The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is giving commercial fishermen a little more time to make their catches of the day by opening up the commercial netting season on False River a month early.

Wildlife and Fisheries officials said Monday the decision to kick off the 2014 commercial fishing season on the oxbow-lake this month instead of November came at the request of commercial anglers who wanted to get a jump-start in the highly competitive market.

“We’ve got a large group of dried-up river rats that don’t know much else and who are suffering from terrible competition in the commercial fishing industry from these foreign markets,” said Mike Wood, LDWF’s director of Inland Fisheries. “These poor guys really needed our help and we wanted to do anything to help them out.”

Wood said kicking off the commercial fishing season on Oct. 1 also will allow anglers to better meet the demands of the local market. The 2014 season will end on the last day in February.

This year marks the second time Wildlife and Fisheries has allowed commercial fishing on False River.

After a more than 20-year ban, the department last year lifted its moratorium on commercial gill-netting and implemented an experimental three-month commercial fishing season from November to February as part of the agency’s ongoing efforts to restore the ailing waterway.

False River has been in a state of decline the past 30 years due to excessive siltation, which over time has neutralized its spawning territories for fish and deteriorated its natural habitats.

Since May 2012, state and local officials have aggressively been trying to rehabilitate the lake’s water quality through a multi-tiered restoration plan that has included restocking the lake with 300 pounds of redear sunfish and more than 6,000 Florida-strain largemouth bass fingerlings, preparing an engineering report that outlines techniques to reduce siltation by better managing the lake’s drainage canals and instituting a 3-foot drawdown of the lake’s water level.

Wood says allowing commercial fishing helps reduce the number of bottom-feeding fish that were eating the lake’s vegetation — a vital food source for the catches sports fishermen most desire like bass, bream and sac-a-laits.

Commercial fishermen will be casting their nets for buffalo fish, gar fish and carp, which they will sell to local seafood restaurants.

“This effort creates a win-win scenario for local fisherman,” LDWF Secretary Robert Barham said Monday. “The commercial fisherman can better meet the market demands for their catches, and the sportsmen benefit from having a better lake environment for their favorite fish.”

In addition to the current drawdown and commercial fishing season, the first phase of a restoration effort in the south end of False River is also taking place.

That project, financed by $1.5 million in state funding, involves the construction of a 16.5-acre containment dike in the south end of False River through the dredging of the sediment build-up on the lake’s floor.

State Rep. Major Thibaut, D-New Roads, said Monday more than $1.2 million in additional state funding was secured for False River’s restoration during the state legislative session this spring.

“That money will be used to finish off the project in the South Flats and it’ll also be used to start engineering and design work for a proposed dredging project in the North Flats,” he said. “We’ll need to get additional money during the upcoming legislative session to do other things like looking into the canals that feed into False River. We’ve got to remove all this silt. That’s what engineers are trying to determine now: what will be the most economical way to remove it.”

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