Flooding along the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers, deer hunting, big news for the state’s recreational red snapper fishermen and hunting prospects for the 2016-2017 seasons share headline for 2016’s first week.
Word filtered from the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries earlier this week about the effects of floodwaters from the Atchafalaya River on the deer herds in the Atchafalaya Floodway and the Bonnet Carre Spillway.
An amended agenda for Thursday’s Wildlife and Fisheries Commission was posted Wednesday, and included a call for an emergency declaration to halt deer hunting for “all lands within the Morganza floodway, from the Morganza control structure, south to Interstate 10, and from I-10 south, within the protection levees of the Atchafalaya basin, the Sherburne Wildlife Management Area, the Indian Bayou Area and the Bonnet Carre Spillway.”
The move comes after state wildlife managers monitored the Atchafalaya River stage on the Butte LaRose gauge, which, when it reaches 18 feet, demands hunting season closure. The gauge is expected to hit that mark as early as Friday. The closure will affect lands in Iberia, Iberville, St. Martin and St. Mary parishes.
Other flooding-related actions include:
A seven-day ban on deer hunting on lands near the Mississippi River announced Sunday in northeast and east-central parishes has been shortened to five days. LDWF secretary Robert Barham announced Wednesday that deer hunting will resume 30 minutes before sunrise Saturday, but that lands from the levee to the Mississippi River in these areas will remain closed until further notice.
Sandy Bayou Road and Muddy Bayou Road from Deville Crossing to Nolan Bayou Road on the Dewey Wills Wildlife Management Area are closed, and the Hunt Road south of the diversion canal will be closed Monday when Larto Lake water levels are predicted to reach 45 feet. Access to Dewey Wills WMA (20 miles northeast of Alexandria) will be allowed for ATVs and UTVs only from Sandy Bayou Road.
Cas Cas Road, also knows as Grand Lake Road, on the Grassy Lake WMA in Avoyelles Parish is closed to all but ATV traffic after Fools Bay low-water crossing on North Bayou Natchitoches Road was closed earlier this week.
From Belle River
Several camp and homeowners along Belle River are asking boaters to limit wakes until water levels recede.
Water from recent rains has swelled water levels along the entire length of Belle River north and south of La. 70. Combined with floodwaters flowing into the south end of the Verret Basin from the still-rising Atchafalaya River, rain runoff is building in the Basin.
One camp owner said recent north winds helped push some water out, but the rising Atchafalaya has pushed more water into the system and wakes are pushing water over bulkheads and onto roads and under camps.
After only a seven-day closure, Barham announced Tuesday that the 2016 state recreational red snapper season will reopen at 6 a.m. Friday.
And with a recent change in federal appropriations bill, state waters will be extended from three miles to nine miles.
The only recreational red snapper season restriction is a daily creel limit of two fish per angler per day. Red snapper must measure 16 inches total length.
The additional six miles in state waters is the result the end-of-the-year 2016 Consolidated Appropriations Act, which among other fisheries items, included a provision for a temporary extension of state waters for Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi to match the nine miles of state waters allowed to Texas and Florida. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, pushed the change into the bill. The omnibus bill grants these additional six miles for the three states for 2016 only.
LDWF assistant secretary Randy Pausina said two full years of the LA Creel, the state’s fisheries data collection program, allows state fisheries managers to more accurately estimate the recreational red snapper catch. LA Creel data showed the state’s recreational red snapper catch ended 2015 under the state’s historic 700,000 pounds plus recreational red snapper catch.
Pausina added that fishermen need to have a Recreational Offshore Landing Permit to keep reef fish, including red snapper, and several pelagic species. The no-fee ROLPs can be obtained via website: rolp.wlf.la.gov. Anglers 15 and younger do not need the permit.
King mackerel closure
The state will follow federal regulations in closing the commercial king mackerel season at noon Thursday.
Data from LDWF biologists and the National Marine Fisheries Service indicated the 1.07 million pounds commercial king mackerel annual quota (2015-2016) in the Gulf of Mexico’s western zone has been reached.
LDWF marine biologist Jason Adriance said most of the king mackerel off-loaded in Louisiana is shipped to northeast markets.
More WMA lands
The LDWF Refuge Division and the Molpus Woodlands Group reached an agreement in the past weeks that will add 8,755 acres to two new wildlife management areas.
Chemin-A-Haut Bayou WMA along Morehouse Parish’s Bayou Bartholomew, will be 3,842 acres, and the Bayou DeLoutre WMA will get the balance, 4,913 acres in Union Parish. Bayou DeLoutre and Bartholomew already are on the state’s Natural and Scenic River list.
When approved, these areas could be listed as early as this month on the department’s WMA system.
The addition brings the LDWF’s WMA footprint to 1.6 million acres on 55 WMAs across the state.