For the last couple of decades Bayou St. John has been widely considered a stagnant, merely ornamental body of water. But with the help of the state, local fisheries experts, and a renewed commitment from City Park, that particular bayou is once again beginning to teem with life of all sorts.
Bayou St. John’s perceived stagnation was initially caused when floodgates were built in the 1990s to cut it off from Lake Pontchartrain, so that the water in bayou residential areas would not rise and fall dramatically with the tides, or top over during tropical storms. Thus, the first step to re-enlivening the Bayou St. John has been to reconnect it with Lake Pontchartrain.
The major floodgates, as well as the smaller, secondary sluice gates where Bayou St. John meets Lake Pontchartrain, have recently been intermittently opened for two hours at a time, letting in new water and new fish. The man-made sandbar on the lake side of the gates has been dredged to approximately six-feet deep to welcome more water and fish.
“The project hasn’t gotten a lot of financial support from the state,” says Mark Schexnayder, deputy assistant secretary with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, who helped put together a Bayou St. John Management Plan, which also covers the City Park lagoons that receive water from Bayou St. John.
Over the last two years, Schexnayder has helped win grants and raise other revenue for the extensive new water monitoring system needed to accomplish the careful task of increasing water flow to the bayou. The water management plan will also regulate saline levels, which, if too high, could kill important plant life along the bayou. “For safety’s sake, we can’t just leave the gates open all the time,” says Schexnayder. “And the floodgates will not be opened much during hurricane season.”
The point of the plan, says Schexnayder, is to increase recreational usage of Bayou St. John. The bayou’s once questionable water is already strikingly cleaner, and a new slew of fishermen who’ve become accustomed to landing many bass, bluegills and catfish on Bayou St. John, have also reported catching flounder and speckled trout there more recently, as well as a few redfish that Schexnayder has tagged with radio transmitters and a phone number fisherman can call to report their catch. CLICK HERE TO READ THE REST OF THE PIECE AT Louisiana Weekly…
And here’s some video of lots of fish in Bayou St John!