Hunters and fishermen have lots on their plates for the final days of 2014.
Early news from state waterfowl biologists is that the mid-December aerial survey of the coastal marshes and the interior lakes, swamps and ag fields in the state’s East Zone is equal to the millions of ducks counted in November, and far above the estimate in the December 2013 survey.
Even better for duck and deer hunters is Saturday’s rain heralded the arrival of a holiday week’s cold front, a system that should push even more ducks into the state, and trigger longer daylight feeding periods for whitetails.
Reports from the swamps and fields near the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers are that whitetail bucks are chasing does during the primary rutting period.
These locations in the south-central, east-central and southeastern parishes have a common tie in that veteran hunters know whitetail females enter their first estrus period later than any area in the state.
The female deer that go unbred during the primary rut are pursued during the secondary rut, which usually follows on the next moon cycle, or about 28 days later.
This happens when the primitive weapons and modern firearms hunting seasons are shut down. Archery hunters in Areas 6 and 9 usually get a shot because their season runs through Feb. 15 and is the last deer season to close.
Although the real numbers hardly ever show up in reports, there have been reports of three deer-stand accidents in the past two weeks.
Two men and a teenager fell from stands in the Capital City area. All three are fortunate because they survived without permanent disabilities. One man was reported to have broken an arm and a leg, while the other man suffered a fractured wrist and several cuts and deep bruises. The teenager broke an ankle.
It’s never too late to check stands and remember the three-point rule: Always have two hands and a leg, or both legs and a hand on the stand at the same time. And never carry weapons and/or packs into the stand. Carry a rope and hoist unloaded weapons and equipment into the stand after you’ve secured your torso to the stand.
On the coast
The guys making their weekly treks to the coast have mentioned a decline in the speckled trout catch during the past 10 days.
The cold weather should push the trout back into the deep holes and into deeper canals and deep bends in bayous.
The Pontchartrain bridges continue to produce trout on calm days.
The latest from the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is that the recreational red snapper season will close in state waters at 11:59 p.m. Wednesday, and will be closed until the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission votes to reopen the season in state waters.
The commission is scheduled to meet Jan. 8 and again Feb. 5 in Baton Rouge. The issue likely will be on the agenda for either or both meetings.
State marine biologists indicated the data from their real-time LA Creel samplings show Louisiana’s recreational fishermen have not landed the state’s “historic” share from the total Gulf of Mexico recreational red snapper take.
LDWF assistant secretary Randy Pausina has said Louisiana’s share of the recreationally caught red snapper is 14 percent of the Gulf’s annual recreational quota, which for 2014 was set at 49 percent of 11 million pounds, or 5.39 million pounds.
Using years of federal landings data from the Marine Recreational Information Program, and the state’s recent updated LA Creel numbers, Louisiana’s “historic” share is Pausina’s mentioned 14 percent, or 754,600 pounds.
After establishing LA Creel, which uses daily and weekly surveys and counts to establish recreational landings of red snapper, among other species, the LDWF withdrew from the federal MRI Program effective Jan. 1.
Following that move, and a vote by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council for a nine-day recreational red snapper season, the commission voted to open the red snapper season in state waters for the remainder of the year.
Using the LA Creel survey indicators, Pausina and his staff determined a nine-day season would allow Louisiana fishermen to take only 150,000 of red snapper, “far short of our historic catch,” Pausina said.
Again, using this year’s LA Creel numbers, the Marine Fisheries staff showed state recreational red snapper landings totaling 605,000 pounds.
The state’s survey and detailed data has replaced MRIP’s data as the official reporting tool for Louisiana’s fisheries counts, but will continue to work within the LA Creel and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s MRIP paramaters to determine and adjust landings estimates.
Once LA Creel is benchmarked, Louisiana will no longer run MRIP, and officials hope that NOAA will support LA Creel and use its more precise results to conduct future stock assessments.”