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.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Contrails and Ibises

A couple mornings ago I was out on the deck looking around and the sunrise looked like a good one for digitizing a memory. So I set the camera on the rail to steady it and then I noticed a contrail coming in high across the sun from left to right. It created one of those stark contrasts that you notice sometimes – the primitive and serenely beautiful against the modern and harshly technological. Still, it has beauty if it finds resonance in you, I guess. I took several pictures of this scene, and was still admiring it when I noticed, from over my right shoulder, a flock of ibises flying toward the sunrise. No, I thought, they can’t place themselves into this tableau and create yet a further contrast. But they did. Since I had the camera ready already, I just had to wait for them to fly into the sun. And they did. And the memory is created. So there it was - the sunrise, the birds and the jet plane – all together in the world we have inherited. It can be a very pretty place early in the morning.

The catfish is a small goujon (three pounds) I caught today on a rod and reel, with shrimp for bait. Funny how people think differently about the same thing depending on where they come from. To a Cajun, the goujon is just about the best thing that you can get from fresh water, except maybe crawfish. To people who live in neighboring states (and some much closer) a goujon is a trash fish to be discarded in favor of fried mullet. Mullet? To most Cajuns mullet is crab bait, certainly not fit for humans to eat. All that mud inside them, and they have a gizzard! Are both groups right? Or wrong? Are mullets good in Mississippi and bad here? And do goujons deserve a trash fish reputation in Mississippi but it’s “somebody make a red gravy” if you catch one here? It is probably true that the difference is with the people, not the fish, and the fish don’t care. Not only is the goujon not considered edible in other places, but in some states they are considered harmful to the more “desirable” game species. This is due to their extremely capable predatory habits. Look at the mouth on these things, it is big enough to wrap around almost anything up to almost half the goujon’s size. And it does. I have often seen 20-pound goujons swallow five or six pound catfish that were hooked on my trotline. Sometimes they can’t get the whole fish into their stomachs all at once so they digest what they can. They usually spit out the catfish when you pull them up to the top on the trotline and one half the fish will be digested down to the bare bones, and the other half is fresh-looking. Looks strange.

I have been fishing for the cats lately. Napoleon is sick with something that is making him lose his appetite for dry catfood, and even for the canned smelly stuff. But if i catch him a catfish or gou and fillet off the sidemeat, he gobbles it up. He has been to the vet and I spent more on him than I would have paid for him in the first place. But he has friends out there in Blogland, and they ask about him. So, I have to try to get him healthy again. As I say, he has friends.

The river is at 8.2 on the Butte La Rose gauge and it will stay near there for the next several days. The Mississippi and Ohio are both falling so the water we have will start to drop soon.

Rise and Shine, Jim


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