It’s not like Thursday’s news about additional red snapper days for “private” recreational fishers came like a bolt from the blue.
Rumors about red snapper seasons float as heavily in the fishing community as they do among LSU football about the Tigers landing the next 10-star high school all-interplanetary quarterback — and there were rumors about more red snapper days in the near future.
The hows and whys are important here, if only because the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries’ LA Creel Program is under intense scrutiny from federal folks who are paid to pay attention to such things.
LA Creel is a study/data collection method developed by the LDWF staff, retired marine biologists and fisheries managers to give more accurate catch numbers more quickly on several species — red snapper among them — than the federal Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP).
After LA Creel’s two full years of collecting recreational catch information, the state’s plan is under critical review, and, apparently, has passed muster. LA Creel’s manager Joey Shepard said Thursday the plan’s approach to counting Louisiana’s recreational catch needs only to “benchmark LA Creel’s data and MRIP (numbers)” to fully understand that the state’s program meets a command that federal managers “use the best data available” when it comes to establishing annual quotas and setting recreational red snapper seasons.
Because the state already has a handle on its 2015 recreational catch, which includes the private and for-hire/charterboat catch — and MRIP data for 2015 won’t be available until sometime late in the first quarter of 2016 — explains why state fisheries managers revealed plans for a November recreational season.
It’s a bit complicated, but here’s why: From years of landing data, state managers know Louisiana’s historic “private” recreational red snapper catch is 743,919 pounds, and the charterboat catch is 338,548 pounds. LA Creel’s data shows private recreationals took 763,248 pounds during the state’s March 20-Sept. 8 “private” season (including only 249,498 during the federal 10-day season in June). It’s an overage of 19,010 pounds.
During this year’s inaugural federal 44-day charterboat season, the state’s for-hire fishery landed 230,715 pounds, or 107,833 pounds under its historic annual catch. That leaves the state’s recreational section 88,832 pounds short of its historic annual catch.
Because charter skippers must have a federal permit to take fishing parties into federal waters, and are commanded by having that permit to honor the most restrictive seasons, charterboats cannot participate in any season outside the federal mandates.
That means any future red snapper season in state waters can be taken only by private anglers. Stay tuned for November season dates.