News & Resolutions

Investigating Isaac's Impacts

September 14, 2012 12:00 AM

Hurricane Isaac lumbered and plodded across South Louisiana, shoving storm surges as high as 14 feet into some of the state’s most popular and productive coastal fishing and hunting areas.

Reports from charter boat captains and fishermen across the coast tell differing tales about Isaac’s destruction to wetlands, beaches, communities, bait shops and marinas.

Hardest hit, undoubtedly, are areas east of the Mississippi River near popular fishing towns like Shell Beach and Delacroix where storm surges of 10-14 feet poured in and stayed for nearly 72 hours. Most areas west of the river through Jefferson, Lafourche and Terrebonne Parish still felt Isaac’s wrath, with surge heights anywhere from two to eight feet.

Todd Masson, long-time South Louisiana outdoor writer and publisher of the popular fishing website laspecks.com, surveyed the marshes near Delacroix as soon as winds and waves abated enough to let him launch his boat.

Masson said much of the area’s productive brackish and freshwater marsh, lush with aquatic vegetation and healthy stocks of largemouth bass and redfish in the days leading up to Isaac’s landfall, showed profound scars from the nearly week-long pounding of salty storm surge. He said Delacroix’s camps and marinas fared little better.

“Areas that still had some shoreline left after Hurricane Katrina looked to be washed out for good now,” he said. “Big swaths of marsh, especially the freshwater and brackish marsh that looked healthy and full of good duck food and fish habitat before the storm, are now just open water. And the saltier marsh farther out showed damage as well. The impacts are very noticeable.”

Masson said Katrina, which savagely battered the area seven years ago with winds topping 125 miles per hour and a storm surge exceeding 20 feet, seemed to pick up the marsh and shove it under every camp and house in Delacroix. But Katrina also moved an enormous amount of speckled trout into the marsh. Isaac, so far, has been different.

“Katrina was a marsh grass event. Delacroix was covered in grass as far as you could see but this time around it’s mud. Every camp, every road has a couple of feet of mud on it,” he said. “After Katrina, the speckled trout fishing was unbelievable. As devastated as the area was, the fishing was amazing. Not sure we’ll see that this time around. It’s Delacroix and the fall is coming so surely we’ll catch them eventually. But it may take longer for the trout to show up after Isaac.”

Captain Ryan Lambert, owner and operator of Cajun Fishing Adventures in Buras, said his prime duck hunting areas on the east side of the river, about 50 miles south of Delacroix in Plaquemines Parish, likely suffered similar damage from the relentless saltwater shoved in by Isaac.

“We have certainly lost a lot of that great food we had in the ponds but we should still have ducks coming to us,” Lambert said. “As long as we get freshwater from the Mississippi flowing through the cuts along the river bank and into our marsh on the east side, we’ll have some grass coming back and also have the snails and other invertebrates that the ducks will come to eat.”

Lambert said the town of Buras was damaged very little from storm surge, though water levels reached the top of both the Mississippi River levee to the east and the storm surge levee to the west. But Isaac’s relentless winds and rain still left their mark.

“We lost part of the roof on one of our lodges and it filled with rainwater, but we’ll be back soon,” he said. “Katrina didn’t keep us from hunting and fishing and neither will this storm.”

Damage reports west of the river in the Barataria Basin have been less severe, though the areas around Grand Isle and Fourchon still bear scars from the storm and lingering effects of the BP oil spill.

Powerful wave action washed out two large sections of beach at Elmer’s Island, a popular surf fishing area just west of Grand Isle. The washouts now connect the Gulf to the marsh and bays behind the beach, exposing them to stronger waves and currents.

State officials have closed Elmer’s beach west to Fourchon because tar balls likely from the BP oil spill in 2010 washed ashore during the storm. Clean-up crews arrived at Elmer’s and Grand Isle the week after the storm passed.

Cleaning up is also the primary task for camp and marina owners on Grand Isle, Fourchon and Cocodrie. While damage to Louisiana Hwy 1 has limited access to Grand Isle, most camp and marina owners in the area said it could have been much worse. The Louisiana Dept. of Transportation and Development began repairing the only road in and out of Grand Isle as soon as water levels fell.

“We got some water across the island and there is some damage here and there,” said Capt. Frank Dreher of Laid Back Charter in Grand Isle. “But this was not Katrina for us. Sure we have some mud to clean and there is definitely some damage to the marsh behind the island. But we’ll be fishing again before you know it. And power washing away the mud is certainly much easier than replacing a roof or rebuilding the whole camp.”

 

Author:
Chris Macaluso, LWF Coastal Outreach Coordinator

 
 
 
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