Duck hunting is like being a New Orleans Saints fan: No matter how good or bad the season, there’s always next season. That takes in the draft, OTAs, camp, preseason games, and, finally, the regular season with all hopes that the postseason is in the future.
Same’s true for duck hunters: No matter how good or bad the previous season was, there’s always next year.
But unlike Saints fans, duck hunters had to wait until August to find out their season dates, bag limits and the overall season structure. That’s because the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service had a rigid method for establishing season lengths and bag limits for the four flyways in the Continental U.S.
Simply written, the process started with May aerial surveys across Prairie Canada and the waterfowl breeding grounds in the northern U.S. Once a breeding numbers estimate of 10 species of ducks — the breeding count for mallards is the main number used — and a count of brood-rearing ponds was tabulated from that survey, the breeding count for mallards were plugged into the USFMS Adaptive Harvest Management chart. Where the breeding numbers and ponds intersected on that chart determined the season structure for the four flyways. For the past 20 years, those numbers have produced a “liberal” season structure, which, for Louisiana, meant a 60-day season with a six birds per day limit.
From there, the individual flyway councils had to come up with season structures special to their flyways, mostly in regard to bag limits in certain species, then submit their recommendations to the USFWS for federal approval.
That’s why State Waterfowl Study leader Larry Reynolds could come to the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission with proposed waterfowl season dates and limits in July, but couldn’t finalize those dates and limits until August.
The item on Thursday’s LWFC agenda will address possible changes to hear a presentation on “Setting the timing on waterfowl hunting regulations.”
The USFWS has revamped its procedures and, from earlier postings, will use the previous year’s estimates to set parameters for the next season. It appears federal managers have enough long-standing data to determine season structure for the 2015-2016 waterfowl seasons and will advance the season-setting process by as much as four months, a move that could let duck and goose hunters know their season dates as early as April, possibly earlier, for the coming seasons.
Another major agenda item calls for commission action on setting the state’s recreational red snapper season.
This move follows Tuesday’s announcement by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council that upped the total red snapper quota in Gulf waters from 11 millions pounds to 14.3 million pounds this year, 13.96 million pounds in 2016 and 13.74 million pounds in 2017.
It means the total recreational quota for those three years will be 7.04, 6.84 and 6.73 million pounds, respectively, and the private recreational quota will be carved from that recreational total, but the recreational “annual catch target” will be 5.632 million pounds. The reduction from the recreational quota is because of factors built into the federal model to ensure recreational fishermen do not exceed the quota.
The federal Fisheries Service will announce the 2015 recreational season sometime later this month.
The 9:30 a.m. Wildlife and Fisheries Commission meeting is available vie live audio streaming via Webinar: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/1239482021898184962.
Jim Breaux’s report on Sunday’s Junior Southwest Bassmasters of Denham Springs tournament should turn a few heads, especially knowing the 30 youngsters braved a chilly morning and caught lots of bass.
Breaux said half the field — the youngsters ride with a parent or adult guardian — went north from the Belle River Public Landing into the Bayou Pigeon area, and “about half” went into the Shell Cuts in the Atchafalaya Spillway. Soft plastics produced most of the catch — baits like lizards, Brush Hogs and other “creature” baits. Spinnerbaits were another solid lure choice.
The heaviest bass, among all the anglers, including adults, was Justin Watts’ 4.55-pounder, that claimed the big-bass title in the 15-18 year-old age group.
Caruso’s big win
Baton Rouge angler Gary Caruso fell one bass short of a five-fish limit, but came up standing tall when his four bass hit the scales Saturday at Sam Rayburn Reservoir in the year’s first Cowboy Division tournament on the Walmart Bass Fishing League.
Weighing in at Brookeland, Texas, Caruso hauled in 19 pounds, 6 ounces to take the Boater Division’s top prize of $5,273.
“I just picked up a new boat, I had my girlfriend with me at the tournament and I got the win. I can’t think of a better weekend,” Caruso told the BFL crew.
He said he was fishing in a shallow cove on the south end of the lake, a spot studded with cypress trees and grass beds.
“I got into about three feet of water and started working down the bank and caught a 4-pounder on my fourth cast of the day,” Caruso said.
He said he used a “Rayburn Red” Rat-L-Trap to find the right cover, then switched to a black-and-red flake Mister Twister Flip ‘n Out to keep the bait in the strike zone longer. That move paid off with a giant 9-pounder lunker he boated near midday, and sealed the win by adding a 4-pounder in the last 15 minutes of fishing time. Benton angler Rusty Grantham was second with 17-5.