LOUISIANA DEPARTMENT OF WILDLIFE & FISHERIES POST OFFICE BOX 98000 BATON ROUGE, LA 70898-9000 Waterfowl Population Estimates Date: Coastal Zone: Jan. 4-6 in Louisiana?s Coastal Zone Below Catahoula Lake: Jan. 5 U.S. Highway 90 and on Catahoula Lake NE LA: Jan. 7, and NW LA: Jan. 12 Scaup Survey: Jan. 14 Reported by: L. Reynolds, J. Olszak, C. Dailey, J. Grant, D. Champagne, S. Miller, F. Burks, and P. Link January 20, 2021 COMMENTS: The 1.97 million ducks estimated on this survey is 11% less than the 2.21 million in December, 15% less than the 2.3 million last January, and 33% below the long-term January average of 2.95-million. In the last 7 years, the January estimate has been the same or lower than the December estimate, and this is the 4th time in that period it has been at least 10% lower. The long-term trend in December and January estimates is depicted in Figure 1, and locations of the 27 transects flown since 1969, 17 in SW LA and 10 in SE LA survey areas, are shown in Figure 2. The estimate for the SW survey region increased from December (1,195,000 to 1,321,000) because of large increases in estimated green-winged teal (188,000 to 327,000), shovelers (163,000 to 320,000), and ring-necked ducks (56,000 to 228,000). Estimates for other species except wigeon declined in that survey region. The largest concentrations of ducks seen in the SW LA were shovelers and ringnecks on a sewage lagoon near Rayne, and black-bellied whistling ducks (not included in the traditional estimates) in the fresh marsh near Cherry Ridge. Lower estimates from December in both SE LA (943,000 to 598,000) and Catahoula Lake (76,000 to 49,000) were largely due to big declines in the number of ring-necked ducks in those survey regions. Ring-necked ducks declined from 556,000 to 191,000 in SE LA and from 41,000 to 12,000 at Catahoula Lake between the December and January surveys. Estimates for all dabbling ducks except wigeon declined from December in SE LA, while estimates for scaup and canvasback increased. The largest concentrations of ducks seen in SE LA were ring-necked ducks in the Upper Terrebonne marshes southeast of Amelia, (although much fewer than in December), and a huge raft of scaup off-transect in the Mississippi River down from the grain elevators north of Myrtle Grove, and thus not included in the estimates. Scaup and canvasback counts at Catahoula Lake were essentially the same as in December. Over the entire survey region, only shovelers, ring-necked ducks, and canvasbacks were above long-term January averages. Species-specific comparisons of estimates from this survey with 30-year and 10-year averages are depicted in Figure 3. Notably, the estimate for gadwalls was less than half the most recent 10-year and 30-year averages. Water levels in coastal Louisiana and at Catahoula Lake were lower than in December. At the time of this survey, water level at Catahoula Lake had dropped about 2 feet from December and was at management target depth. Although providing improved foraging habitat, very few dabbling ducks were seen on the lake. Similar to December, water levels in coastal marsh ranged from optimal for foraging ducks in managed marsh to broad mudflats in tidal areas. Shallow flooding from rainfall prior to the December survey had mostly disappeared from non-managed fields and pastures of SW LA and shallow flooding was mostly limited to managed water, much of it with active crawfishing activity. Again acknowledging negative impacts from multiple hurricanes on both submerged aquatic and seed-producing annual vegetation across the coastal zone, habitat quality is well below average.
I have permission from many property owners in our area to shoot nutria on their property. After the duck hunt Saturday, we took a ride to shoot some. Conditions were ideal, cold, sunny and low water. Alligators are dormant for the most part right now so the nutria come out for us to hunt.
As we all know 2020 was a very strange year in all aspects so there is no reason the last duck hunt of 2020 should be any different. Yesterday, 12/31/20 me and Rooster were making a duck hunt and a pelican landed in the pond then swam over to our boat then jumped up on the transom. After that it made its way toward the middle of the boat and stayed between us for at least 30 minutes as the video shows. Obviously in all my years of duck hunting that has never happened, but you have to be out in the marsh for things like that to happen. We ended up shooting 2 greys, 4 teal and 1 dosgris for the hunt. Considering how things have been going this season a decent hunt. The killer was while picking up ducks during the hunt three pintail went right over the decoys. We could have easily shot two of them. Happy New Year and happy hunting.
Date Fished 12-29-20: Launched at the Chef yesterday afternoon with live shrimp in the boat. We fished the ICW throwing the shrimp out from the shore into the deep water pulling the bait back up the shelf. Unfortunately for us the breeze picked up in the afternoon blowing right down the ship channel making to a little difficult to fish right. Ended up with 16 specks - 1 bass - 1 catfish - 1 flounder
Date Hunted 12/26/20: It was 36 degrees Saturday morning as the hard cold front passed through the area Thursday and Friday. The marsh was drained by two days of northwest winds. We were lucky we could get to our duck blinds on the lease. I hunted solo with another boat with two guys went to one of our other blinds. I shot one dosgris that had a band on the leg that was it. The other blind shot one dosgris and two pouledeau. Date hunted 12/27/20: Temperature came up to about 45 Sunday with a slight increase in the water level, still low. Two of us went to a friendâs lease and shot two pintail. We had some chances at teal but we missed. We saw more ducks Sunday than Saturday. Two guys went back to their regular blind and shot two canvasbacks and four dosgris. We can scratch off the list of typical sayings most duck hunters use of âCold front will bring new ducksâ. The cold weather came and there arenât any new ducks. Despite the lack of action it was exciting having the pintail work right over the decoys into the sunshine and I could see colors as we cut them. Also seeing a few teal Sunday and the banded duck Saturday made it worth the effort. Good days in the marsh with more to come.
Reported by: L. Reynolds, J. Olszak, C. Dailey, J. Grant, D. Champagne, A. Mouton, F. Burks, and P. Link COMMENTS: The 2.21 million ducks estimated on this survey is over 2.5 times the 855,000 seen in November, but it was 14% below last December?s estimate and the most recent 10-year average of 2.57 million and remains 21% below the long-term December average of 2.79 million. The long-term trend in December estimates is depicted in Figure 1, and locations of the 27 transects flown since 1969, 17 in SW LA and 10 in SE LA survey areas, are shown in Figure 2. Estimates from all 3 surveyed regions increased markedly from November, and species-specific estimates increased for all species except wigeon, with the biggest increases for canvasback (4,000 to 74,000), mallards (7,000 to 50,000), ring-necked ducks (154,000 to 653,000), green-winged teal (49,000 to 302,000), and gadwalls (288,000 to 456,000). American coots increased from 520,000 to 1,780,000, the highest estimate since 2011 when 1.85 million were estimated. However, blue-winged teal and shovelers were the only dabbling duck species above long-term December averages while scaup, ring-necked ducks and canvasbacks were above their long-term averages. In coastal Louisiana, distribution of dabbling ducks was strongly skewed toward SW LA, and diving ducks toward SE LA. Nearly 75% of dabbling ducks were counted in SW LA with the largest concentrations in the marsh between Little Pecan and Grand Lake, agricultural fields north of Lacassine NWR, and the marsh south of West Cove of Calcasieu Lake. Smaller concentrations of diving ducks were seen in the open water of White Lake and flooded agricultural fields north of Intracoastal city. Similarly, nearly 77% of diving ducks on the coastal transects were seen in SE LA. By far, the biggest concentration of divers was encountered in the Upper Terrebonne marshes southeast of Amelia. Ring-necked ducks in that area accounted for 84% of the total diving ducks and 54% of the total ducks counted in SE LA. Over 84% of the coots estimated in SE LA were also counted in that habitat. Smaller concentrations of dabbling ducks were noted east of Venice and south of Delacroix. With the exception of Catahoula Lake, habitat conditions have improved since the November survey. Acknowledging the negative effects of multiple hurricanes on food availability, water levels have fallen across most of the coast, providing better access to existing food resources for dabbling ducks. Strong north winds during most of the survey created mudflat conditions in some tidal habitats. In the agricultural habitats of SW LA, recent heavy rainfall increased shallow flooding in many fields and pastures, but it didnât appear extensive enough to last, and otherwise, flooding is limited to managed water, much of it with active crawfish farming activity. Lastly, in December and January, LDWF conducts a scaup survey on Lakes Maurepas, Pontchartrain, and Borgne. An estimated 8,300 scaup were seen on this survey including 700 on Lake Borgne and 7,600 on Lake Pontchartrain. That is less than 5% of the 179,000 estimated last December and the long-term December average of 187,000. It is the lowest estimate on this survey since 2012 when only 300 scaup were seen following hurricane Isaac passing through the New Orleans area. In years with strong hurricane activity in SE Louisiana, greatly reduced scaup estimates have often been seen, presumably due to disruption of the benthic food resources, specifically smaller size-classes of bivalves as described at: https://esajournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/ecs2.2829. Similar low estimates were seen in 2005 and 2008 after hurricanes Katrina and Gustav respectively. With multiple cold fronts since the November survey, creating conditions favorable for ducks migrating into our state, we have seen a substantial increase in ducks in 3 survey regions. However, the overall numbers remain below average. The December survey of LDWF coastal WMAs and Refuges reported total ducks were 25% below the 2004-2020 average for those habitats. Surveys earlier in December in Arkansas and Mississippi were well below average, and the most recent bi-weekly survey in Missouri continues to be below average. However, an aerial survey in Illinois reported counts from 43-50% above average, suggesting there are still ducks holding north in the Flyway. For geese, however, there may have been an increase to above-average numbers. In December, geese are only counted in NE LA and on some coastal Refuges. In NE LA, the total goose count was 39% above the December average, and over 1-million snow geese were reported on White Lake WCA.
Date hunted 12-5-20: We had a good group of people leave the camp for duck hunting Saturday morning. Total of nine guys headed out on a good weather duck hunting morning. Real nice breeze out of the north, 46 degrees and water slightly below normal. Our past trend continues with many dosgris in our area with the occasional grey duck, wigeon, redhead, teal, bufflehead or pintail. With dosgris being plentiful we easily shoot 2 each of those then it is a matter of waiting it out for the other species of ducks to come. It makes for interesting hunts because we never know what the wildcards are going to be. On Saturday hunting with Zeke two wigeon passed over our head heading out and I hit them on the duck call and they made a U turn coming our way. Just as you would draw up the play the wigeon made slight right turn over the decoys and we both shot once, he got his and I got mine. Nice to have some younger people at the camp duck hunting. If they come, they usually love it. My son had two friends and another member had his grandson. Date hunted 12-5-20: Four of us hunted two separate blinds. Similar conditions to Saturday with similar results. We will be back at it December 19 for hopefully more action.
My cousin is a sugar cane farmer in Iberia Parish. Hogs are a big problem for cane farmers destroying crops and fields and must be dealt with. When he knows there are hogs on a particular cane field he has the cane cutting combine work the perimeter of the field cutting until there is a small island of standing cane remaining in the middle of a big field. The hogs bunch up in the remaining cane afraid to make a break for it then it is show time. After several are shot they make a run for it to be shot on the run. He busted them up real good today as the picture shows.
We duck hunted Friday, Saturday and Sunday. All three days were similar type of hunts. We continue to shoot mostly divers, dosgris, redheads, buffleheads and depending on the blind being hunted there can be some tree ducks, grey duck or two with a teal or two. We have not been limiting out but we are not getting skunked either. Happy we are getting some shots because some guys are not. If the dosgris limit was six we could do that easily bit since it is now two per man it is what it is. It seems the major factor for us shooting the divers is the lack of vegetation in the ponds in our area. The run of hurricanes has wiped out the food source for the puddle ducks. The guys I know who have been shooting the greys etc. have vegetation in the area. We took a boat ride Saturday and areas with feed had a decent amount of ducks and areas without feed had very few if any. Looks like the course has been set for our 2020-21 duck season for our duck lease. I don't expect conditions or results to change much over the next month. We may have better results on other properties we get a chance to hunt on occasionally. Picture from Saturday, my son and his friend.
Date Hunted 11/25/20: Three of us went out and hunted the best blind on our duck lease and shot a total of 5 ducks. 3 Dosgris and 2 whistling tree ducks. Not much in the sky. One flight of greys high with no chance of coming down. Teal are gone for now and so are the buffleheads that showed up last week. We will be back at it Friday, Saturday and Sunday. To add insult to injury I live near Lafreniere Park and I was driving home through the park and the soccer fields were loaded with whistling tree ducks. I stopped for a few minutes and watched them piling in there, what a show. That's the way it goes. Happy Thanksgiving.
Date Hunted 11/21/20: Clear skies with a little breeze and water slightly above normal similar to last weekend. We did see a few more ducks in the sky at our duck lease area but it didnât make a difference as our numbers fell off from last Saturday. My blind shot 2 dosgris, 2 buffleheads and one spooney, 5 duck total. The other blind shot 2 greys 3 teal, 2 dosgris and 4 buffleheads for 11 duck total. Oddly enough buffleheads showed up over the week when there was none last week. We shot some redheads last weekend and they are gone. I did not see a grey duck Saturday. The duck game is in constant change mode these days. Date Hunted 11/22/20: We got permission to hunt some property where we shot the teal during teal season and was hoping for better results. Similar conditions to Saturday. I was surprised how things have changed there too. Not many ducks in the sky as we had seen during teal season. We had a little more action than Saturday shooting 1 mallard drake (first for the year for the camp) 6 teal, 5 pouldeau, 2 gallinules. The pattern established over the last five years or so is starting to take hold. With warm temperatures and the beginning of the duck season it seems the ducks we had are checking out going back north or somewhere else in the state. Years ago we used to shoot most of our ducks in the first split and with a 5 duck total for my blind Saturday things are not looking real promising. As stated earlier the duck game is in constant change and I hope conditions change for the better.
Reported by: L. Reynolds, J. Olszak, C. Dailey, and J. Grant. COMMENTS: The 855,000 ducks estimated on this survey is the lowest November estimate since this survey began in 1969. Previous lows were in 2008 (958,000), 2013 (1,02 million), and 2019 (1.04 million). It is less than half the most recent 5-year and long-term averages of 2.0 million. The long-term trend in November estimates is depicted in Figure 1, and locations of the 27 transects flown since 1969, 17 in SW LA and 10 in SE LA survey areas, are shown in Figure 2. Estimates from all 3 surveyed regions are among the lowest on record. The 527,000 total ducks in SW LA is the second lowest estimate on record and is 42% below the most recent 10-year average of 893,000. The 316,000 total ducks in SE LA and 12,000 at Catahoula Lake are the lowest since 2009, when 170,000 and 7,000 respectively were estimated in those regions largely due to record rainfall in October of that year resulting in very high water levels. The SE LA estimate is less than half the most recent 10-year average of 635,000 and the count at Catahoula Lake is barely 10% of the most recent 10-year average of 117,000. Estimates for scaup and ring-necks were higher than last November, and above their long-term averages, but all other species were far below long term average for November. Green-winged teal (49,000 vs 254,000), pintails (41,000 vs 236,000), gadwall (288,000 vs 782,000), and shovelers (31,000 vs 97,000) showed the biggest differences between November 2020 estimates and long-term November averages. Similar to the September survey, mottled duck estimates are higher than last year (27,000 vs 19,000) but still well below the long-term November average of nearly 70,000. The estimate for coots was 40% below the most recent 10-year average of 864,000 as well. In SW LA, the only notable concentrations of ducks on the transects were a group of mostly scaup seen in flooded fields north of Intracoastal City and a flock of mostly gadwalls in the marsh of Paul J. Rainey/State Wildlife Refuge. Another concentration of ducks was noted near Black Lake west of Hackberry but was off-line and not included in the estimate. In SE LA, the only notable concentrations of ducks were ring-necked ducks east of the transect in Upper Terrebonne southeast of Amelia and scaup in Lake Borgne between lines 25 and 26. Habitat conditions in all 3 surveyed regions have been negatively impacted by multiple hurricanes and other storms. Water levels are still high in most of the coastal marsh, there is virtually no seed-producing annual vegetation, and submerged aquatic vegetation is sparse across much of the surveyed area. Only spotty submerged aquatic vegetation was evident in SW LA. Good submerged aquatics were seen in the Upper Terrebonne marshes and south of Delacroix, but it was greatly decreased from the September survey in most other SE LA marshes. Water levels at Catahoula Lake have recently declined to target levels, but the abundant moist-soil vegetation and excellent habitat conditions noted in September were compromised. In contrast, there was noticeably less shallow flooding in the agricultural area of SW LA than seen in September. Most available habitat was managed water for rice and crawfish.
Date hunted 11/14/20: With warm temperatures, tide slightly above normal and a slight breeze we hit the marsh for another opening day of big duck season. We had guys in three different blinds on the duck lease. I hunted with my son and one of his friends and it started rather slow, but it was steady with some shots for us. Enjoyed letting the youngsters shoot as I was the monkey in the middle hitting the duck call trying to get ducks to work. We shot a mixed bag greys, teal, one pintail, redheads and dosgris. We hunted until 9:00 and three of us shot 17. One of the other blinds shot a two man limit 12 and the other blind shot 6. We had a rookie in the group who shot his first duck, that is always nice to see that happen. We just donât have opening days like we used to with a lot of ducks in the sky. I know those days are over but there is always hope. Some of my friends hunted other areas and did well while others struggled. Location, location is king. Date hunted 11/15/20: Blue bird day with the tide a little higher than Saturday with very little wind. Usually there is a big drop off after opening day and this year was no different. We had guys in two blinds. Two of us in my blind shot 4 ducks and the other blind shot 6.
10/27/20 - While at my camp at Lake Catherine yesterday evening around sunset I saw at least a dozen big V's of grey ducks heading toward toward Biloxi marsh. They were high in the sky and it was a lot of them.
The 2020 teal season in SE Louisiana was one of the best overall teal seasons I have ever had. Despite the aggravation of hurricanes, tropical storms and high tides the teal were there and we were lucky to be on the X. We made seven hunts limiting out on six of them. The video is some of the shots and other parts of duck hunting from the last weekend.
Date 9/19/29 It rained on us from the time we left camp all through the hunt. Was not real enthused about the situation until daylight and teal started flying. It was a great hunt as three of us shot 18 teal. With all the high water and crazy weather we are fortunate the teal are still here.
Video from the first weekend of teal season. Sometimes we get the shots on camera and things work out and sometimes we don't. Great start to the teal season.
Below are comments regarding the LDWF aerial survey: COMMENTS: The estimate of 236,000 blue-winged teal from this survey is nearly twice last yearâs estimate of 127,000 and 4-times the 59,000 estimated in 2018. It is 55% higher than the most-recent 5-year average of 152,000 and slightly higher than the long-term average of 227,000. Blue-winged teal estimates in both SW and SE LA are well above last yearâs estimates of 110,000 and 12,000 respectively, and the 18,000 counted at Catahoula Lake is the highest since 2010, when 49,000 were seen. The 202,000 blue-wings estimated from SW LA transects is 45% higher than the most recent 10-year average of 139,000, and nearly all of them were seen in agricultural fields. Marsh habitats in this region were greatly impacted by hurricane Laura with high water, blocked drainages from extensive debris, and vegetation damage from storm surge and salinity. We saw virtually no blue-winged teal and very few waterfowl of any species in the marsh along established transects. However, flocks of blue-wings were seen in a number of rice fields including those southwest of Gueydan, south of Jennings, and the largest concentration just north of the transect line (thus not included in our estimate) west of Crowley. Although there is above-average shallow flooding in the agricultural region, outside of the marsh, we did not see extensive flooding. One potential positive from storm impacts in SW LA was the noticeable absence of invasive aquatics in the marsh described in past reports south of White Lake, west of Hwy 27, north of Rockefeller Refuge, and in the intermediate marsh north of Grand Chenier. Wind, storm surge, and flooding with saltwater appear to have nearly greatly reduced water hyacinth and giant salvinia in those areas to the point that we saw virtually none from the air. The 16,000 blue-wings estimated from SE LA transects is 33% higher than the most recent 10-year average of 12,000. Blue-winged teal were only counted on 3 of the 10 transects, and there were no big concentrations seen in this survey area. The largest numbers were seen in the marsh east of Venice. The habitat across SE LA appeared only slightly impacted by the storm with about average submerged aquatic vegetation cover in most areas. Habitat near the mouth of the Mississippi River looks improved over last year with notable submerged aquatic vegetation, larger stands of delta duck potato, and expanses of southern wild rice despite some evidence of mild vegetation damage from elevated water levels and salinity. Unfortunately, increased cover of water hyacinth reported last year in the upper Terrebonne marshes, Caernarvon freshwater diversion and other SE LA habitats remains. The 18,000 blue-wings counted at Catahoula Lake is 3.6 times last yearâs count of 5,000, and is over twice the most recent 10-year average of 8,400. The biggest concentrations were seen on the east side of the lake south of the Diversion canal and then north of French Fork in the shallow-flooded vegetation. Water level was about 27.2 feet MSL at the time of the survey, and habitat for teal was very good. Indeed, overall habitat conditions on the lakebed appeared very good if the water levels can be maintained. Lastly, the mottled duck estimate of 31,000 is over twice last yearâs estimate of 15,000 and 19% above the most recent 10-year average. It is the highest September estimate since 2010 when 49,000 were estimated in coastal Louisiana. Interestingly in SW LA, 77% of mottled ducks were counted in agricultural habitats and in fewer, larger groups than typically encountered on this survey. In SE LA, 91% of total mottled ducks in that survey region were seen on the easternmost transect through the marshes south and east of Venice.
Went out of Oak River to fish the Snake Island area yesterday. No luck on speckled trout using double beetle rigs and plastics. Water appeared to be dirty.
Fished off of the dock under the light Friday and Saturday night. The strong NE winds with white caps in the lake made it a mess. 1 small trout and 1 red Friday night and 3 trout no reds Saturday night. Water is brown river water has made its way into the area.