The big news for Louisiana saltwater fishermen this week is how Reef Fish Amendment 40, the issue of carving out an annual quota for for-hire/charter boat businesses from the annual allowable recreational red snapper take in federal Gulf of Mexico waters.
The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council’s agenda calls for “Final Action on Amendment 40 — Recreational Red Snapper Sector Separation” during its Monday-through-Thursday meeting at the Battle House Renaissance Hotel in Mobile, Alabama.
The outcome of the vote will determine the length of the 2015 recreational red snapper season in the Gulf’s federal waters. If Amendment 40 passes with its “preferred” options, the recreational quota could be cut in half, which means a reduction from this year’s nine-day recreational red snapper season for the 2015 season.
On tap Monday is a meeting of the council’s Law Enforcement Committee to iron out details on a draft definition of charter fishing, and whether to issue charter-for-hire decals throughout the Gulf states.
This committee will also review Port Eads Marina access in light of a proposed Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries rule to allow multi-day limits for certain fish species.
Committee meetings are set to begin at 8:30 a.m. Monday and run through 11 a.m. Wednesday. Reef Fish Management, Red Drum Management, Data Collection Management and Shrimp Management committees are scheduled, too.
The Reef Fish group is set to discuss, among many items, a review of red snapper numbers at Alabama’s offshore reefs; red snapper reallocation, red snapper regional management; the Individual Fishing Quota Program for commercial fishermen; and, an item entitled “Options Paper for Greater Amberjack Annual Catch Limit/Annual Catch Target.”
The full council meeting will open at 11 a.m. Wednesday with a focus on updates for a proposed aquaculture plan for the Gulf of Mexico, then will take public testimony from 2:30-7:30 p.m. on a variety of subjects, including Amendment 40.
Thanks to Bill Cobb for running down information on the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office’s annual Hunter’s Sight-in Program.
Mark your calendars for Oct. 28-Nov. 3, the week before the opening of the Capital City area firearms-for- deer seasons. Hours are 8 a.m.-3 p.m. The range is off U.S. 61 at 999 West Irene Road in Zachary.
The rules are simple: All weapons will be sighted in by the range staff; all weapons must be in good working condition with all actions open when entering the range; hunters must furnish only factory ammo; no reloads will be used; and, no muzzleloaders.
Preserving The Pickets
By now most coastal fishermen know about The Pickets, the series of small platforms the federal government ordered to be removed from Ship Shoal 26 Block off the coast of Terrebonne Parish.
Fieldwood Energy purchased the area from Apache Corporation last year and complied with the federal requirement to remove the structures that have served as a prime destination for speckled trout fishermen for more than 50 years.
Work will begin Tuesday on three artificial reefs in the now-vacated Pickets area to maintain the area’s ability to hold species like trout and redfish among the many fishes that lived around the structures.
It’s the result of a cooperative agreement among CCA-Louisiana, Fieldwood, Apache and the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. A 10 a.m. ceremony is set to unveil the project Tuesday at Coco Marina in Cocodrie.
According to the LDWF and CCA-Louisiana, the project will place some 14,000 tons of limestone on over three “specially engineered artificial reefs ... designed to protect depressions in the sea floor that were created by the prevailing current flowing around and through the Pickets. In doing so, the reefs will maintain and enhance these scour holes, while providing additional habitat for marine life.”
CCA-Louisiana executive director David Cresson said Fieldwood and Apache recognized the importance of this area and, according to a CCA release, “committed to mitigating the impact of the removals on the fishery and the recreational angling community.
“It’s unfortunate that we have to say goodbye to those structures,” Cresson said, “but we are grateful to have partners here who were committed to doing everything they could to maintain the area for future generations. The Pickets has been a special place, and this partnership is working to make sure it stays that way.”
LDWF assistant secretary Randy Pausina said reefs are an important first step for this broad 8-12 foot-deep shelf.
“This area has served as a trout fishing haven for many years, and we are extremely pleased that we are able to preserve this angling hot spot,” Pausina said. “Speckled trout and redfish are typically associated with low- to mid-relief structures which provide a refuge from currents, where they can remain without expending energy while preying on food as it is carried across the structure. This makes this area a particularly important fisheries habitat.”
Estimated cost is $1.2 million with funding from the LDWF’s Artificial Reef Fund, Fieldwood, Apache and CCA-Louisiana’s Building Conservation Trust along its Habitat Program that receives major funding from the Paul Candies family. DLS Energy is the contractor, and along with G&H Barge, is providing in-kind services and materials.
Plans call for marker buoys to be placed on the completed reefs.