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, December 11, 2008


The easiest and least complicated fishing apparatus to use has probably always been a hook tied to a simple line held in the hand. It’s not hard to imagine that tool being used for as long as there have been hooks made from deer bone and line made of some natural fiber. Evidence proving this comes from Native American sites all over North America. And the next step, that of tying the line to a limb or something else that would be limber enough to bend when pulled on by a fish, thereby relieving stress on the line and hook, is not hard to imagine either. The sportfishing industry is supported today by that set of just three things: a hook, a line and a pole or rod. All that has happened is that these tools have been modernized and diversified into an almost infinite number of variations. But, at bottom, they are just three parts of a successful mechanism evolved through practical trial and error to catch fish. And stripped of its chrome and graphite and monofilament, that description also describes the most basic commercial linefishing tool, the bushline, also known as the dropline.

Creating the bushline is simplicity itself. There is no more to it than finding a tree limb in the right place and tying on a piece of line, then tying a hook onto the end dangling a foot or so in the water.

To be effective the bait must be presented in a way that is attractive to catfish and in the right place. To the Myette Point people, the catfish being sought was the flathead, or goujon, and in some cases the blue catfish, both of which prefer territories near structure of some kind, usually a log or stump in the water. Both of these species reach large size, exceeding 70 pounds, and both are aggressive predators that readily take live bait. Because of their size they were much sought after by fishermen in the Basin. When fishing them, there was a lot of visual excitement caused by seeing evidence of a big fish on the line even before you reached it in your pirogue. The line would be tied to a long, slim cypress limb maybe four feet above the water. Edward Couvillier describes the fun of doing this.

I seen, on a cypress limb, a big old cypress limb…not a big one, you know, small, but it would be long? You tie a bushline on there. You go back the next morning, look up there [at the limb above your head], and you see water drippin off of that limb. Well, you know there’s a fish on it. A goujon can take it, he go under the water with it. He take it, go plumb under the water with that limb. When it would come back up, the water would drip off it. You get there in that pirogue and you see that sucker up there…! [excited] In pirogue too, hoss.

And maybe the excitement didn’t end there.

I remember one time I put a line, I was on a ridge, you know? I got there next mornin. Didn’t have but about that much water [two feet], and that sucker was stiff! I mean that sucker [was] straight down! Boy, I looked at that, and pulled up there, I mean, I pulled that sucker up real slow…had about a seven foot alligator. [laughs]. Boy, he just took off, he ain’t never stopped! He just pulled off. I wasn’t that very big either, just a kid. I was already scared of em.

Picture notes: Snow this morning in south Louisiana made national news. And it was spectacular. On the bird feeder in our backyard I count 15 Cardinals and one cryptic Blue Jay. We got about an inch right before daylight and it began melting shortly after. It’s nice to know you have a warm place to come back to if you choose to venture out. The black and white visitor also came in the night last night. It is the first one to come up onto the porch that I know of.

The river is still low at about 4.0 feet on the Butte La Rose gauge. The Ohio and Mississippi are both showing a little life up there. We will get a little water next week.

Rise and Shine, Jim


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