Editor’s Note: As residents of southern Louisiana and Mississippi begin what will be a difficult, long-term cleanup in the aftermath of Hurricane Isaac, Outdoor Life will continue to provide updates regarding the storm’s impact on hunting, fishing and marsh erosion. The latest information will appear at the top of this post. Click here to see previous updates.

I was very much out of the big-picture loop yesterday as I spent most of the day on a boat riding through squalls to get to Hopedale, which is a popular launching point for many local anglers. We went as far as we could on the main road (still 8 miles or so from Hopedale), launched in what is normally a roadside ditch and, after some deft maneuvering from the commercial fisherman who was my hired captain for the day, we boated over the flooded road all the way into Hopedale.

There were, of course, boats scattered everywhere, some remarkably unscathed and others driven by the wind and surge hundreds of yards into the marsh. Many camps were knocked off their spindly pilings; others appeared entirely intact. The water was still about 6 feet above normal, so the covered boat docks all looked like they were designed by and for the Seven Dwarfs. Fitting a boat under most was an impossibility.

The main bayou in front of Hopedale was full of debris dams, comprised mostly of brown Spartina, stripped from the marshes during the storm. Every patch of marsh was littered with the decaying corpses of fallen nutria. Other nutria that hadn’t yet gotten quite that far in their level of exhaustion tried to hold their noses above water in the open sections of the bayou. They lacked the strength to even get out of the way of the approaching boat.

We motored with ease under the camps of two local captains to check on the damage. Where we ran the boat, only a week earlier had been well-manicured lawns.

I haven’t made it to Venice yet, but I’m sure it’s a mess down there. Until we know the full extent of the damage, here’s one silver lining: After Katrina, the fishing across Southeast Louisiana was ridiculously good. Here’s hoping that we’ll wear out our electric knives before too long.
–Todd Masson,