By the time you read this I’ll have celebrated my 67th birthday on planet Earth. There are plenty of folks around who are older than I am who could tell us things that have changed in their lifetimes. But no matter how old (or young) you are, you’ve witnessed some changes.
According to one of the greatest poets and songwriters, Robert Zimmerman, aka Bob Dylan, "Come gather 'round people wherever you roam and admit that the waters around you have grown, and accept it that soon you'll be drenched to the bone. If your time to you is worth savin' then you better start swimmin' or you'll sink like a stone…For the times they are a-changin'."
The song was written in the early '60’s and considered to be somewhat prophetic. Change is the one constant we can always bank on. 2020 has ushered in some historical and earth-shattering changes. If we live long enough, it will happen again, that’s for sure.
Back in my day, the times used to be a lot simpler than today. Kids entertained themselves with outside play, riding stick horses, playing chase or hide-and-seek. Only the main roads were black topped, the rest were gravel or shells and we could even run on them with bare feet.
And my, how things have changed in the outdoors as well through the years. Three boys (me, Cliff & Cousin Jeff) could be seen pedaling bicycles all over Gonzales fishing just about every day during the summer. Now one could drive more than 100 miles in thousands of dollars’ worth of truck and boat and catch fewer fish.
The first boat with a motor had a 3 hp Sea King on it that we filled up with gas by pouring it in the top like a lawn motor. It only had one gear (no neutral) and went forward so if you wanted to back up, the motor had to be turned around. This weekend I watched boats traveling well in excess of 60 or 80 mph passing by my pier.
When I was a young kid, there were thousands of acres of land open to the public to hunt on. Heck, us six boys used to go out the front door to our house on Gaudin Street with our BB and pellet guns ready to shoot the first birds we saw. Now if you don’t join a hunting lease or use game management areas, there’s no place to hunt.
Some folks complain about the number of people who fish today being higher than it used to be raising concerns about the viability of fish stocks. I remember when the Atchafalaya Spillway water levels fell in the spring, every boat launch that had access to the basin had lines sometimes a half mile long waiting to put boats in.
I remember fishing it with my dad and five brothers. Wow, there was no place on earth that could compare to the numbers of bream, goggle-eye, sac a lait and bass caught there. It’s still a good place to fish but nothing compared to the way it used to be. It’s not from over fishing, it’s from the changes that nature has made in its landscape.
In the '70’s I was introduced to a place south of New Orleans that had the same name as a famous place in Italy: Venice. At the time, Venice was well-known for its duck hunting, and the place was crowded somewhat on the opening weekends but that was probably because there was only one small boat launch back then.
But man, what a paradise. I was fortunate enough to be a regular guest to a duck lease belonging to my future brother and father-in-law. It’s hard to explain with words how awesome it was and there was no crowd to speak of. Now it’s the fishing capital of the world. Things change.
That’s where the most change has taken place, out coast line. It’s no secret anymore, we lose a football field worth of land every day. Since 2000, approximately 1,000,000 acres of wetlands have been lost since the turn of the century, and we continue to lose 25-35 square miles of wetlands each year.
Louisiana’s Department of Natural Resources claims that at current rates, nearly 640,000 more acres, an area nearly the size of Rhode Island, will be under water by 2050. Not all the wetlands are receding; in fact, some wetlands are stable, and others are growing.
But, at the present net rate of wetlands loss, it is predicted by some that Louisiana will have lost this crucial habitat in about 200 years. Considerable effort has been expended, and will continue to be expended, on understanding the processes that control wetlands evolution.
President Theodore Roosevelt tried to save East Timbalier island more than a century ago. The restoration efforts have continued since them. The state has finally decided to cut its losses and end a decades-long effort to restore it.
But that’s not before pouring nearly $20 million into East Timbalier Island’s recovery, including more than $7 million spent on planning and designing an ambitious new project that the state quietly canceled a few weeks ago.
“It’s too far gone,” said Darin Lee, a coastal resource scientist who manages the coastal protection agency's efforts to save East Timbalier. None of us wants to give up on this stretch of shoreline. We’ve spent a lot of time there, and a lot of money. But it’s had a cascade of additional costs ... and it’s eroding very, very fast.”
There’s another song (Big Yellow Taxi) written and recorded by Joni Mitchell in 1970 that seems sort of prophetic as well. The chorus goes like this; "Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got 'til it’s gone? They paved paradise put up a parking lot."
But there is one thing I have learned through history and experience in my own life. People make it through the hard times and bounce back. I am very hopeful that we will survive and triumph through these changes. The times they are a’ changing. So until next time, remember to keep the slack out and set the hook hard, be safe in the outdoors and may God truly bless you!