With hunting season winding down, LDWF taking comments on upcoming season _lowres

Photo provided by BILLY CREWS Bring on the crawfish The only folks using the still-flooded Belle River Public Launch appear to be crawfish fishermen along with a few hunting-camp owners trying to clean out their now-flooded camps. Although the Atchafalaya River began falling early last week, access is limited throughout the basin. When the river's gauge at Butte LaRose fell below the 18-foot reading Thursday, Wildlife and Fisheries reopened the Area 9 deer season that was closed Jan. 9 to deer hunting. Lands in four parishes are included in the reopened area bounded by Iinterstate 10 on the north, U.S. 90 on the south and the Atchafalaya Basin's East Guide and West Guide levees. The area's modern firearms season ended last Sunday, and there's one day remaining in the primitive weapons season, but hunters can take advantage of the archery season for deer through Feb. 15.

The last shots of the 60-day duck season are being taken in the state’s East Zone with the only action on ducks left for Saturday’s youth-only East Zone day. Goose season is winding down, and, come Monday, the only deer action left is an archery season in two areas through Feb. 15.

All that and rabbit hunters can’t wait, because now that the deer hunters are out of the woods and fields, it’s their time to turn beagles loose. Rabbit, squirrel and quail season (for however many wild quail there are left in our state) run through Feb. 29. Snipe season continues through Feb. 28.

That doesn’t mean state wildlife biologists like Steve Smith can relax. In early January, Smith was the spokesman for Wildlife and Fisheries’ Wildlife Division and laid out the 2016-2017 season dates and bag limits for resident game, deer, squirrel, rabbits and quail; regulations for the more than 1.5 million acres in the LDWF’s wildlife management areas; and, new this year, the migratory birds and migratory waterfowl season dates and daily limits.

Smith is accepting public comments for those proposed seasons, among them a plan to carve out a new deer hunting area in the Atchafalaya Basin. Smith also announced a series of statewide hearings to take public comment.

What’s up this week

Rain and another strong cold front will move into south Louisiana by Tuesday night, and we can expect to have 10-20 knot north winds and choppy inside waters through Friday morning with extra-chilly mornings and afternoon temps in the upper-50s.

The approaching front carries another warning about venturing into open, shallow waters. Water is pushed out on strong north winds and there have been several reports of fishermen stranded on mud flats on both sides of the Mississippi River.

Don’t let that deter you from trips to the marshes: Delacroix, Hopedale, waters in and around Sulphur Mine Lake and Lake DeCade remain solid choices. Speckled trout are taking soft plastics under a cork from mid-morning well into the afternoon hours.

From the council

The latest Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council meeting ended Friday in Orange Beach, Alabama, and the surprise was there was no discussion about establishing a recreational fishing advisory panel, a much-discussed subject leading up to this quarterly meeting.

Louisiana’s recreational-sector representative Camp Matens said there was little discussion about Reef Fish Amendment 39, the push to establish regional red snapper management. Matens said emphasis shifted to Amendments 41 and 42. No. 41 is designed to give a separate quota for red snapper to “federally permittee charter vessels,” while No. 42 carries the title “Federal Headboat Reef Fish Management.” Both measures would reduce the overall annual recreational quota and effectively give individual fishing quotas to charter and headboat operations.

Both amendments are in what the GMFMC calls “the scoping process,” which means when that level is completed, the next step is public hearings. Matens said both amendments are “on a fast track.”

Matens said one positive for recreational fishermen is that the recently formed Gulf Angler Focus Group gained some traction on the council. The group has representatives from the Congressional Sportsman’s Foundation, the American Sportfishing Association, Coastal Conservation Association, charterboat captains and fishing tackle manufacturers.