Winton Vidrine, the now-retired chief of Wildlife and Fisheries’ Enforcement Division, ran through his memories of 45 years of service in this state agency and remembered never seeing a sitting governor attend a Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission meeting.
Until Thursday. Gov. John Bel Edwards addressed the five-man, one-woman commission. Commission member Pat Manual was absent as he continues to recover from surgery.
After lauding the commission, the work of the agency’s staff, and making special note of Enforcement Division agents dedication, Edwards measured his words carefully when it came to the contentious red snapper issue.
Some 36 hours before the commission’s Oct. 5 meeting, Edwards issued a statement endorsing an additional fall state-waters-only recreational red snapper season after LDWF data showed the state’s recreational red snapper take fell short by slightly more than 100,000 pounds of self-imposed 1.04 million-pound red snapper quota for 2017.
The commission did not take up the matter after a motion to extend the season failed to gather a second. That inaction came after a handful of commission members cited the lack of firm red snapper-catch numbers from the other four Gulf states. Without those numbers the state’s recreational fishermen could face the possibility of much shorter red snapper seasons in 2018.
Edwards mentioned the statewide passion for the outdoors and talked about how difficult it is to “strike balance between competing interests,” a reference to commercial and recreational sectors in the red snapper controversy.
“I just wanted to share this with you all, and as it relates to red snapper,” Edwards said. “It is our position that the State of Louisiana is in a better position to manage that, and what we’re done in the past ought to inspire confidence (to manage fisheries) both in our state and out of our state.”
Edwards further said he believes the state should “maximize the number of fish that can be caught and number of days to catch fish,” again referring to red snapper.
“It’s obvious you disagreed with that, and I’m OK with that, but we just have to keep working, and keep talking and working our way through this,” Edwards said.
LDWF biologist Chris Schieble outlined the main discussion points from the recent Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council meeting held in Mississippi in early October.
Schieble told the commission debate continues on the Louisiana Reef Fish Management Plan with the state’s delegation pushing for the state’s full control of season, that the council will receive “biomass and (fishing) effort estimates of allocation” at its January meeting in New Orleans, and added greater amberjack and gray triggerfish to the plan.
Maybe the best news is final action was taken to change the recreational fishing year on amberjack from a calendar-year season to an Aug. 1-July 31 period and to open the season in May, before closing during June and July, then reopening August-through-October.
This year, after Florida fishermen took almost the entire amberjack quota from the Gulf in January and early February, the entire Gulf of Mexico was closed March 24 to the recreational take of this species. The other four states usually battle winds and heavy season during those two months. With a May opening, Louisiana anglers should have fair chance to take one per person per day with a 34-inch minimum size.
The Cocodrie and Dularge areas in Terrebonne Parish have been giving up solid speckled trout catches during the past 10 days. Try VuDu Shrimp and Gulp! Shrimp about 18-20 inches under a cork in the small bays, canals and bayous off the main bays and lakes. Smaller trout are under the birds.