Comments sought on Amendment 40 _lowres

Photo provided by SHAUN BERTRAND Colby Bertrand strains to hold an amberjack the crew aboard the 24-foot 'Trial Run' estimated to weigh 100 pounds from a mid-January trip with his dad, Shaun, and four other anglers out of Cypress Cove Marina in Venice. The group hauled in four other amberjack, three scamps and several almaco jacks to complete their trip. "It's the biggest amberjack I've ever seen," Shaun Bertran said. The state greater amberjack record is Bill Welden's monster 139 pounder taken in May 2009, and it takes a catch heavier than Jay Davidson's 114-pound, 4-ounce catch to make the state's top 10 list for this species.

Other than conflicts over the federal data on red snapper to include under-reporting of the red snapper population in the Gulf of Mexico and recreational sector overfishing, the only steps taken during the first three days of the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council meeting in Point Clear, Alabama, was to close the gray triggerfish season Feb. 7.

There is discussion about a 34-inch, possibly a 36-inch size limit, on greater amberjack, up from the current 30-inch length “keeper” limit, while the council waits for federal approval of Amendment 40, a move that carves a quota from the annual recreationally allowed catch.

The U.S. Department of Commerce, through federal managers in the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, have set a March 17 deadline for public comment on Amendment 40, a sector separation plan that would divide the 49 percent recreational take of the total annual red snapper quota of 11 million pounds into a 57.7 percent share for private recreational fishermen and a 42.3 percent share for for-hire/charterboat operations. Under current management plans, commercial fishing interests get 51 percent of the 11 million pounds.

That move would further reduce the private recreational quota from 5.39 million pounds under the 49 percent share to a 3.11 million pounds. That reduction certainly would cut back the recreational season already scheduled to open June 1. The 2014 season was nine days long under the 5.39 million pound allowance.

You must identify your Amendment 40 comment by using this item number: NOAA-NMFS-2014-0107. Electronic comments can be posted to this website:!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2014-0107, then click on the Comment Now! icon.

Other written public comments can get mailed to: Peter Hood, NOAA Fisheries, Southeast Regional Office, Sustainable Fisheries Division, 263 13th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, Florida 33701-5505.

For gray triggerfish, the annual catch limit is 241,200 pounds whole weight with an annual catch target of 217,100 pounds, but federal fishery management rules call for a reduction in a subsequent season to be cut short if there was overharvesting in preceding year.

Federal data from 2013 showed, according to the GMFMC release, “there was a substantial harvest overrun that resulted in the 2014 annual catch target being reduced to 1,658 pounds. NOAA Fisheries closed recreational harvest in federal waters on May 1, 2014. However, several states continued to allow harvest in state waters throughout the remainder of the year. The total recreational harvest of gray triggerfish in 2014 far exceeded the 25,758-pound annual catch limit.”

It means that the 2015 quota was reduced and left a closing date for Feb. 7, a move federal managers said accounts for “additional harvest to occur in state waters after the federal season closure.”

On a clear day

Neither Colby Bertrand nor his dad, Shaun, had to fear federal length limits when Colby hauled in a giant amberjack two Saturdays ago.

“We watched the weather and waited for that one Saturday for the seas to lay down and we could get out,” Shaun Bertrand said. “I guess the seas ran (1-2 footers). We were fishing the rigs out of Venice and Colby caught the biggest amberjack I’ve ever seen.”

The 19-year-old Bertrand stunned his dad and the other four anglers on the Bertrand’s 24-foot Sea Chaser “The Trial Run” when he boated an amberjack the elder Bertrand said weighed more than 100 pounds.

“I didn’t have a scale big enough to weigh the fish. My son weighs 170 pounds and you can see how big the fish is compared to him,” Shaun Bertrand said. “I’m going to Cabela’s this week and get one of those 300-pound scales so that we know for sure next time.”

Using Diamond Jigs, the six-man crew boated four more amberjacks, three scamps and several almaco jacks.

“We went looking for some of the big yellowfins (tuna), but that didn’t happen,” the Denham Springs fisherman said. “We caught fish, and that made it a great day.”

Big reward

A $10,000 reward is on the table for information that will lead to whomever shot a whooping crane found Nov. 2 near Zaunbrecher Road, north of Gueydan in Vermilion Parish. The crane was shot in the leg and had to be euthanized Nov. 3. It was the sixth whooping crane found shot since 2011 when the first birds were released in the White Lake area. A total of 64 cranes have been released.

Anyone with information can call the Louisiana Operation Game Thief hotline (800) 442-2511. Informants can request to remain anonymous.