Louisiana legislators pass $24 billion budget, end session; Gov. Bobby Jindal says he'll sign the legislative fiscal package _lowres

Rep. Jack Montoucet, D-Crowley, shares humor with his fellow legislators during the last day of the 2015 Legislative Session.

Happy New Year.

If you didn’t take time from hunting deer, ducks, rabbits, snipe, quail, geese, doves, rails, gallinules or getting on the water for trout, bass, redfish or sac-a-lait before the weekend rains greeted the new year, then you probably didn’t take time to read Saturday’s news.

Here’s the catch-up: Jack Montoucet is Gov. J.B. Edwards’ pick to take the reins at the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. (It’s “J.B.” here because I don’t ask anyone to call me by three names and don’t understand why anyone else should demand such. Besides, J.B. is more than enough to distinguish him from our once-imprisoned governor with the same surname.)

Montoucet's appointment is effective Jan. 16, and current LDWF assistant secretary for fisheries, Patrick Banks, will run the agency for the next couple of weeks.

Montoucet is a retired fire chief from the Lafayette Fire Department, who currently owns and operates and alligator farm Jacques' Croc's & Farm Pride Processors and is president of the Louisiana Alligator Association, presumably a position he will forego to take over the LDWF.

Edwards’ pronouncement came Friday, but an indication of what was to come came Thursday when Speaker of the House Taylor Barras announced a vacancy in the state House effective Jan. 15 on the resignation of Montoucet, who was elected in 2007.

In Friday’s release, Montoucet made it clear he will continue the hunt for wrong-doers in the state agency, a crusade making headlines under the 11-month rule of deposed LDWF secretary Charlie Melancon.

“I’m honored to be chosen by our governor to lead an agency that protects Louisiana’s legacy and unique culture,” Montoucet said in a LDWF release. “I will be a uniter, not a divider, on important decisions about access to wildlife and fisheries that impact our environment and our way of life.

“I understand the seriousness of the issues raised by a recent audit, and the governor and I are committed to making the necessary reforms to this agency,” he said. “Businesses, recreational sportsman and every interested party will have a seat at the table and they will be treated fairly, and I am looking forward to serving the Sportsman’s Paradise.”

Since his resignation in December, Melancon has laid some of the blame for his demise squarely on the doorstep of Coastal Conservation Association-Louisiana’s doorstep.

CCA-Louisiana executive director David Cresson said his association with Montoucet in the state Legislature has been a good one.

“(Montoucet) is committed to conservation and we’ve had only positive interactions with Rep. Montoucet during his time in the Legislature," Cresson said. "There has been a lot of positive feedback from those who know him, and we’re looking forward to working with him.”

This week

Fishing between the fronts has been the most productive time, but after two days of hard rains, forecasting catches for the coming week fall somewhere between hopeful and iffy.

Winds will lay Tuesday, and if you're planning to head to Lake Pontchartrain — a bonafide hot spot — then the forecast is for less than 1-foot seas on 5-10 west winds Tuesday and 5-10 knot north winds Wednesday, when the next cold front is scheduled to sweep into south Louisiana.