The custom for the last Sunday of the year is to attempt to figure out where we are today compared to where we were 362 days ago and put it in a neat package — and 2014 ain’t that easy.
Once again, the top outdoors story is the continuing battle over red snapper.
With the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council carving up the recreational sector into private and for-hire groups, it’s easy to believe recreational fishermen are much worse off than we were in January. We got nine days to take red snapper in federal waters this year, and the council’s decision to allow charter businesses to claim a share of the annual recreational quota likely will leave private fishermen without a red snapper season in 2015.
The silver lining amidst this gloom is that Congress appears ready to finally jump into the fray and put this council, and others like it, under a mandate that demands recreational fishermen have fair and equitable representation on fishery councils. That’s not the case on the Gulf Council. Among its 17 voting members, recreational fishermen can count on three, maybe four, votes when it comes to recreational allocation and other federal fishery management schemes, some of which are proffered by groups masquerading as protectors of the environment, when the environment has nothing to do with the red snapper issue.
Even though that issue touches tens of thousands of Louisiana outdoorsmen, it has to share 2014’s headlines with constants that affect all Louisianans — weather and our disappearing coast.
Another year without a major storm is No. 2 on this list.
Nos. 3 and 4 are as close as they are far apart on any sportsman’s list.
Let’s start in January when Arctic blasts finally sent ducks our way, and started us off on our coldest winter in years.
The duck hunters who didn’t give up on the season ended on a high note, but the cold lingered into the middle of spring and touched off the moans and groans of speckled trout fishermen across our coast.
What happened to the trout? That was a question with darned few answers through the late spring, the entire summer and into the fall.
November cold snaps gave us the hint that the trout are in our marshes, and fall and early winter catches have put smiles back on coastal fishermen’s faces.
That same cold brought duck hunters the best opening splits (at least in most areas) in years, and with December counts far ahead of 2013, we head into the second duck-season splits with the hope of finishing as strongly as last season.
No. 5 on this list is Greg Hackney, our state’s first Bassmaster Angler of the Year, who’s leading three Louisiana qualifiers into the Bassmaster Classic.
Now all we have to do is agree on projects that will protect our remaining coastal marshes, and beg that everyone wears life jackets while on the water in 2015.