Hunters for the Hungry group now enlisting fishermen to help the needy _lowres

Photo provided by RICHARD CAMPBELl The Baton Rouge area's Hunters for the Hungry Program entered a new phase in its collections of game and fish when Venice Marina owners agreed to put a freezer at the marina to collect donations of ducks and filleted fish from hunters and anglers. H4H organizers will expand the program to other locations to collect donations of fish during the peak of the summer fishing season. A collection last week went to the American Red Cross working in tornado-ravaged areas in Mississippi and Alabama.

Andy Record knew about Hunters for the Hungry and that group’s now 20-year-old push to get hunters to donate deer to feed needy folks in the Capital City area.

From deer-rich West Feliciana Parish, it was easy for the St. Francisville man to see what hunters could provide for protein-needing soup kitchens and the other 100 community-based meal providers in the 12 parishes the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank serves.

“Andy came to us and wondered how we could get fishermen involved, and other hunters, too,” Hunters for the Hungry organizer Richard Campbell said. “That started us in a different direction, down a different road.”

That road ended where Louisiana ends — at Venice.

To be precise, it ended at Venice Marina, where the Butler brothers agreed to find a spot for a freezer where fishermen could donate filleted fish.

But Venice is not a deer-hunting area, and Record knew there were enough duck hunters who would be willing to donate their freshly taken game, too.

So, earlier this year, a freezer donated by St. Francisville dentist Candice Sullivan, found a home at Venice Marina. Campbell said Coastal Conservation Association and the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries are close-working partners in the venture.

“The Butlers have fish processors at their place, the guys who clear fish at the dock, and all it took was to get the charter guides to ask their customers for a donation,” Campbell said. “We asked the guides to encourage their fishermen that if they were not going to take their fish home that they could drop a pack or two of the filets into the freezer. All we were asking for is the excess, not the whole catch.”

Campbell said it didn’t matter what kind of fish. Speckled trout, redfish, amberjack and any other species are welcomed.

“This is starting to take legs and work, and while we are trying to keep the game and the fish we collect to be used in the parish where it is processed, we’ve had to find other avenues for the fish,” Campbell said.

The way it works, Campbell said, is that anglers can take their fish to the Venice Marina fish cleaners, who will prepare the fishermen’s donated catch free of charge, while charging the anglers the customary fish-cleaning fee for the fish the anglers want to take home.

The latest collection from Venice Marina, 25 bags of filets, went to the American Red Cross to feed last week’s victims of the tornadoes in Arkansas, Mississippi and Alabama.

Even better, with the late spring and summer fishing seasons ahead, is that the local Hunters for the Hungry group has secured agreements from the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank and New Orleans-based Second Harvest to send refrigerated trucks to fetch Venice Marina donations for distribution in their areas.

“As soon as we know all systems are working, we’re going to look for the next place, and Bridge Side Marina (on Grand Isle) looks like another good location,” Campbell said.

Other possible sites are Port Fourchon Marina, and one or more places in the Cocodrie area.

“All we would need is that guides in that area to want to participate, and we know they will,” Campbell said. “We’re looking to go to places where there is high volume. We know it will work. This is just the next step to expand on our motto, ‘Hunters who care share.’

“We believe we can replace ‘hunters’ with ‘fishermen’ with this project,” Campbell said.

For more information, call CCA board member Record at (225) 245-2905.

More bad news

After federally collected data showed recreational anglers exceeded their allowable catch in 2013, the National Marine Fisheries Services has reduced the recreational quota for the 2014 season that is scheduled to open July 1.

NMFS data showed the recreational catch in 2013 was 1,566,488 pounds, while the catch limit for last season was 1,299,000 pounds.

So, NMFS managers implemented a single “accountability measure” that reduces the 2014 recreational annual catch “target” from the Gulf of Mexico to 862,512 pounds, and will downgrade the 2014 recreational annual catch limit to 1,031,512 pounds.

The reduction is the subtraction of 267,488 pounds, the overage calculated from the 2013 catch.

NMFS managers cited, in part, regulations “if recreational landings exceed the recreational annual catch target, then during the following fishing year, both the recreational annual catch target (recreational quota) and the recreational annual catch limit will be reduced by the amount of the prior year’s recreational annual catch limit overage.”

The NMFS mangers also stated that the 2015 recreational amberjack annual catch target will be 1,130,000 pounds and the recreational annual catch limit will be 1,299,000 pounds only if recreational anglers stay within 2014 catch limits. The only other changes could come if the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council decided to adjust up or down the recreational amberjack quotas for 2015.

There’s more

Not that it matters much off the Louisiana coast, but federal managers also announced an in-season adjustment for the red grouper recreation season.

The change reduced the daily creel limit from four in the aggregate of grouper to a daily limit of three fish. The change is effective Monday, May 5, throughout the Gulf.

The Gulf’s red grouper season is scduled to close at 12:01 a.m. (local time) Sept. 16.

Again, federally controlled data shows recreational anglers exceeded their 2013 red grouper quota by 492,113 pounds.

The announcement also stated: “The season closure date may change, after additional landings data become available.”

Shrimp dates

Unusually small shrimp showing up in the latest samples, some as small as 2,000 to the pound, is the main reason why the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission voted unusually late open season dates for the state’s Spring Inshore Shrimp Season.

The “inside” waters in the Barataria, Terrebonne and Vermilion-Teche basins will open at 6 a.m. May 26. A week later, June 2, the waters in the Pontchartain, and Mermentau-Calcasieu-Sabine basins will open at 6 a.m.

Department of Wildlife and Fisheries’ marine biologist Marty Bourgeois informed the commission that staff samples taken April 27 showed “extremely small shrimp” in most state near-coastal waters. Brown shrimp make up most of the catch in the spring inside season.

Bourgeois said there are marketable sized white shrimp in the Vermilion-Teche area, but recommended that area open with the more expansive Barataria and Terrebonne estuaries so as not to concentrate boats in such a small area as Vermilion Bay.

He also said the Vermilion-Tech area’s “outside” waters, the area between the state’s inside-outside line and state waters three miles off the shoreline, will also open May 26.

It’s official

While Big Colewa, Hutchinson Creek, Walnut Hills wildlife management areas have been around for several years, these three small-acreage areas, along with two new locations, Ben Lilly and Marsh Bayou WMAs, were officially listed in the LWDF’s WMA Program during Thursday’s commission meeting.