Thursday, December 16, 2010
Oil spill didn’t kill fish in south Louisiana
I’m dictating this column while driving down Highway 25 with barely enough time to get to the Rotary Club meeting in Starkville. My GPS says I will arrive at 12:02, just two minutes late. What did we do before gps?
We had just come back from a week’s vacation and I had forgotten about the meeting, so I am dictating this column. It will be interesting to see if it changes my style.
Of course, the meeting was on my web-based Google calendar which I was free to check at any point, but it seems the more technology invades my life, the more I tend to resist it.
Many of my columns are published in other newspapers throughout the state including the Starkville Daily News, so they tend to feel they know me through my column.
My grandfather did the same thing, as did my father. Traditions run deep in Mississippi. No telling how many civic clubs I have spoken to in the past 20 years.
I’m not exactly sure why I feel I have to write this column. We all have an inflated sense of our self-worth. In reality, many of our jobs can be done by others. No one would probably miss a column and the harsh reality is the world will even go on without us. But it’s become a tradition in my life and so I dictate.
I have a couple of things I want to share. First of all, the oil spill didn’t kill the fish in south Louisiana. After being bugged constantly by my 12-year-old son Lawrence, I finally fulfilled a promise and took him and his buddy Harper Pickering marsh fishing in Cocodrie.
Harper’s dad Chip came along as well and it was a pleasure spending a couple of days with him.
We headed out at daybreak, cruising through the marshland as the gorgeous sun rose. Soon we were out on the open water and our guide, Mr. Honeycut, began scouring the horizon for birds.
The birds are the signposts for the speckled trout - the bread and butter fish in the marshland. But today, unlike other recent days, there were no birds feeding on the trout, and we had to move on to the marsh bayous in search of redfish and drum.
After a couple of hours, we were still skunked, and Lawrence started moaning about his bad luck with fishing. I had to assure him and Harper that south Louisiana fishing never disappoints. And sure enough, the redfish and drums started biting the frozen shrimp like crazy. By the end of the day, we had caught well over 100 fish. And each of the boys had pulled in a plus-20 pound drum. Within minutes the tech-savvy boys had posted their victory photos on Facebook.
Chip and I talked to Honeycut about the oil spill and the attitude of the 100 or so Cocodrie residents toward BP. Honeycut said BP made everybody whole and then some. “Nobody in this town has any right to complain. For many it was the best year they ever had.” Honeycut went on to say that there are always a few people for whom nothing is ever enough. But those types of people will never be satisfied. Most of the money was made providing lodging, boats, food and services for all the workers brought in to clean up the BP oil spill.
Honeycut said, “I’ve been doing this for 30 years. I love it down here. This is my life. I’m all for protecting the environment, but you can take anything to an extreme.”
I didn’t see one single sign of oil in my eight hours in the marsh. And the fishing, except for the lack of the fickle trout, was superb. We threw 90 percent of the fish back, and just kept the ones that were good eating size.
The only change Honeycut noted was the salinity of one of the main fishing lakes in the area. This changed the type of fish, but attracted the ducks. And this fall, Cocodrie is having a great duck hunting season. Ironically, the change in salinity was not caused by the oil spill itself, but by a corps of engineers dictated release of fresh water from the Mississippi River, which was supposed to prevent the oil from moving inland. As usual, it seems human efforts to solve problems often compound the problem.
Thanks to the invention of e-mail I had earlier alerted 20 or so of my friends that we would be back Saturday night with fresh fish, and to be at our house at 7 p.m., so the pressure had indeed been on to produce. Given the opportunistic nature of my friends, they all texted me just before seven to make sure the fresh fish was at hand. Apparently hot dogs and my company were not enough to make their night. But the word spread, the hours-old fish were in hand and we feasted for hours with four or five different recipes as everyone showed off their fish-cooking prowess.
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