64 Parishes

Lunkers and Specklebellies

Bass fishing and waterfowl hunting in Louisiana

Published: August 31, 2021
Last Updated: December 1, 2021

Lunkers and Specklebellies

Chamber of Commerce Collection, Cammie G. Henry Research Center, Watson Memorial Library, Northwestern State University of Louisiana

Caught in Cane River Lake, 1930s.

The exhibition Lunkers and Specklebellies: Bass Fishing and Waterfowl Hunting in Louisiana at the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame & Northwest Louisiana History Museum in Natchitoches captures the passions behind two popular Louisiana pursuits: bass fishing and waterfowl hunting. For those eager to catch lunkers (large-size bass) and shoot the game birds that winter here, including speckle-bellied geese, Louisiana is truly a sportsman’s paradise.

Bass, which belong to the sunfish family, proliferate in Louisiana’s natural waterways and manmade lakes. Toledo Bend Reservoir, the largest artificial lake not only in Louisiana but in the South, is the best-known bass habitat, but other favorite bass lakes include Caddo, Black, Caney, and Cataouatche. The most popular bass, the largemouth, survives in a variety of habitats; the Louisiana record is nearly sixteen pounds, though two- to three-pound fish are more common.

Louisiana lies at the bottom of the Mississippi Flyway, a funnel-shaped bird migration route that begins in central Canada and ends in the Lower Mississippi River Valley. More than three hundred bird species traverse that path, but the flyway is best known for the approximately five million waterfowl that winter in Louisiana. The most common ducks hunted are blue- and green-winged teal, gadwalls, dos gris (lesser scaup), mallards, wood ducks, ring-necked ducks, northern shovelers, pintails, and wigeon. Specklebellies and snow geese top the goose list.

Featuring more than a hundred artifacts from the Louisiana State Museum’s collection as well as from everyday anglers and hunters, Lunkers and Specklebellies explores everything from the wildlife conservation movement to the creation of Toledo Bend Reservoir and the art of decoy carving. Artifact highlights include hand-colored John James Audubon engravings, Governor Mike Foster’s hunting coveralls, a late-nineteenth-century punt gun, and vintage fishing tackle.

A create-your-own camouflage interactive, based on the marsh-inspired designs of Louisiana women’s hunting apparel company Saint Hugh, shows how hunters use nature’s colors to their advantage. A recreated camp interior serves as a backdrop for learning about legendary Louisiana camps and hunting clubs and Louisiana’s renowned camp cuisine, brought to life with video featuring Chef John Folse. “Louisiana’s culture is found in many forms,” says Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser, whose office oversees the state museum system. “Whether or not you’ve ever sat in a bass boat or a duck blind, you’ll enjoy this engaging exhibition.”

Lunkers and Specklebellies: Bass Fishing and Waterfowl Hunting in Louisiana will be on display at the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and Northwest Louisiana History Museum through October 30, 2021; a modified version will open soon afterward at the Wedell-Williams Aviation and Cypress Sawmill Museum in Patterson. Visit louisianastatemuseum.org for more information.