This blog originates on the banks of the Atchafalaya River, in Louisiana. It proposes to share the things that happen on and by the river as the seasons progress. As the river changes from quiet, warm, slow flow to rises of eighteen feet or more, there are changes in the lives of the birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles that use the river. And the mood of the river changes with the seasons. I propose to note and comment on these things.

My Photo
Location: Butte La Rose, Louisiana, United States

I transitioned a few years ago from a career as a water-pollution control biologist. I want to do this blog to stay in touch with a world outside my everyday surroundings, whatever they may be. I like open-minded company and the discussion of ideas. Photo by Brad Moon.

Monday, January 30, 2006

The Current

What a difference in the river when there is this much water in it! If you get out in it, you can feel the difference – a sense of power that is missing in the placid summer/fall. Yesterday afternoon I had to do something that becomes very necessary during a rise – clean the trotline. The amount of material washed off the banks during a rise is incredible. In addition to obvious drift floating along on the top, I am always amazed that so much debris travels along at the bottom of the channel, where the trotline is. Most of the stuff that the line collects is light material like dead grass, but if you don’t clean this off every day during a rise, it can build up to three or four inches thick on the line and that results in such resistance to the current that the line can break. Not good for that to happen if you’re holding it. One of the things you usually learn by doing this for a living is when to admit that the line is too tight to handle safely. There is always the temptation be tough and try to run the line anyway but most of us had one close shave and didn’t try it again. Of course, there is more than grass traveling with the current, large pieces of wood that have only slight buoyancy also travel near the bottom. These can hang up on the trotline and will usually break it if it is already tight. And there is so much else down there that you can’t see - if the river would suddenly become transparent during a rise, what an interesting sight it would be!

One thing that helps keep the line clean is the presence of fish caught on the hooks. I baited one half of the hooks (50) last night with this in mind, and today when I ran it there were 18 catfish on it. Even with this there were places where the line was two inches thick – just from catching debris overnight. There were 14 blue cats and four channel cats, and one smallmouth buffalo (Napoleon’s appetite here exceeds his abilities). When you bring these fish to the top in a current like this they sometimes spin like a whirligig held in the wind, and you see why the swivel is where it is. How in the world do these animals search and find food in a current like this? And yet, they will bite until and beyond the time you can’t fish the line anymore because it’s too tight.

Every once in a while (hopefully not too often) a very big, and visible on the surface, piece of drift comes down the river and snags on the line. This would be a tree trunk or something like that, about 40 feet long, floating with its bottom dragging the bottom. This is a real problem and can result in losing the whole line. I have been lucky so far, and have been able to cut the line and retie it when a tree gets snagged. The process of doing that is kind of interesting, I think. Later.

The Butte La Rose gauge shows 7.5 feet, with 9.3 by Feb. 4. The Mississippi still shows some rise, but the Ohio is falling and has crested at Cairo. The pump isn’t pumping full steam yet.

Rise and shine, Jim


Blogger Randy said...

The catfishing you do is very interesting to me. I have heard that catfish can get quite large in the Atchafalaya river. Have you recorded the weight of your largest fish? Also, is there a reason for crossing the river with the line instead of running the line with the flow of the river? Seemingly flow rate would be less of a problem.. What about other aspects such as productivity or hook-ups with passing debris?

February 03, 2006 3:19 PM  

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