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.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Adjusting Bridles

Winter morning.

In fishing bentlines or crossings for catfish, it is usually necessary to keep the line as close to the bottom as possible. Certain conditions require adjusting this, but it is usually true. With poles, at each one you had to make sure that there was enough bridle to allow the main line to sink to the bottom. Adjusting this bridle length to put more, or less, tension on the line often had much to do with how well the line fished. Ida Daigle and her brother Neg had a discussion about this in the lake one day:

JD: Now, a strong, strong current would probably give you trouble…?

ID: No, you just longen your bridle. You longer your bridle. When you got strong, strong current, that’s where your slack comes from, your bridles.

JD: Where your what comes from?

ID: Your bridles? Well, that’s where your slack for your line comes from, from your bridles. You just lengthen your bridles. Jim, I had a boat full of fish, that time, I made Neg sick. He had about eight fish in his boat, and I had about 300 pound, or better, in mine. And I went to him and he was fishin, and uh, the current was getting stronger. Now,the water wasn’t comin up, but the current was getting stronger. Now, I lengthen my bridles, and I went and told him. I say “Neg, lengthen your bridles” I say “That’s what’s the matter”. “Ah, you don’t know, ah…you don’t know”. But, he didn’t catch no fish either. Well, I say “l lengthen mine, I wasn’t catchin none, I lengthen mine” and I say “Look my fish”. “Gawlee, you doin the shockin machine, eh?” I say “If I had one, maybe I would”. But I didn’t have none.

The shocking machine she refers to here was an illegal device used by a lot of people in the Basin at one time or another. It consisted of a vintage telephone arranged to send an electrical charge into the water. The fact that it was illegal didn’t deter a lot of fishermen, and non-fishermen, from trying it. It was a lot easier than going to the trouble of setting lines, getting bait, maintaining lines, etc. All you had to do was shock the fish and dip them up with a net – so much less trouble than doing it the hard, legal, way. Since river knowledge said that using a shocking machine would drive the fish away from an area, there was constant war between the shockers and the legitimate fishermen who were setting lines, even though some of those fishermen would occasionally step over the line of legality themselves. Sometimes living mostly on what fish you could harvest would do more to dictate methods than the law did. Game agents tried with special efforts to catch these people but the shockers always seemed to have a boat that could outrun the agents. When these chases happened at night, things could really get exciting for both parties. One of the tricks the shockers used was to run to the main channel of the river when being chased. There are large buoys marking the channel, unlighted buoys. The shocker would run directly at one of the big buoys while letting the agent approach to within a few yards, all this at high speed with no lights, and then turn a bright light onto the agent’s boat while swerving to miss the buoy at the same time. The agent, blinded by the light, would crash into the buoy and the chase would be ended for that night. I never heard of anyone drowning during one of these episodes. I hope that’s really the case. I was in an agent’s boat during a night chase once but we didn’t hit a buoy that time.

Nylon line comes in these one-pound “balls”. From the front of the package you can see the size of this ball: #48. This was the size considered “wimpy” by many of the Myette Point fishermen in that it was so large in diameter that it was easy on the hands. The downside was you got less line per one-pound ball in larger sizes like this. The package shows the selection of sizes available, the number of feet per size and the breaking strength of each size. This is the preferred “black” nylon due to having been dipped in an asphalt compound. The asphalt stiffens the line and makes it much easier to handle, it tangles less and the stageons slip less than on the white, undipped line.

The hawk was in our backyard today at noon. It showed its back and then turned around for a frontal picture. Nice to see. It was overlooking our main bird feeder while 20 or so cardinals, chickadees, titmice and woodpeckers ate seeds seemingly unconcerned. The Red-shouldered is a mammal/reptile etc. hawk and things would have been different had it been a “bird hawk” like a Coopers or Sharpshinned. But the birds seemed to know the difference.

The river is at 2.7 feet on the Butte La Rose gauge, rising slightly to 3.4 feet by midweek next. The Mississippi and Ohio are both resting for the time being.

Rise and Shine, Jim


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