There’s probably a treasure trove of stuff that’s been dropped into Wham Brake over the past 60 or so years. Only bad thing is, it’s probably rusted, covered in years of silt…or worse. In fact, I wouldn’t recommend attempted recovery at this point. But if you have ever wanted to see what the bottom of Wham Brake looks like, you’ll likely get your chance this summer.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) began a drawdown for the recently acquired brake, now part of Russell Sage Wildlife Management Area, near Monroe on June 1. The 5,000 acre area will be managed for waterfowl habitat and associated recreational use. It’s been a popular waterfowl hunting area since back in the 1940’s. I can remember the day when the ducks were so thick there that they looked like huge flights of blackbirds. It’s also rumored to be the home of three-eyed frogs and two-tailed alligators and the like, but I think that’s just urban legend. I do know for a fact that just flying over the brake near my blind years ago made the ducks bulletproof! We’ve shot them at close range and had them just fly away, quacking laughingly, like we missed or something.
But back to the real story. Let’s see. Bear’s old Thermos bottle is down there on the bottom near the old “Y” tree. One of my best hunting knives is there, too. Back in the day, we used to shoot ducks, clean them and fry them up in our state-of-the-art duck blind (which included a table and chairs for four and a fish fryer) on the Brake. Those were the good old days. Limits were around 15 ducks per hunter per day and peanut oil was $2 a gallon. You didn’t have to ID the ducks. There was only two kinds. The ones in the air and the ones on the water. I also know of at least two outboard motors and one aluminum boat that are on the bottom of Wham. I’ve heard stories of at least a half dozen really nice shotguns that found their way to the bottom of the brake. And I can guess conservatively that there are at least 15,345 old busted sunken duck decoys and probably 20,000 unspent shotgun shells. A plane even crashed in there once. I wonder if Jimmy Hoffa ever visited Swartz?
All kidding aside, the future management focus of this impoundment will be development of waterfowl
habitat and improvements to aid recreational use associated with the waterfowl resources on this portion of the WMA. It’s an amazing piece of waterfowl habitat. The current condition of multiple water control structures must be evaluated to insure that local managers have the appropriate ability to manipulate the water levels in a manner necessary to grow the annual natural vegetation associated with attracting and maintaining wintering waterfowl populations on the impoundment.
LDWF is very serious about making this the most valuable piece of property for the future that it can. It has already identified some maintenance needs on Wham Brake which need varying degrees of redevelopment work. During the drawdown this year, survey work will be accomplished to evaluate the existing structures and potential for sub-impoundment development to improve native vegetation management ability. Don’t worry, a gradual re-flooding of the impoundment is planned prior to this fall’s special September teal season on the WMA.
Wham Brake users are cautioned to exercise extreme caution when boating in the area due to the high prevalence of submerged objects (like stumps, old thermos bottles, etc) throughout the impoundment. In fact, boating will be darn near impossible once the water comes on down, except in the main creek. And if your hands need washing, wait till you get home. Don’t dip them in the water. There’s more alligators in that place than you might imagine and when they get confined in a smaller pool of water, they’ll likely be a little ticked off with any unwanted visitors.
Any questions about Wham or use of it should be directed to Jerald Owens, LDWF Biologist Manager at (318) 343-4044 or email@example.com.