Possible Bonnet Carre Spillway opening would displace fish

Possible Bonnet Carre Spillway opening would displace fish
Bonnet Carre Spillway

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The Army Corps of Engineers is looking to possibly open the Bonnet Carre Spillway. It comes as river levels continue to rise due to heavy precipitation in the Ohio River Valley, Arkansas and Tennessee.

"The forecast indicates the river will get up to that 1.2 million cubic feet per second," said Matt Roe with the Army Corps of Engineers.

It's the magic number that means the Army Corps of Engineers must open the spillway. Right now, water levels are at 13.1 feet, but less than two weeks from now, the Mississippi could crest at 17 feet.

While they've yet to make a decision, the Corps has already started pre-operational procedures. If the spillway does open, it could have a big impact on fishing.

"Depending on what time of year they open the Bonnet Carre Spillway, Breeding and feeding cycles in the lake are changing. Always. Shrimp are coming in and out. Fish are coming in and out. Different species of fish are in different stages of their life cycle," said Captain C.T. Williams with Big Fish Charters.

Williams says that surge of fresh water is sure to disrupt fish, but he says exceptionally warm water plays a big role, too.

"In February, brown shrimp are moving into the lake. The larval stage brown shrimp come to the lake and then they get down in the grass beds and down on the bottom and they hide until they grow large enough to move back out and breed in open water," said Williams.

It means shrimp are likely well on their way to surviving a Spillway opening. Yet, the same can't be said for fish.

"In this particular situation, you're allowing a tremendous amount of river water into a lake early in the year, but sort of late or mature in its annual cycle," said Williams. "It'll definitely stop the fishing if it's a big enough opening. It always does."

Williams says if the spillway does open, it will mean commercial fishermen will have to travel farther, but it could have a more severe impact on charter anglers when clients learn there are fewer fish.

The Army Corps of Engineers could make a decision as soon as Monday.