It's Business As Usual for Louisiana Fly Fishing Guides
Over a week after BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, crude oil is still spewing into the sea. The massive oil slick which made landfall last week threatens to become the worst environmental catastrophe in US history.
Ground zero for the spill happens to be in America’s premier supply for shrimp, crawfish, and blue crabs. It’s also the place to go for fly fishermen who have their sights set on redfish. Bruce Smithhammer of High Country Flies in Jackson Hole, Wyoming is one of those traveling anglers, and made his first trip to fish for the redfish of coastal Louisiana a few weeks ago. Said Smithhammer, “To imagine what’s about to happen to the marsh that I was just recently exploring, all the wildlife I saw, all the livelihoods tied to the fishery…well, as others have already said, it’s beyond words, and I feel helpless.”
The marshes of the northern Gulf Coast are prime habitat for redfish, who feed along shell bars, grassy shorelines and on shallow flats. Pre-spill estimates are that Louisiana is losing up to a football field of marsh per day. One of the primary concerns of local guide, and manager of Uptown Angler in New Orleans, Dayne Larsen, is the impact the oil will have on the marsh grass. The grass beds will soak it up and die. Once the roots systems that are essentially holding the marsh in place fail, the grasses will be carried off by the sea, never to return.
That kind of talk is pretty grim news to area guides whose livelihood depends on the fishery, but as we all saw in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, these people know how to pull together in times of crisis and move forward.
“We ain’t dead yet,” said Capt. Alec Griffin, of Louisiana Flywater. Griffin, who was featured in the fly fishing film Rise, said that there is still a lot of marsh to fish that hasn’t been affected by the oil spill making landfall. In fact, Griffin said that despite all of the negative press on the area since the spill made national headlines, fishing continues to be fantastic. The marshes on the Westbank of the Mississippi River in lower Plaquemines Parish are still fishing well. “We’ve got to remain confident, but not over-confident. No other attitude helps.”
Griffin seemed concerned that despite officials having a plan to stop the leak, they still haven’t made public any concrete plans to keep the oil out of the marsh. Said Griffin, “We’ve got a big problem, and a big potential problem. If in fact the oil starts getting into new areas, I’ll be out there with my skiff doing all I can to be part of the solution. In the meantime, we’re just trying to go about business as usual, and to let people know that the fishing is still good.”