If nothing else comes from all the rancor over reduced offshore fishing seasons and limits, it’s that the five Gulf states have learned to lean on each other to try to find ways to quell the building anger of their recreational fishermen.
That anger has led more state fisheries managers to look at what the fish mean to the folks who fund their state agencies. While the Louisiana’s Department of Wildlife and Fisheries manages many species for their commercial value, it could hardly remain afloat on what revenues it derives from commercial operations.
Allow for a brief explanation: If you don’t know it, the LDWF, like many other states’ agencies, survives on license fees and three federal funding programs (taxes paid on all sorts of recreational fishing and hunting gear) that send money back to the states based on recreational license sales.
It’s been a losing battle here for more than 10 years to get our state government to send a portion of the more than $480 million in state taxes it receives from operations under the LDWF’s control. Our two latest governors have beat back bills that would have shared a pittance of those funds to this state agency that has never and still does not receive an annual appropriation from the state’s General Fund.
While it’s seldom stated, it’s obvious that the philosophical change among state agencies from managing for commercial ventures to a more universal approach that acknowledges a recreational component is the biggest-ever gain for recreational fishermen.
For instance, state biologists in Louisiana and Texas more than understand today’s recreational value in species like speckled trout and redfish. Today’s coastal economies are built, in part, on these species.
Several years ago, when Texas lowered its daily limits on speckled trout, anglers in southeastern Texas looked at places like Calcasieu Lake, the main trout area in southwestern Louisiana, and realized their days could be better spent fishing for what was a 25-trout-a-day limit, not the 15-a-day in Texas.
That increased the pressure on Calcasieu trout, and, over the course of two years compelled the fishing folks in the southwestern parishes to push for lower daily limits on their home waters. That’s why the Calcasieu-area limit is 15-a-day there when it remained 25 daily across other Louisiana waters.
In the first months this year, Texas again has reduced its daily limit in all but two coastal areas. It’s 10-a-day now in Texas (the other two areas were allowed to remain at 15), and that’s what brought an item to Thursday’s Wildlife and Fisheries Commission meeting.
Maybe it’s a good thing that we periodically take a hard look at trout and redfish along our coast. It’s not that our biologists ignore these two species until something like Texas’ move comes along.
It’s just a good idea to see what our neighboring states are doing.