Step up to the big clean-up of derelict crab traps _lowres

Photo provided by Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Boat operator Damian Bourque is hidden behind Lauren Porter during the 2015 derelict crab trap removal effort in the Sabine area in southwest Louisiana. Joseph Gregory, left, holds the hook the three used to lift abandoned crab traps. The Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is looking for volunteers to remove traps in two areas in the coming weeks.

If you’ve ever had a crab trap tangled in your boat’s prop, then you know the chore it is to remove it — especially when it happens in the dead of winter, especially when it’s icy cold and you’re having to remove it without gloves while leaning over the stern in a position only a contortionist could love.

So it was easy to volunteer in 2004 to help remove abandoned crab traps in the very productive speckled trout waters in lower Terrebonne Parish.

There’s nothing different today, even after years of effort from volunteers and Wildlife and Fisheries staff, work that’s taken in excess of 24,000 abandoned traps from south Louisiana waters.

Your chance to help — and help everyone who plies the state’s inshore coastal waterways — comes later this month.

The next installment of the LDWF’s annual Derelict Crab Trap Rodeo comes 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Feb. 13 in Lake Pontchartrain, and the following Saturday, Feb. 20, from 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m., in the Barataria Basin.

Way back when the removal plan was established, state marine fisheries biologists already knew the consequences of what the LDWF’s Marine Fisheries Section labeled “ghost” traps.

While the staff more than understood the hazard abandoned traps had on boaters and recreational and commercial fishermen, the clean-up went beyond navigational hazards.

It was far more than that: For whatever reason these traps were forgotten, whether by storm, being misplaced or identifying floats cut from lines, these untended traps were killing crabs and other species.

Coastal Conservation Association-Louisiana, the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, Louisiana Sea Grant and the Louisiana Wildlife Federation, among others, have sponsored volunteers events in the past, and those groups still provide volunteers.

The Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation is the sponsor for the Feb. 13 clean-up day and has agreed to provide lunch and door prizes for volunteers gathering at Pelican Pointe Marina. LDWF and LPBF organizers are asking anyone interested in helping to preregister by using the website: lpbf.wufoo.com/forms/derelict-crab-trap-registration/.

Jean Lafitte Harbor is the location for the Feb. 20 effort in the upper reaches of the Barataria Basin. The Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Foundation Program is coordinating lunch and door prizes, and needs volunteers to register by using website: https://surveymonkey.com/r/F9C2L2G.

The volunteers days are the third step in the derelict trap removal process.

First is identifying areas of need, and second is posting dates for licensed crab fishermen to remove working traps from the clean-up area.

Removal regulations prohibit commercial crabbers from using traps in the Lake Pontchartrain clean-up area from 6 a.m. Feb. 12 through 6 a.m. Feb. 21 and 6 a.m. Feb. 19 through 6 a.m. Feb. 28 in the Barataria Basin and Sabine Lake location. The state has not put out a call for volunteers for Sabine Lake.

Maps for the three 2016 clean-up sites can be found on the LDWF website: www.wlf.louisiana.gov/fishing/derelict-crab-trap-removal.

Any and all traps left in these area will be considered abandoned and can be picked up. The traps are transported to respective assembly areas and crushed, then disposed.

The clean-up area does not include privately owned areas.

Shooter gets life

Jarrod Hust, the 29-year-old from Monroe who was tried and convicted of shooting Wildlife and Fisheries’ Enforcement Division agent Sgt. Scott Bullitt, was sentenced to a life sentence without benefit of parole by District Court Judge Scott Leehy late last week.

Hust was tried for two counts of attempted first degree murder and a single count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon after a jury decided his guilt in early December.

The conviction followed a May 21 incident when Bullitt and another Enforcement Division agent stopped Hust in a vehicle on Buckley Hill Road on the Russell Sage Wildlife Management Area.

During the stop, Hust shot Bullitt, fired on the second agent, then fled into nearby woods. State and local law enforcement combed the area, and Hust was taken into custody later that night.

Bullitt was rushed to a Monroe hospital, then later taken to Shreveport for surgery to remove the bullet.

Enforcement Division Col. Joey Broussard confirmed that Bullitt continues rehabilitation and has not returned to what he described as “regular duty.”

What’s left

There’s only one duck-hunting day left to the season. It comes Saturday when youngsters 15-and-younger have the last of two days allowed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for youth-only waterfowl hunts. The first day came last November. Youngsters can be accompanied by an adult, but the adult cannot carry a firearm.

The goose season ends Sunday — the Canada goose season already is closed — and after that wild waterfowlers can take to fields for the Conservation Order for the take of blue, snow and Ross’ geese only.

This special season will run into March and allow hunters the rare use of electronic calls, unplugged shotguns and unlimited take on these three species. Rules also allow hunters to pull triggers one-half hour after sunset. All other migratory waterfowl seasons halt shooting at sunset.

For hunters who’ve hung up their waders, special camo clothing and pulled decoys, it’s time to spend the weekend, if Mardi Gras celebrations allow, cleaning and storing.

Clothes should be washed, fully dried and best stored in air-tight bags.

Decoys should be washed in soapy water, air dried and stored in a place where squirrels and other rodents can’t gnaw on them.

Gunsmiths like David Reynerson have long advised hunters to clean their guns immediately after the season, and store them in a safe place out of the reach of children — and burglars. The first step is to make sure the gun is unloaded, cleaned and stored with as little oil on the metal as possible. Guns should be stored barrel down to prevent oil from seeping into stocks. Reynerson also advises hunters to take care of any problems now before there a rush on fixing shotguns in the weeks leading up to next season. Remember the 2016-2017 dove season is scheduled to open Sept. 3.

Use those tags

Using the man’s name would only serve to embarrass him more than he already is, but know that a Port Allen hunter was cited this week for failing to tag three bucks he took during the season. All it took was an anonymous someone to report him to Wildlife and Fisheries agents, who investigated the 25-year-old man for failure to use the tags on the antlered whitetails.

The three citations could carry fines exceeding $1,000 and up to 180 days in jail, and the hunter could face the allowed civil restitution payment of more than $2,000.