The marshlands, at this visit, seemed to be more threatened by the ‘channels dug for navigation and oil and gas extraction’ than by the effects of the oil spill. In many places along the edges of the marshes, damage from boat wave action can be seen on the marsh edges. Wave action has dug out the edges that will eventually be ‘sluiced’ down the man-made channels and carried out to the Gulf.
Noel Vic, Traditions Media, North American Hunter and North American Fisherman, explores the marshlands for signs of healthy marshland and, later on, doesn’t come up empty-handed.
Despite best hopes, signs still exist of marshland destruction. Once, there were thick swatches of high grass everywhere in the marshes; now, in some cases, only little ‘spits’ that dot the horizon.
Capt. Terry Lambert, a Fishing Guide for 16 years, and someone that knows these waters ‘like the back of his hand,” guides a group of us for the day.
Capt. Terry Lambert understands these marshlands intimately. He explains the relationship between the river and bayous, explains to us how valuable the marshlands are to the redfish, trout and other species, and sadly shares, too, that if we don’t start doing something to preserve and restore them, the great fishing that he grew up experiencing will not be there for future generations.
Once marshlands breach like this one, it’s like an open wound and the marshlands become more vulnerable to the weather and the constant ‘wear and tear’ by boat traffic and . With just a narrow break now, in a month it could be 20 yards, then it will disappear.
Small shrimp boats will often ‘hold up’ on a strip of marshland so they don’t have to travel all the way back to port every day. Shrimp men, a tough breed, will stay overnight on their boats and head out to the Gulf early the next morning. Other boats will just be abandoned.
Wider swatches of marshland are in jeopardy just as well. Boat traffic, weather and ‘channeling’ by the big oil companies all threaten their existence.
While the bigger areas look healthy and still, in fact, support larvae hatches and provide juvenile protection against predator fish, they continue to be vulnerable.
Marshlands in these images are prime nesting areas of indigenous species. These areas must be preserved to sustain healthy populations along the Louisiana Coastline.
Writers and photographers from around the country came to visit the marshlands to see for themselves the condition of the marshes. Narrowly escaping any damage from the BP oil spill, they all found that the marshlands were still healthy and supporting the hatcheries and the bigger fish that breed and feed there.
“Hydrilla oxygenates the water,” according to Capt. Terry, “and is redfish heaven. Fish the hydrilla and you’ll catch fish.
Shrimp larvae also take refuge in hydrilla, and ‘another reason why if you fish the hydrilla you’ll catch redfish,’ according to Capt. Lambert.
And then there are crabs that can also be found in a healthy bayou environment.
Juvenile blue claws, such as this one, are signs that the marshes are healthy and can sustain fisheries.
Noel Vic digs around for water critters and comes up with some interesting things…
Noel displays a cluster of oysters.
Redfish is a staple of the marshland waters. These are one of the most sought after species and one of the most tasty in the area. This particular area of the marshland was never closed to fishing. It remained open throughout.
They are just as delicious as they are beautiful.
Noel Vic continues looking…
…and he’s pleased to see the marshland grasses full of snails, shrimp, crabs and an assortment of other critters. The waters in and around Buras thankfully escaped effects of the oil spill.
A fishing guide in the bayou reads the marine life and waters like someone else reads a book. He sees things and explains things that most take for granted. Here, Capt. Terry Lambert, shows off an oyster and explains how it has attached itself to other oysters as part of normal behavior to establish itself on the bottom.
Another critter that is plentiful down there is the fiddler crab. Known to burrow 6 feet into the sand, they can be easily seen among the marshland grasses. They are not for human consumption, but the birds and other indigenous species find them irresistible.
This little bog is not long to be around. Eroded from wave action, wind and rain, and not protected by more of its kind, it will soon be broken off and just melt away into the Mississippi River.
The name of this man made island is the CWPPRA Bay Joe Wise restoration project. The project was completed last year and cost $35 million. It’s the beginning of similar projects to restore some of the sand, silk and mud that’s been lost to the river. Eventually, it will be inhabited by wildlife like many of the other islands and marshlands.
Looking out over the newly man made CWPPRA Bay Joe Wise restoration project, plantings are already taking hold.