Louisiana hunters and fishermen don’t have to wait until Christmas for their presents after the preliminary numbers were posted late Thursday from the state’s December waterfowl aerial survey, and N.R. 200, a move to revamp provisions in the Magnuson-Stevens (fisheries) Act, cleared its first major congressional hurdle earlier in the week.

There’s so much to get to in the days leading up to the Christmas holiday, these two items will get a cursory look here, but hunters should have seen the results of a major movement of ducks into the state when the season’s second split opened Saturday.

Ducks

The first numbers from State Waterfowl Study group survey conducted early last week showed nearly double the ducks estimated in the state compared to the November survey — a total of 3.015 million birds to November’s 1.55 million.

Even better was the flyovers showed a movement of birds, mostly ringnecks, into the Terrebonne Basin, and that the distribution of ducks was more balanced between the southeast (42 percent) and southwest (58 percent) coastal marshes. The southwest held nearly 65 percent of the birds in the November estimate.

Also noted were major increases in mallards, greenwing teal and pintails, and nearly four times more ducks (up to 111,000) on Catahoula Lake in one month.

A bill on Capital Hill

H.R. 200 has all the provisions of H.R. 2023, the “Modern Fish Act” bill introduced eight months ago by Congressman Garret Graves. R-Louisiana. H.R. 200 cleared the House Committee on Natural Resources on party lines, with the objections coming from Democrat party members.

Backers of the bill anticipate a challenge on the U.S. House floor, mostly on the same party lines, but are hopeful of passage. A similar bill is up for debate in the Senate committee.

Briefly stated, the bill seeks to rectify several areas in the Magnuson-Stevens Act that have plagued recreational fishermen for years, notably the lack of up-to-date fishery management and data-collection plans, reallocation-of-resource issues and state fishery management — mainly red snapper — in federal waters contained in Graves’ H.R. 3588.

“We owe great thanks to Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah), Congressman Don Young (R-Alaska) and Congressman Garret Graves for working together to bring meaningful change to recreational fisheries management through the reauthorization of the nation’s marine fisheries law,” Center for Sportfishing Policy president Jeff Angers said, noting this is the first major step by Congress to set a future for saltwater recreational fishing.

“The importance of this legislation to the recreational fishing and boating community was made clear by tens of thousands of advocates who have made their voices heard by contacting their elected officials in recent months,” Angers said.

The opposition, among them the Louisiana Restaurant Association, the Environmental Defense Fund, commercial fishing groups and other environmental groups, had the Democrat party members’ ear with fears of having quotas reduced and species sustainability issues.

“America’s 11 million saltwater anglers have a $63 billion economic impact annually and generate 440,000 jobs. However, recreational fishing has been treated as an afterthought in the federal fisheries management system for decades. If enacted, H.R. 200 would finally give saltwater recreational fishing the attention it deserves in the Magnuson-Stevens Act,” American Sportfishing Association boss Mike Nussman said.

Finding rainbows

The second day of BREC’s no-fee annual Geaux Fish Fishing rodeos begins at 10 a.m. Sunday at Palomino Drive Park in Central and continues at 2:30 p.m. at Forest Community Park on South Harrell’s Ferry Road.

These events follow BREC’s effort to stock rainbow trout in four ponds in East Baton Rouge Parish.

The other two ponds are in Greenwood Community Park in Baker and Zachary Community Park on Old Scenic Highway in Zachary.

While the rodeos are catch-and-release only, fishermen will be allowed to keep only four rainbow trout per day, and anglers ages 16 and older must have a state basic fishing license.

State Wildlife and Fisheries sent out an advisory indicating channel catfish were stocked, in late November, in BREC’s Burbank Park in Baton Rouge, Girard Park in Lafayette and Zemurray Park in Hammond.

Can't miss gift

Checking out the Duluth Trading catalog the other day and came across an item called “Flashing Safety Puck.”

After you check this out (duluthtrading.com; Item 28031, $29.95) it’s a must for Louisiana’s outdoors folks.

It’s a 4¼-inch waterproof, orange disc. The description reads the disc has nine flash patterns, operates in extreme heat and cold, and “can be seen from 1,000 feet away in daylight, 3,000 feet away at night.”

It can run continuously for 60 hours on a CR123A battery and there’s the claim the battery “remains good for 10 years, even if dormant.”

And it floats. Put it in a backpack for hunting or a dry-storage box in a boat, If you get in trouble, you’ll make it easy for anyone coming looking for you to find you.

Don’t often endorse products, but have seen one of these things on the back of a stopped Park Ranger unit in the mountains and never knew what to call it or where to find it.

NWR hunting

The folks at the Cameron Prairie, including Sabine, and Lacassine National Wildlife refuges reminded waterfowl hunters about days and hours for second-split hunts.

For the young and old, Unit B at Lacassine refuge on Streeter Road is set aside as an experimental walk-in waterfowl hunting location for youth, 17-and-younger and senior 55-and-older hunters (parties must include at least one youth or senior), and you must use a hand-carried, hand-launched non-motorized watercraft.

Sabine is open Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays through the second split, and there’s a general no-earlier-than 4 a.m. entry and a must-be-out 2 p.m. deadline.

You need a permit to hunt these Southwest Louisiana National Wildlife Refuge Complexes. Permits are available at the NWR website: https://fws.gov/refuge/Sabine/ (or /lacassine, or /cameron_ prairie). And it’s advisable to check out the hunting pamphlet because there are may other regulations for hunting federal lands.

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