Thursday’s Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission agenda ran the gamut of the state’s commercial and recreational activities, and it included shrimp, oysters, fish and waterfowl.
The first two dominated the commercial side, and the last, focusing on the 2014-2015 duck and goose seasons, broke with tradition when the commission voted in the latest opening day for Coastal Zone hunters in more than two decades. Fishing issues covered both sides.
The Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Waterfowl Study’s original proposal was to open the Coastal Zone on the traditional second Saturday in November, Nov. 8 this year. But when Study leader Larry Reynolds showed the results of public comments — 213 of 263 Coastal Zone comments favored a later opening day — the commission approved Nov. 15-Dec. 7 and Dec. 20-Jan. 25 splits for that zone with youth-only days Nov. 8-9.
Season dates for the state’s East and West Waterfowl zones were similar to last year’s days. The state, in the Mississippi Flyway, will have its 18th consecutive “liberal” season that allows 60 days and six ducks per day. The only exception to last season’s limits is that the number of canvasback ducks allowed in the daily limit was reduced from two to one, due to a lower number of “cans” found on the breeding grounds this spring.
The commission learned of 14 lake “drawdowns” either already started or set to start in early September, notably a 2.2-foot drawdown on False River to continue a fishery recovery plan for the Pointe Coupee Parish oxbow. In addition to shoreline improvement projects, sediment will be removed from the lake’s south end and a 16-acre island created with the material.
The commercial fishing side benefited from lifting a ban on taking all commercial species from four areas closed for the last four years in the aftermath of the BP-Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, notably the areas around the mouth of the Mississippi River, Bay Jimmy off Barataria Bay and two sections of Grand Terre Island.
The opening day of the Fall Inshore Shrimp season received the same scrutiny. Shrimp Study leader Marty Bourgeois told the commission of the staff’s estimate that more 70 percent of the white shrimp, the species that makes up the bulk of the fall catch, would meet the requirement of 100-to-the-pound count by next Monday, Aug. 11.
Yielding to comments from shrimpers’ comments during the meeting — a plea to allow the shrimp to grow and reach a larger, more marketable size — the commission voted for a statewide fall season opening date of Aug. 18.
Oysters, too, attracted debate over taking seed and sack oysters from the state’s public grounds along the coast, and the commission voted to open public areas in Little Lake, Barataria Bay, Lake Tambour, Deep Lake and the Vermilion-Atchafalaya area on Sept. 3; Oct. 20 in “primary ground” east of the Mississippi River, areas south of the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet and in Bay Junop and Lake Mechant; and, Oct. 28 in the West Cove area of Calcasieu Lake.
Other commission action included:
— Approving amendments to a notice to allow a three-day possession limit for fishermen at Port Eads near the mouth of the Mississippi River, notably to proof of stay at the newly reconstructed faciliy and to put a one-year “sunset” provision on the plan before it can continue past 2015;
— Approving changes in LDWF regulations on exotic cats to coincide recently enacted legislation;
— Recognizing Chevron Oil for its $400,000 contribution to the re-establishment of whooping cranes in the state;
— Learning that there were five boating fatalities in the state during July, all in southeast Louisiana, and that Enforcement Division agents issued 1,142 citations during July;
— And, setting its December meeting for Dec. 4 in Baton Rouge.