Bijou Blowout

The Vanishing Paradise team and outdoor writers descend on Lafitte, Louisiana for explosive redfishing – as well as an education.

This piece was originally posted on Vanishing Paradise’s website.

By Lew Carpenter, National Wildlife Federation

Five outdoor writers representing sportsmen from coast-to-coast recently joined a Vanishing Paradise team for two days of fishing out of Captain Theophile Bourgeois’ Cajun Vista Inn in Lafitte, Louisiana.

The Louisiana Wildlife Federation's Chris Macaluso shows the camera his catch.

The calm skies were dusted with distant thunderheads as we headed out into the marsh with Captain Mike. Several stops along the way afforded Louisiana Wildlife Federation Coastal Outreach Coordinator Chris Macaluso the opportunity to show us areas of vast wetland loss, as well as projects that are currently working to rebuild the marsh.

By bringing key outdoor writers into this precious resource, the National Wildlife Federation’s Vanishing Paradise campaign will reach hundreds of thousands of sportsmen across the country in a significant way.

For example, Rich Holland, an outdoor writer from the West Coast, writes for BASS publications, West Coast fishing outlets and an abundance of other media outlets; Hal Herring of Montana writes for Field and Stream; Nic Conklin writes for Lone Star Outdoor News in Texas – you get the picture. These outdoor writers (among other writers in attendance) provide a well-vetted gateway to the nation’s hunters and anglers – folks who care about the quality of habitat in the coastal wetlands and understand the significance of these wetlands to our hunting and fishing heritage.

A beautiful delta redfish

Fishermen and hunters across the nation have a stake in the rapid loss of Louisiana’s coastal wetlands. For the more than 10 million ducks and geese wintering in the fertile marshes, to the world-class inshore and offshore fisheries – Louisiana’s coastal wetlands are the key to sustaining Mississippi Flyway hunting and abundant Gulf Coast recreational fishing.

The area is at great risk.

As we cruised the grasslands of the marsh and gazed upon the sporadic ghost trees – the last remnants of once great cypress forests – our day’s dialogue pondered what losing the vast resource could mean. Conversation was broken up by the explosive strikes of bronze-backed redfish, reminding us of the great opportunities currently at hand, and those opportunities at risk as the marsh recedes and the habitat declines.

Afternoons back at Theophile Bourgeois’ Cajun Vista Inn brought the message full circle as resource managers from Louisiana highlighted the struggles and successes of their fight to restore the wetlands. A common, unfortunate message pointed to the roadblocks of working with the Army Corps of Engineers. The future of the wetlands rests in sportsmen’s ability to create action and a sense of urgency through the political process. This is where the Vanishing Paradise campaign comes into play: By uniting sportsmen throughout the Mississippi Flyway and across the country to speak up for one the greatest fisheries on the planet – as well as the millions of ducks and geese the use this area for winter habitat.

Cruising the marsh - On the second day, the group caught an average of 12 fish each.

It’s no coincidence that on July 21, a bipartisan coalition of Gulf Senators cosponsored the RESTORE the Gulf Coast Act. The legislation ensures that fines from last year’s oil spill are used to help restore the Gulf ecosystem. The oil spill compounded already degraded habitats that support many species of fish, waterfowl and other wildlife.

The Vanishing Paradise campaign is having success, and we urge all sportsmen to join the fight to restore coastal wetlands and provide the habitat necessary for the fish and game we love for now and future generations to enjoy.