Top 20 stories of 2019

Louisiana’s outdoor scene certainly wasn’t lacking in newsworthy stories throughout the past year. It seemed like a month didn’t go by without something of great interest to hunters and fishermen taking place — some good news, some bad news and some just plain interesting.

So we researched the archives of LouisianaSportsman.com and came up with the 20 best-read stories of the year.

Hope you enjoy looking back at last year’s recap of some impressive deer, big-time bass and other interesting stories.

1. An 8-legged threat to hunters

Hunters are accustomed to dealing with the critters so commonly encountered in their outdoor pursuits. From slithering serpents to biting flies, they are always on the lookout for things that seek to inflict pain — or worse — upon being inadvertently threatened.

Southern black widow spiders are easily identified by the black, marble-shaped body and red, hourglass markings.

After all, there are spray repellents to keep the mosquitoes and other flies at bay, and snake encounters are typically avoided by an alternate path.

It’s no surprise that spiders are a common culprit for hunters’ annual ailments in the field, some even resulting in hospital visits. A single bite can result in serious ramifications if left unidentified or untreated. Besides, there’s just something about the 8-legged type that so often puts a special fear into the boldest of outdoorsman. — Darren Digby

2. An unusual and deadly find in Tensas Parish

Hayden Theriot was on a work weekend in Tensas Parish clearing land for a box stand when he saw a particularly large snake stretched out on a lane of fresh cut grass.

The canebrake rattlesnake ended up being 5-feet-8 and weighed in at around 12 pounds. This was the first rattlesnake that Theriot has seen in the area. — Anthony Taylor

3. Pop a top and watch this weekend’s weather forecast

Guess what? There’s always sunshine during the work week and rain every weekend in Louisiana!

Our readers seemed to enjoy DJ Rhett’s humor.

You can find more of his videos on his YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/SluryDJ.

4. This speckled trout should have NEVER been there!

Charlie Brown of Clinton was at his camp in Montegut and still planned to go fishing despite the wind. He normally would have headed down to Cocodrie and fished the barrier islands, but winds whipped up the waves in Terrebonne Bay to uncomfortable levels.

So he headed for his fallback spot — a rock-lined canal that empties into the bay. Brown was fishing less than a mile from Sportsman’s Paradise Marina below Chauvin. The change of plans put the fish of a lifetime in his boat. Brown ended up catching an 8.02-pound beast of a trout in a spot he least expected. — Ann Taylor

5. Goldman slams freak buck in dad’s backyard

Charlie Brown of Clinton was at his camp in Montegut and still planned to go fishing despite the wind. He normally would have headed down to Cocodrie and fished the barrier islands, but winds whipped up the waves in Terrebonne Bay to uncomfortable levels.

So he headed for his fallback spot — a rock-lined canal that empties into the bay. Brown was fishing less than a mile from Sportsman’s Paradise Marina below Chauvin. The change of plans put the fish of a lifetime in his boat. Brown ended up catching an 8.02-pound beast of a trout in a spot he least expected. — Ann Taylor

6. Rattlesnakes make a delicious dinner

Venturing into the woods during the hottest months of the year can produce some delicious foods, but that is when the most dangerous animals are active. Yet nothing will stop me from my fun summer activities like daytime frogging, wade-fishing secluded river ponds, scouting for deer, harvesting fruits and hunting mushrooms.

Last year, I was able to harvest the two biggest rattlesnakes I ever laid eyes on in one day while seeking mushrooms and hogs. Or should we say, they laid eyes on me. I struck first to get two beautiful hides and some of the tastiest meat available in the wild. — Josh Chauvin

7. LDWF issues kill order for aquarium fish

Cichlids are pretty fish, but they are illegal to release in Louisiana waters.
Cichlids are pretty fish, but they are illegal to release in Louisiana waters.

Anglers at City Park in New Orleans have always had a healthy population of bluegill and other sunfish to catch, but that’s changed within the past few years. The Rio Grande cichlid, a highly invasive species of fish, is taking over.

Lately, whenever Danny Malone of Mandeville goes fishing in the park, he’s been catching a lot of cichlids. He would rather catch native sunfish, but he said they are being overshadowed by cichlids.

And while many other anglers enjoy catching cichlids and admiring their beauty, Malone said plenty of folks don’t realize that it’s illegal to release these fish.

“They are under a kill order from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries,” he said. “You can’t throw them back. You are required by law to either take them with you or dispose of them. Anyone who throws them back is breaking the law and contributing to the decline of our native fish.” — Brian Cope

8. Leaked stock report shows plight of Louisiana’s specks

An inadvertent leak by a member of Louisiana’s Wildlife and Fisheries Commission has made public data that shows serious problems with statewide estimates of spawning stock biomass, spawning potential ratio and fishing mortality of Louisiana’s official state saltwater fish, the speckled trout.

“We sent these out to the Commission members as a tentative agenda item before the March meeting,” said Patrick Banks, assistant secretary of fisheries with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. “We knew the stock assessment showed overharvest, and we were trying to make sure we informed them as early as we could.”

According to Banks, the agency yanked the planned presentation of these figures to the Commission before its March 7 meeting due to errors found in the data.

“As we were checking numbers, we found mistakes in our preliminary analysis,” he said. “We had to rerun the model without the errors. The numbers changed in stock assessment, but they continue to demonstrate we have exceeded our thresholds.

“We are just not seeing biomass increase, and fishing mortality continues to be above limits of concern,” Banks said. “Our bottom line did not change.” — Chris Berzas

9. Louisiana Rut Report 2019

The peak of the rut is those days when the greatest number of does are being chased and bred by bucks.

When bucks start chasing does, the hair goes with the hide, and good hunters know this is the time to connect with a buck.

Each year, David Moreland, a former wildlife biologist with LDWF, puts the rut prediction for all of Lousiana’s deer-hunting areas in reader’s hands so they can start making plans and have a successful season.

10. What happens to the wildlife when the Morganza floods?

As most outdoor enthusiasts know, it was a wet spring up and down the Mississippi River Valley, and the river stage was such that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers planned to open the Morganza Floodway in June.

This floodway was opened during the flood of 1973 and was opened a second time in 2011. Both of these events were well documented by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

During the 1973 opening, efforts were made by biologists to rescue and feed deer. However, it became apparent that the best management effort was simply to leave the animals alone and restrict the public from the areas where deer were concentrated, keeping disturbance to a minimum.

Ultimately, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers delayed opening the Morganza Spillway above Baton Rouge indefinitely in response to slightly better forecasts for water heights at the spillway and upriver. — David Moreland

11. Commission hears major waterfowl news

Members of the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission heard a bit of bad news regarding the upcoming 2020-2021 waterfowl season regulations resulting from the recently released 2019 federal waterfowl population status at their monthly meeting Thursday, Sept. 5, in Baton Rouge.

(Photo by Burton Angelle)

“We’ll have a 16-day September teal season,” said Larry Reynolds, waterfowl study leader with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

He also reported that another 60-day regular season with a six-duck daily bag limit will be allowed for 2020-2021, with the pintail daily bag remaining at one per day, and canvasback limits at two per day.

There is bad news regarding scaup (dos gris) however — as a more restrictive season will be the case for Louisiana waterfowlers in 2020-2021. — Chris Berzas

12. Twenty point buck downed after three botched chances

After three chances, it was beginning to look like Joshua Jennings, his two sons and his dad were never going to have a decent chance at a monster buck hanging around the private lease they hunt in Caddo Parish. Fortunately, on the fourth opportunity, Jennings was able to connect with the big buck.

Simmons Sport Goods in Bastrop scored the buck at 2104/8, while Greg Hicks, official scorer for Buckmaster, scored him at 2161/8 inches. He was estimated to be at least 5½ years old. — Glynn Harris

13. Trout are so thick here, shrimpers are catching them in nets

September is typically known as a transition month in Cocodrie. According to Capt. Tommy Pellegrin, for the past few years, fishing in September hasn’t been consistent with a traditional fall pattern. But in 2019, the speckled trout action was back in full swing.

“It’s a good thing to see this many trout,” he said. “There’s a heck of a lot more trout than there’s been in the past two years. Trollers are catching 11-inch trout in their skimmers in Lake Mechant. These schools are so thick that the trout can’t get away.” — Anthony Taylor

14. Angler lands 7-foot shark in spillway

Josh Chauvin’s never been one to take the easy road.

“I like to challenge myself,” Chauvin said. “To do things the hard way, because when you do it the easy way, the reward is less significant, to me at least.”

So while many anglers would likely file sharks and alligators among the list of creatures to avoid, Chauvin takes a 180 on that idea in terms of approach.

He doesn’t run from them, but goes toward them instead — and, in fact, frequently catches them.

Such was the case recently when out on an excursion in the Bonnet Carre Spillway in Norco, when Chauvin landed a real whopper: a 7-foot, 130-pound bull shark.

“We caught seven or eight of them that day, including several big ones,” said Chauvin, who pens “The Apex Predator” column for Louisiana Sportsman. — Ryan Arena

15. Crazy crappie bite despite high water levels in Bayou Black

Water levels throughout the Bayou Black area were insanely high for May, but the crappie continued to reward those who knew where to find them and how to fish them. In this video, Clyde Folse, owner of the Crappie Psychic scented trailers, demonstrated where and how to fish them. — Louisiana Sportsman

16. Gold strike in Indian Creek Reservoir

Like many other Acadiana prairie anglers, 66-year-old Wendell Young of Eunice has spent a lifetime fishing for catfish in Louisiana waters.

Wendell Young of Eunice displays a gold catfish with pink whiskers, fins and tail weighing over 5 pounds. It was taken April 30 on a trotline baited with live bream in Indian Creek Reservoir in Rapides Parish near Woodworth.
Wendell Young of Eunice displays a gold catfish with pink whiskers, fins and tail weighing over 5 pounds. It was taken April 30 on a trotline baited with live bream in Indian Creek Reservoir in Rapides Parish near Woodworth.

During these years, Young and his family have caught just about every species of catfish Louisiana waters provide: spotted (flathead) cats, blues, channel cats, pollywogs, white humpback catfish and all the others.

“I’ve also taken albino blue catfish – white bodies with pink eyes,” he said.

But Tuesday, April 30, he ended up unhooking a catfish with a color he had never observed before: gold

“It was a weird one,” the angler said. — Chris Berzas

17. Are you trespassing?

The shot was just a bit high, and the 8-pointer ran off. Jimmy trailed the buck to a fence line that he knew to be a property boundary. He did not have permission to cross the fence, but he did it anyway. He found the deer another 100 yards away.

Mike ran his 21-foot bass boat through an open bay to fish the marsh. He did not have permission to enter the privately owned marsh, and he did not know he had left “navigable” waters.

Both of these sportsmen have something in common: they are in violation of Louisiana’s criminal trespass law. Neither one of them are outlaws, but they are both trespassers under Louisiana Revised Statute 14:63 (LA-R.S. 14:63) Criminal Trespass law.

John H. Smith, an experienced trial attorney with Smith Shanklin Sosa L.L.C., sets the record straight.

18. Double drop tine bruiser bites the dust

Wade Gibson, 45, from West Monroe, works as a certified registered nurse anesthetist at Glenwood Hospital in his home town. He may have thought he needed a dose of anesthesia to cope with what happened on the morning of Nov. 1, when “Hooks,” a huge double-drop tine buck, stepped out in front of his stand.

Gibson hunts on a 3,000-acre hunt club lease belonging to a timber company in Union Parish.

The buck carried 14 points, including the two 11-inch drop tines, had an inside spread of 191/8 inches with 26-inch main beams and 4½-inch bases. He weighed 210 pounds and, based on photos from years past, was determined to be at least  6½ years old. — Glynn Harris

19. Odd couple results in huge velvet buck

Tony Randall and Jack Klugman were the popular “Odd Couple” of television fame. In the world of the white-tailed deer, another “odd couple” has emerged in Jackson Parish, an old doe and a big velvet buck that always kept company with her. Unfortunately for the buck, this close companionship led to his demise late on the afternoon of November 6.

“Any time the old, dark-colored doe came out to the food plot to feed, the buck was following closely behind. I suppose she could have been his mother. We knew that one day she would be responsible for one of us on the Calhoun Bottom Hunting Club downing him,” said 36-year-old Derek Goss of Quitman, who was the lucky hunter who shot the strange looking buck.

The buck was something to behold. Sporting a full-velvet rack of somewhere between 16 and 20 points, the inside spread was 17 inches, and bases were 11½ inches each and carried mass all the way to the ends of the antlers.

The buck, which weighed 235 pounds, had a single testicle that had not emerged from the body cavity.

The rack was measured at 1696/8 inches of fuzzy bone. — Glynn Harris

20. How to catch speckled trout on barrier islands

On this segment of Sportsman TV, viewers learned how Capt. Charlie Thomason fishes topwater and demolishes speckled trout along Louisiana’s barrier islands. — Sportsman TV

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