Biologists Moreland, McElroy  tackling once-thriving Honey Island

Dave Moreland and Mark McElroy chose different professional paths to reach the same point in their retirement.

Moreland’s chosen field was upland game, and he achieved nearly all there was to have when it came to the biology of Louisiana’s upland species. First there was work in the Pearl River Wildlife Management Area, followed by increasing challenges all the way up the ladder to State Deer Study leader, then to the chief of the state’s Wildlife Division.

McElroy was a fisheries biologist, who guided several programs, the latest of which was to find ways to control giant salvinia in state waters. His plans to control giant salvinia on Lake Bistineau have become a pilot plan for the state.

Now retired, both work for each other, Moreland helping McElroy with pond management, and McElroy assisting Moreland when it comes to deer management.

Their latest exploits landed them in the Honey Island Swamp, a stretch of what once was as pristine a swamp as there was on the eastern edge of the state.

Their trip produced two giant feral hogs: Moreland said he was stunned by the lack of hunters in what was, years ago, an extraordinarily productive hunting area.

“It is disappointing to see the swamp that I have traversed for almost 40 years in the condition it is in,” Moreland said. “There is only less than 10 percent of the mature oaks in the lower swamp left standing, and hopefully will provide mast for the next forests. So many of the trees that were damaged by Katrina have died, (then) Hurricane Isaac and the saltwater killed the thick ground cover of briars and other vegetation.

“But the blackberry is coming back, and trumpet creeper is coming on strong and is providing new forage for the deer. There is oak regeneration, but there is also a lot of tallow tree regeneration ... in about 25 years, barring any future damaging storms, hunters will be able to get around a little easier, but us old guys will not see it, much less enjoy the swamp that has given us so much.”

New reef in Breton

Another Katrina story surfaced when CCA Louisiana announced it was using material from Buras High School for a new artificial reef in Breton Sound. Buras High was heavily damaged during Katrina, and local officials decided to abandon the school and others for the South Plaquemines High after the 2005 storm.

CCA Louisiana, Shell Oil, the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, the Barrier Island Restoration and Development Society and Bertucci Contractors began construction on the first-ever reef in Breton Sound this week.

“This is a great story of rebirth,” said Plaquemines Parish Economic Development director Stan Mathes “Buras High School has deep meaning for thousands of area residents. To have it live on as part of important new coastal habitat is truly special.”

The project will create a 6-8 acre reef in an area north and east of California Point. CCA-Louisiana’s release indicated reef coordinates will be announced after the project is completed. It’s reef No. 11 for CCA’s reef program, and the fourth to use recycled material.

Shell Oil, CCA’s Building Conservation Trust through the Paul Candies family, LDWF’s Artificial Reef Trust Fund and the Barrier Island RDS provided funding.

Validation problems

The LDWF issued an advisory to hunters having problems with deer-tag validations to call local LDWF field offices.

Hunters have identified problems with the voice recognition system linked to the toll-free reporting number (866) 484-4805. Field offices now will accept and record tag validation information.

Area offices and phone numbers include: Baton Rouge (225) 765-2346; Hammond (985) 543-4777; Opelousas (337) 948-0255; and, Pineville (318) 487-5885.

FFF auction

The Future Fisherman Foundation begins its “Second Chance Auction” on Thursday for items that didn’t draw bids during FFF’s annual pre-Thanksgiving on-line auction.

“With the success of our annual auction event, we have had a few additional captains come forward and offer some exciting trips to some great destinations,” FFF executive director Mark Gintert said.

All items are listed on FFF’s website: http://future
fisherman.org. Another link to the auction is through eBay.