July 6, 2011-- The historic flooding along the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers has prompted a change in the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries’ (LDWF) water-level management at Catahoula Lake. LDWF’s altered plan for 2011 includes drawing the lake down a month later than usual.
Traditionally, Catahoula Lake was de-watered during the months of June and July to promote germination and growth of vegetation that provides food for migrating and wintering waterfowl. The drawdown currently underway will continue into August. The intent of the later drawdown is to inhibit germination of encroaching woody species without negatively impacting waterfowl food production. The lake will still be re-flooded prior to opening the East Zone duck season in mid-November.
“Last year, LDWF initiated a 10-year management and research plan that includes varying water-level management from traditional dates in an attempt to reduce woody encroachment and maintain or improve waterfowl food production”, said Larry Reynolds, LDWF Waterfowl Study Leader. “We had intended to draw the lake down earlier this year, but that was impossible due to very high water levels in local river systems.”
Along with varying water-levels, the experimental management plan includes collecting vegetation data from permanent monitoring plots, evaluating the effect of LDWF’s woody control activities including herbicide spraying, mowing, and clearing, and scientific studies on woody-encroachment on the lakebed. The research studies are being accomplished in cooperation with researchers from LSU’s School of Renewable Natural Resources. Additionally, further investigation of lead poisoning and lead-shot availability on the lakebed will be undertaken. The goal is to use knowledge gained from these studies to better manage and maintain this valuable habitat for migratory waterfowl and other wetland birds.
The initial management plan was introduced last August to a gathering of approximately 40 local hunters, landowners, and people with a keen interest in Catahoula Lake management. LDWF will conduct two public meetings in August to present a more comprehensive plan and participate in public discussions regarding anticipated changes in the management of the lake. Meeting dates and locations will be announced in advance on the LDWF website and through public notice in local newspapers.
One change in the management plan this year provides for the opportunity to cut hay on the lakebed, if conditions allow. LDWF staff is currently preparing maps and a bid prospectus to allow individuals to bid to cut and remove hay from selected areas at Catahoula Lake. It is anticipated that haying will help inhibit growth of encroaching woody species, and cutting will be timed to minimize impacts on waterfowl food production. The bid announcement is expected later this month.
The Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is charged with managing and protecting Louisiana's abundant natural resources. For more information, visit us at www.wlf.louisiana.gov on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ldwffb or follow us on Twitter @LDWF.
For more information, contact Larry Reynolds at email@example.com  or 225-765-0456.