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How has the Gulf oil spill affected the fishing for redfish near New Orleans? Things may have gotten ugly by the time you read this, but as of May 18 the news was all good. Correspondent Bob Stearns reports:

“Considering all the gloom and doom-type media coverage the Deep Horizon oil spill has received over the past four weeks, you might expect the entire inshore fishery throughout the Louisiana marshes to be totally trashed. But as of May 18 that is not the case. I say that having just talked to a number of guides who specialize in sightfishing for redfish in marshes on both side of the Mississippi River delta. They told me there is still plenty of good fishing to be had in most areas.

“Areas where oil has landed are closed to all fishing by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. The extent of these closures seems to change almost daily with the wind and tides, which perhaps is a bit confusing, but keep in mind that at no time thus far have any of these closures included a significant part of the prime inshore fishing areas. As of May 18, there were only three closed areas: the lower delta northeastward through parts of Breton and Chandeleur Sounds and the Chandeleur Islands; a smaller area along the coast west of Grand Isle near Cocodrie; and an even smaller area along the coast south of Vermillion Bay. Some oil has come ashore in these areas, hence the closures. You can easily verify this and keep track of future closures by going to:

“At this time, all of the Biloxi Marsh is open to fishing, contrary to what you might expect if you have been watching the news on TV. This extensive area on the east side of the Mississippi delta is a prime spot to catch giant redfish in shallow water. Just before filing this report on May 19, I talked to Capt Gary Taylor, who fishes large areas of the marshes on both sides of the delta. Taylor had just returned from scouting 130 miles of the Biloxi Marsh by boat. He reports seeing an abundance of fish, birds, shrimp and no oil. He’s so encouraged he plans to go back there with clients for the next several days. Capt. Bryan Carter also told me that fishing in the same area has continued to be good, with no signs of oil. And Capt. Mark Brockhoeft notes that thus far no oil has reached the Grand Isle area. Fishing remains good there as well.

“For sure, this good-news scenario may change in coming days and weeks. But, for now, there is no reason not to book a redfish trip to the New Orleans area. Once you do, simply keep in touch with your guide for updates.”

(Postscript: A big source of worry at press time was a report that small amounts of surface oil may be entering an eddy at the northern extent of what is called the Loop Current. The Loop Current flows northward between Cuba and the Yucatan Peninsula into the Gulf of Mexico, where it loops eastward and southward before exiting to the east through the Florida Straits. A major infusion of oil into that high volume current could spell serious trouble for south Florida and the Keys at some point in the future. We’ll keep you posted on that.)

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