Ignoring state Wildlife and Fisheries secretary Jack Montoucet’s campaign for an extended recreational red snapper season, the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission did not take a vote during Thursday's meeting to open a fall season.
Late Tuesday, and with the blessing of Gov. John Edwards, the LDWF announced it would present a plan to extend recreational red snapper fishing for Friday-through-Sunday openings in state waters out to nine miles until the state took the remaining portion of its self-imposed 1.04 million-pound recreational quota.
Through the three-day federal season and an extended 39-day summer-long season, the state’s LA Creel survey estimated the recreational sector had near 107,000 pounds to go before meeting that quota.
Moutoucet told the commission he and Edwards wanted state fishermen to have the opportunity to catch red snapper and to show the other four Gulf states and federal managers the state could manage its share of the overall annual recreational quota.
State biologist Jason Adriance presented information based on historic landings showing the possibility of extending the weekends-only fall season well into December.
Coastal Conservation Association Louisiana executive director David Cresson and Chris Macaluso, marine disheries director for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, asked the commission to hold off approving a fall red snapper season pending the yet-unannounced catch data from the other four Gulf States.
A federal lawsuit challenging the 39-day season filed by the Environmental Defense Fund, among others, was another factor in their pleadings. Both told the commission without verifiable numbers, any overage in this year's Gulfwide recreational catch could reduce next year’s recreational quota and potentially erase the possibility of a season in federal waters.
Commission member Bart Yakupzack from Lake Charles praised the LDWF's work, the proposal and that the 39-day season opened the state’s entire coast up for the take of red snapper, and an extended season would open waters only in the Venice area and for a small portion of waters off Grand Isle.
“We want to look forward to next year,” he said. “And on that basis we need to be on alert for something that could jeopardize the season next year.”
Commission member Jerri Smitko from Houma offered a motion to accept the LDWF’s recommendation.
When it failed for lack of a second, Commission chairman Chad Courville said he would convene a meeting to reconsider a fall season if and when data produced by the other four Gulf States and federal managers indicated the overall recreational quota had not been reached.
The LDWF also announced Elmer's Island will close at noon Friday due to the approach of Tropical Storm Nate.