The Wild Side for Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012

Another summer, another hurricane and another time when Capital City freshwater fishermen can only wonder if Mother Nature leaves them any hope of a future in their cherished pastime.

There are dead fish everywhere across the southern parishes. The Lake Verret-Belle River appears to have been the hardest hit.

There’s no better place than the Verret Basin to take bigger-than-handsized bluegill, sac-a-lait and catfish for a springtime fish fry. But we’re left to ask what’s ahead for next spring?

Worse still is the situation in the northern reaches of the Barataria Basin, where the Davis Pond Diversion introduced championship bass fishing to the world during the last six years. You only have to point to Kevin VanDam’s record-setting Bassmaster Classic catch a couple of Februarys ago to understand the angst bass anglers feel when reports of large fish kills were reported in this area last week.

And we still don’t know what’s going to happen in the still-flooded Florida Parishes waterways, fish-rich Delacroix, and the result of fish kills that usually go unnoticed in the Mississippi River delta near Venice.

Then there’s that oil and tarballs showing up along Elmer’s Island and The Fourchon beaches, and we’re left trying to figure out how many years and how many more storms will produce the same result from the massive crude oil discharge from the BP-Deepwater Horizon disaster two years ago.

What washed up on those beaches early last week is serious. The photos prove the oil from that disaster is with us and something we likely will battle for the foreseeable future, even if we’re sometimes lulled into out-of-sight, out-of-mind forgetfulness. What washed up west of Grand Isle last week adds to the problems of existing 2-year-old oil that remains in some of the areas around the mouth of the Mississippi River and in Bay Jimmy off Barataria Bay.

Nearly two weeks after we boarded up, gassed up, made sure the generator worked, and we grieve for those who suffered from this weakest of last five storms to rake south Louisiana, duck hunters, especially those east of the Mississippi River, are left to wonder if they’ll have to go through another two years before their marshes will be lush enough to hold our country’s biggest number of overwintering waterfowl.

A successful Special September teal season won’t give us an indication of what’s ahead. Teal swarmed over the marshes after Katrina, Rita, Gustav and Ike. That was before the marshes went brown and the millions of ducks that fly here during the fall and winter found little or no sustenance in the storm-ravaged waters.

It was only last year that the marshes proved why our state supports so many wild birds. Aquatic grasses rebounded so strongly from those 2005 and 2008 storms that Louisiana, again, led the nation in the number of hunter-taken ducks.

Today we can only wonder, and pray.