NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - A fish frenzy is taking place at the Bonnet Carre Spillway in New Orleans as the Mississippi River rises.
Thousands of freshwater fish are moving in from the swollen Mississippi, and into ponds in the spillway basin. They are producing a big benefit for people who love a Louisiana delicacy.
With the river rising onto the spillway structure, freshwater is now leaking through spillway pins once more, as designed.
With all that freshwater, thousands of fish, called ‘gizzard shad’, are pouring in as well, and are now pooling up in ponds inside the spillway levees, producing a free for all for Louisiana fishermen used to strict limits when catching other species.
Some have come out here their whole lives for a fishing experience unlike any other. They catch all they can carry off, no hook required.
"I'm having fun. This is a blast," said fisherman Kevin Alphonse.
Normally fishermen boast of filling an ice chest. Here, they scoop fish from a culvert, which carries river water toward the lake, until their truck beds are full.
This week alone they estimate they pulled in well over 10,000 pounds.
These fish won't be sold to restaurants. Crawfish farmers are lining up to use them as bait for the spring harvest.
Even though these fish are great for catching crawfish, none of these guys say they would ever actually eat one themselves.
"I wouldn't try them...too many bones," said Alphonse.
It’s not just people that are attracted to these huge numbers of fish. Hundreds of migratory white pelicans have set up residence here as have more than a dozen bald eagles, all taking part in the river feast.
The haul is expected to continue for much of the week.
Though the river is expected to rise again in about two weeks, for now, the spillway gates are expected to remain closed.
"Right now, it's not in the forecast but conditions do change," said Matt Roe, with the Army Corps of Engineers.
Corps officials ask that you check in with the spillway supervisors if you plan on going out to catch shad. You are also required to have a state fishing license.
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