Outdoors art

Beginning in January, venting tools like this one will be required equipment for all offshore anglers fishing for reef fish. This $6 tool comes with instructions and is used to help reef fish overcome barotrauma, a condition affecting a fish's swim bladder when taken from the depths.

For those among us old enough to remember long-ago Christmas ads, the overriding plea was to be “the first on your block to own” whatever it was manufacturers were pushing for holiday sales.

Same’s true today. Now, who wants to be the first fisherman on their block to own — a venting tool?

A what?

Yep, a venting tool, a descending device, an instrument offshore anglers will need to have with them when they venture into and over any reef in the Gulf of Mexico.

That’s because Congress passed the much too wordy “Direct Enhancement of Snapper Conservation and the Economy through Novel Devices Act of 2020” earlier this year.

It goes into effect Jan. 13 and requires commercial, for-hire and private recreational vessels to have a venting tool or descending device “rigged and ready to use when fishing for reef fish species in Gulf of Mexico Federal waters.”

The law is designed to reduce mortality brought on barotrauma — it affects mostly snapper and grouper species — when internal gas pressures increase in fish when, biologists said, fish are reeled up from depths generally greater than 90 feet. Their studies also show this can happen in fish brought up from waters as shallow as 33 feet.

Biologists said signs of barotrauma are distended abdomens, bulging eyes, everted stomachs and bubbling under the scales.

When this happens, released fish have difficulty swimming back to depths and often float on the surface which makes these fish targets for predatory species.

The full “descending devices” list includes a weighted hook, lip clamp or box that will hold a fish as it is lowered to a sufficient depth to allow for recovery from barotrauma. A venting tool is a sharpened, hollow instrument that can penetrate a fish’s abdomen to release excess gas acquired as it was brought to the surface.

State Wildlife and Fisheries marine biologists have set up a website for more information on barotrauma, different types of devices and how to use them: wlf.louisiana.gov/page/barotrauma.

Red snapper

Catches through the Thanksgiving week are in and Wildlife and Fisheries’ LA Creel estimates the private recreational red snapper landings hit 730,997 pounds (90%) of our state’s annual 816,439-pound allocation. That leaves one month to hit that allocation, because the red snapper season will close Dec. 31.

The ‘kings’

Denham Springs-based Junior Southwest Bassmsters handed out its King Fishermen 2021 awards last week and Caleb Roblin (15-18 age group), Destin Morales (11-14) and Gentry Rogers (7-10) took the honors. Roblin’s 8.63-pound bass was the heaviest taken during the year (it was released alive), and Will Major was awarded the Adult Division’s Boat Captain Award.

Tag this

Beginning Saturday and running through Christmas Day, Wildlife and Fisheries’ Get Out and Fish! Program will awards prizes for catching tagged catfish from one of 17 stocked community ponds around the state.

Each pond will have 10 tagged fish. Ccatching one, then reporting it, will get fishing prizes from the agency.

Area ponds include Burbank Park (Baton Rouge), Sidney Hutchinson Park (Walker), Zemurray Park (Hammond), Joe Brown Park (New Orleans), Girard Park (Lafayette), 1-10 Park (Jennings), Southside Regional Park/Fabacher Field (Youngsville), Purple Heart Memorial Park (Ragley), Bayou Country Sports Park (Houma) and Bogue Chitto State Park (Franklinton).

If you’re traveling, other ponds include Polk City Park (Vidalia), Turner’s Pond (Minden), City Park (Grambling), Mayfield Park (Ruston), Kiroli Park (West Monroe), Parc Natchitoches and Pearson Lake (Pineville).

Calling deer hunters

State wildlife managers are asking deer hunters to submit their downed game to sample for chronic wasting disease. There are no fees.

None of the thousands of samples during the past handful of years have produced an incidence of CWD in Louisiana, but the disease has been found in our three neighboring states.

LDWF veterinarian Dr. Jim LaCour said hunters who would like to participate should follow these steps: record the GPS location where the deer was taken; remove the head about five inches below the ear (deer heads may be caped with antlers and skull cap removed); do not freeze and samples should be refrigerated or saved on ice; and, complete the online information gathering form and print the email received after completing that form.

Go to the LDWF website: wlk.louisiana.gov, find “hunting,” then “deer,” then “Get your deer tested for CWD.”

Then, the sample can be brought to the nearest LDWF offices in the area, to include Baton Rouge, 2000 Quail Dr. (225) 765-5030; Hammond, 42371 Phyllis Ann Dr. (985) 543-4777; and, Lafayette, 200 Dulles Dr. (337) 262-2080.