us."

The problem has been aggravated by the Mississippi River water levels, which remained low for most of the season, Lambert and Ducks Unlimited officials said.

There are a few natural freshwater diversions from holes in the rock walls on Lambert's lease. He believes such natural and man-made diversions along the river and in the lower Delta are essential for rebuilding marsh and strengthening the duck habitat.

"I put a posted sign into the mud from the boat (near the natural diversion) a few years back," Lambert said. "The next year we had to take the sign out of the sand and move it. The third year we couldn't even see the sign through the cattails."

Lambert said this story illustrates how quickly marsh can be rebuilt through sediment distribution.