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.

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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.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Mixed Bag

Can you say that about fish? A mixed box? Mixed creel? A “boxamixed” as Humberto says? I don’t know, but that’s what was on the trotline today. It caught five gaspergou, four channel cats, 16 blue cats and one eel. Off of 100 hooks, that’s not bad. Twenty six percent is actually pretty good. Most commercial guys would have been ok with that years ago when I did it, if you could multiply that by 10, that is. A rig would have been 1000 hooks, not 100. Anyway, the gous are especially welcome because we like to always have some containers of courtboullion in the freezer and we are out of it. The gous I caught today are just the right size, about five pounds each (the 14 pounders in the picture are way too big to eat, I think). That way they are not so big that there is a lot of fat mixed in the meat, and yet big enough to cut into chunks, leaving the bone, and cooking it that way. There is something about the bones that gives a gou courtboullion a special flavor, so my friend Kirk says, and I agree. Another thing, you can skin gous just like you do catfish and you don’t have to mess with the scales. It really works. I baited half the hooks as I ran it, shrimp were scarce. The eel was the first of the season; sometimes I get seven or eight on the line at one time. What a mess – the slime. Last year an eel did a good thing for me though. I was about halfway down the line when I felt a real pull ahead of me. That’s always a real good feeling. The line just sinks down and down and down, instead of the frantic thrashing that small fish do. Well, when I got to the fish it was a 20 pound goujon (flathead, Opelousas cat, Pylodictis). At first I couldn’t see how it was hooked – the stageon just went on into its mouth and I couldn’t see the hook. Then I noticed what looked like an eel alongside the big catfish. It was just swimming there, it seemed. When I got up to the fish and took a good look I saw that the fish wasn’t hooked at all, but the eel was. What had happened, I’m sure, is that the catfish came up and tried to eat the hooked eel (about 30 inches long). It took the eel into its mouth, but have you ever tried to hold onto a good-sized eel? They are so full of slime that they can tie themselves into a knot and then back out of whatever is holding them. The eel in this case backed out of the fishes gills and of course neither the eel nor the catfish could go anywhere after that. It was a nice catfish we got to eat, but I never would have thought to bait a line with a 30 inch eel to catch a goujon.

Spent a good bit of time today making a bench out of a big, rough cut, cypress plank. It’s amazing what you can do with just a drill and a sander attached to it. I made two pedestals out of cypress 2x4s and 1x3s to support the big plank. It came out good, as some say.

Napoleon went out in the boat with me today, had his fish, and had to clean up after we got back to the dock.

The river is at 8.5 feet on the Butte La Rose gauge, falling slowly. The Mississippi and Ohio are both falling pretty hard, so we could see a moderate fall here in about a week.

Rise and shine, Jim


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