It’s Spring in Louisiana. You cannot mistake the season for any other. The temperatures are rising, the rains are pouring, the gnats and mosquitoes are buzzing and the boaters on the lakes are idling…….
Each year it seems as if the rivers, lakes and other waterways of Louisiana just surprise everyone and rise over the banks that hold steadfast to keep the water at bay the rest of the year. We see a rise in the Mississippi River yearly and inevitably a rise in our local fishing and recreational waters as well.
Each year the situation causes strife within the water loving citizens of Louisiana. I guess since the dawn of time, the natural and spiritual need for man to be near water has drawn us to live near the water, fish the waters, and spend time in recreational activities on the water.
Occasionally (during high water) these different uses of the water can cause a little friction.
In Concordia Parish the three major lakes are Lake Concordia, Lake St. John, and the Black River Lake Complex. Those lakes are under the jurisdiction of the Concordia Parish Policy Jury as necessary for Drainage and Flood Control found in Chapter 9 of the jury’s code of ordinances. The Concordia Parish Police Jury is tasked with the obligation of keeping citizens safe on these waterways.
On April 15 the Concordia Parish Homeland Security posted the public notice concerning the Concordia Parish Police Jury Emergency Order 21-001 declaring a “no wake zone, idle speeds only” for the area lakes. The post declares that the order was declared “for the safety of boaters as water levels will begin to decrease rapidly” once the pumps are turned on. My only thought was to stay away from the overflow structures to keep from being sucked south to Black River Lake!
May 2021, Volume 125
Continue Reading Below.
Continue Reading Below.
On April 22, at the Bassin’ in the Boot Big Bass Thursday Tournament hosted by Spokane Resort on Lake St. John a sign was at the boat launch declaring the entire lake a “no wake” zone.
Most times each spring this ordeal plays out over the course of a few weeks and then disappears until the next high-water incident. This year the high-water situation just happens to coincide with the Bass Tactix High School Fishing State Championship scheduled for April 30th and May 1st on Lake St. John and Lake Concordia.
The Bass Tactix Outdoors Fishing Program is a Christian based program sanctioned under The Bass Federation (TBF), Students Angler Federation (SAF), and the Fishers of Men National Tournament Trail (FOMNTT). Anglers from Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Louisiana are eligible.
Youth ages are 5 thru 18 can fish the event and any adult over 19 years of age can be a coach and also compete. Youth anglers can have partners from anywhere since it's a NO School required Series. Example, John from Boss, LA can have a partner from Jones, MS.
These qualifiers allow the youth to qualify for the TBF, SAF, and MLF HS Series National World Finals (see www.tbffishing.com for updated information). Bass Tactix has now partnered with the North Mississippi FCA Outdoors and leader Jay Thomason of Hernando, MS. This will help us reach even more youth and adults, offering a greater outreach, giving even more opportunities for all participants.
Each year Bass Tactix gives away thousands of dollars in Cash, Prizes, and Scholarships. In 2021 they are giving out over 750 Thousand in scholarship opportunities for the youth anglers.
The economic impact of 75-80 teams fishing our area lakes for a few days is huge. All of those teamsa, adult boat captains and family supporters travel to support their anglers. They are staying in our hotels, eating in our restaurants, buying tackle and gas in our stores and spending money in other areas of our town. This could become an annual event where the Miss-Lou area benefits yearly from the organization coming to the area. That is unless they choose not to return.
The decision to make the lakes idle only creates a problem for anglers, as moving about the lake to find fish, bass in particular, is important in strategy and success. As a citizen of Concordia Parish and co-owner of Bassin’ in the Boot, I felt inclined to research the process and procedures for making the decision. It is clear from the post by the Concordia Parish Homeland Security that the biggest concern is boater safety. I can agree that is a huge concern of mine especially since I fish “9 days a week!”
I started my inquiry by talking with my police jury representative Mr. Adam Probst. Mr. Probst told me that he was unclear why the decision was made and that I should contact fellow jury member Mr. Joe Parker. Mr. Parker explained to me that the decision was made based on information after collaborating with the Lake Concordia Advisory Committee headed by Mr. Dixon Cole. A voice mail was left with Mr. Cole but no return call has been made.
On April 29, I reached out to our Sheriff, Mr. David Hedrick to see if the ordinance would be in effect for the tournament. He and I discussed several things including the economic impact. He said he would make a phone call or two and call me back. He returned my call and ensured me the following would be acceptable:
Lake Concordia – Boats could run on the undeveloped side of the lake but should idle on the pier side to ensure boater safety.
Lake St. John- Boats could run down the middle of the lake but should idle from the middle to the piers to ensure boater safety.
Continue Reading Below.
Emergency Public Notice notice sent out by CPHS declaring all major lakes in Concordia Parish "Idle Only" "for the safety of boaters". These notifications and edicts have become all too familiar for anglers in the area, and for most the reasoning is unknown. There exists no standards, benchmarks, elevations, or documented procedures on when the lakes should be declared idle only. Most anglers feel it is only to prevent damage to piers that were built too low to the water, again due to a lack of proper regulation on the water bodies.
This I posted on Facebook to let our followers know what the Sheriff had told me.
I still do not know the answer to my original question. What processes and procedures do we go by to determine if and when a lake should be made “idle only, no wake.” There is no posted gauge to my knowledge on any of the lakes that indicates a level unsafe to operate normal boating speeds.
My next question was what is it exactly that makes the lakes “unsafe” for boaters to travel the public bodies of water. The question no matter who I asked seemed to come back to “it’s not about the piers” but outside of the piers there isn’t anything that would make the lake unsafe, is it?
If the only dangers posed for boaters on the waterways is piers then it seems logical that a standard should exist to protect boaters from any potential hazards that a manmade structure over public water should create. I could not find any requirements, permits or regulations for piers built on the parish lakes but I found the regulations for Cross Lake in Shreveport. That can be found at https://crosslakeshreveport.com/cross-lake-rules-and-regulations-shreveport/ and specifically in section 3 where it covers permits and pier construction.
Mr. Dixon Cole, President of the Lake Concordia Advisory Committee, returned my call and we spoke about the process and procedures and a few things the lake committee and police jury are working on to help resolve the issues at hand. He told me of infrastructure projects and drainage cleaning that needs to be completed by the police jury. The drainage canals that allow the water to flow from the north end of the parish to the south inevitably landing in Black River Lake. Several projects are on the table that would help get the water out of Black River Lake with pumping stations such as the Wildcow Pumping Station mentioned in the Homeland Security post.
Mr. Cole is an avid outdoorsman and understands the issue from both sides of the coin. He told me he has been on the lake almost his entire life and never wants to see the water usage restricted but the safety of the public is the utmost concern of the committee. When asked about that and the piers posing the danger, he admitted some piers are in fact too low. Some were built by home owners and others were there when they purchased the property. However, with no regulations or permits there can be no decision as to what is an adequate height to build a structure over the public tax payer owned lake.
I asked Mr. Cole as well as Mr. Joe Parker about representation on the various boards that the police jury have for advisory purposes. Both agreed it wasn’t a bad idea to have representation of more than just land owners on the committees. Mr. Parker suggested we ask for, and once granted permission, to speak at a jury meeting to bring that up for consideration.
Believing the anglers and the landowners want to work together to compromise moving forward should not be difficult. Hopefully a resolution can be made to at the very least be a guide for everyone to follow.