May 9, 2014 -- The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) has begun de-watering Catahoula Lake with a target date of June 30 for reaching drawdown pool stage. The timeframe is similar to last year’s drawdown schedule and one month earlier than the traditional drawdown dates for this LaSalle Parish water body.
“We hope to complete this second early drawdown, following two years of later drawdowns in 2011 and 2012, as part of our experimental manipulations,” said Larry Reynolds, LDWF Waterfowl Study Leader. “This schedule also gives us a better chance of conducting physical and chemical treatment of encroaching woody vegetation.”
Despite very high water levels from rainfall in April, the water level has been steadily falling to nearly 32 feet at this time. It will be lowered to approximately 31 feet by May 31 and to 27.5 feet by June 30, rainfall and runoff permitting.
Catahoula Lake provides important wetland habitat for migrating waterfowl, shorebirds, and other wetland birds in Louisiana, especially during the late-summer and early-fall when shallow-flooded habitat is generally limited across the state. Lowering of water levels in summer exposes mudflats, which are used extensively by migrating shorebirds of many species, and stimulates germination and growth of annual plants that produce seeds and tubers that provide excellent foods for migrating and wintering waterfowl.
Varying summer drawdown date is one aspect of a management/research program exploring methods to combat encroaching woody vegetation on the lakebed while maintaining or enhancing the production of high-quality food plants for migrating and wintering waterfowl. Static water-level management is well known to reduce productivity in wetland systems, and may be providing conditions favoring the spread of Swamp privet and Water elm trees, which displace waterfowl food-producing plants like Chufa flatsedge and Sprangletop.
LDWF has partnered with researchers at LSU’s School or Renewable Natural Resources to expand ecological knowledge of Water elm, relate the encroachment of woody species to past environmental conditions, and evaluate vegetation responses to recent management actions in hopes of developing a more comprehensive plan for managing the lake to maintain or improve habitat conditions for migratory waterfowl.
For more information contact Larry Reynolds at (225) 765-0456 or Lreynolds@wlf.la.gov.