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Hurricane Gustav and Fishing on the Yucatan

 

Over the Labor Day weekend over 2 million people fled the Louisiana and Mississippi gulf coast as Hurricane Gustav invaded the area devastated by Hurricane Katrina almost 3 years ago to the date. Ray Nagin, Mayor of New Orleans had ordered a mandatory evacuation calling Gustav the mother of all storms. Luckily New Orleans and the rest of the gulf coast got by rather well compared to Katrina.

 

The day before the storm hit, Angie and I left our home in West Monroe in Ouachita Parish in Northeast Louisiana and headed east on Interstate 20 towards Yucatan Lake, an oxbow lake off of the Mighty Muddy Mississippi River near Newelton Louisiana. Daddy and I had fished Yucatan many times when I was a kid. I remember stories of how they caught brim, chicapins, crappie, or Saco late as the Cajuns call them. I remember people telling me that they caught brim in 6 inch fishing webbing- that is a very big fish. I have been told that the fishing is best in Yucatan when the Mississippi at Vicksburg is at 19 feet. I had also heard stories of fish feeding frenzies as Hurricane Andrew approached Grand Isle Louisiana back in the 1980s. So I decided it was a good time to try Yucatan while the weather was still clear.

 

Interstate 20 was saturated in traffic as evacuees flooded the highway in route to Jackson or Memphis to avoid the storm and the potential floods. I knew that hotel rooms would be a premium so we searched and found a hotel about halfway to Yucatan at the Days Inn in Delhi. The next morning we woke up with the roosters and headed on down the highway with our homemade stainless steel Cajun made bateau boat. The last time we headed that way with our boat, the right hub and axel broke and we left the boat in Vicksburg for some expensive repairs for a week. I was a little apprehensive about traveling that far with the boat again.

 

On Sunday, just before we got to the Tallulah exit, I looked in the rearview mirror and noticed the left tire was bouncing badly on the rough pavement. Then I saw the tire and wheel fall off and roll dangerously back down the highway narrowly missing several cars. Then I saw the sparks fly as the hub rotated dangerously along the roadbed.

 

We left the boat on the side of the road for the second time in 2 months and went back to Delhi and searched for a solution to the tire dilemma. I knew it would be difficult to find some help on Sunday morning, Labor Day weekend with a hurricane approaching. We passed a tow truck service and luckily someone was standing in the parking lot by a wrecker. It took us 2 hours of hard labor to get the boat and trailer on his towing trailer but with the help of a jack, several blocks of wood and many chains, we managed to get it loaded. Then he hauled it to a mechanic that he had known for 30 years.

 

We grabbed up our fishing rods and tackle box and proceeded without the boat to Yucatan. We stopped at a bait shop and store in Newelton for some bologna and cheese for sandwiches and for directions. When we finally got to the boat dock, near the cabins, we saw 8 boats in the parking lot. Inside each boat were 2 ice chests full of very large brim and white perch that they had caught on cold worms. We did not have a boat and none of the fishermen wanted to take us out, so we headed back home again to face the invasion of Gustav.

 

 

When Gustav made it here, it stalled out for 3 days and dropped 6 inches of rain on our yard. Our house is at the bottom of a hill and all the woods and a large pasture drain into our yard. The house is built on a slab that I wish they had made a little higher. We have already had water get into the house from other thunderstorms. I drove down to the Monroe Civic Center, where many of the evacuees were camped out and picked up 20 sandbags. During the fist night Angie reported that brown water was coming in through the shower drain and flooding the bathroom and the small storage room across the hall from our bedroom. The buzzer on the septic tank pump was going off. Reluctantly I got up out of bed with my headlight and noticed that the woods were draining the flood water down hill into the lid of the septic tank. I opened the lid and water poured out. In the pouring rain, I placed several sandbags along the tank lid and put a sump pump inside the tank to drain the water into the driveway. The front yard looked like a catfish pond and water was rushing down the ditch along the driveway like Niagara Falls. Then Angie and I had to find the shop vac, brooms, mops, and towels to try to get the water out of the house. It was a rude awakening to say the least.

 

We were very glad when the storm finally passed on towards Texas. I canít  wait to get the boat out of the shop and go back to Yucatan.

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