More than three years of work to more clearly define Louisiana’s recreational fishing catch estimates culminated Friday when federal fisheries managers certified state Wildlife and Fisheries’ Recreational Creel survey, a program commonly called LA Creel.

Groundwork for this initiative began in 2014 when Robert Barham headed the LDWF and Randy Pausina was the agency’s Assistant Secretary for Fisheries. The survey’s work continued when Gov. John Bel Edwards was sworn in two years ago.

LA Creel was designed to achieve more accurate data, and provide those numbers more quickly, than the federal Marine Recreational Information Program. MRIP data collected in one year became available for review as much as a year after recreational seasons had closed on several species.

That lag time, along with questions about the reliability of the recreational catch numbers in some scientific circles, sent Louisiana’s marine fisheries managers and biologists as well as other Gulf states fisheries sections to develop alternative methods to determine recreational fishing effort, catch rates and estimate catch numbers especially for offshore species. The first efforts involved recreational red snapper catches.

The LDWF announcement also carried information crediting federal MRIP staff with providing “technical support” that helped state biologists to refine LA Creel data.

LA Creel is the first of these effort to be certified by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries, a move that makes the program eligible for federal funding the LDWF indicates will “support ongoing improvements and implementation.”

And certification also means LA Creel data can be compared with MRIP estimates to determine common comparisons of numbers produced by both programs to provide more accurate data of both historic numbers and future data.

Information provided by NOAA indicated Mississippi and Alabama are developing surveys to augment MRIP estimates for red snapper catches, and that Florida’s state-developed reef-fish survey will come under review next month.

The LDWF’s move to more accurately estimate species other than red snapper grew into the state’s Recreational Offshore Landing Permit, a fee-free requirement for private recreational anglers catching reef fish and several bluewater species, including tuna and billfish.

The commission

With more than two months remaining in the 2017-2018 hunting seasons, a major topic for Thursday’s Wildlife and Fisheries Commission meeting will be to hear the notice of intent for the 2018-2019 hunting seasons.

As has been the case for a decade, the LDWF’s Wildlife Division will outline proposed major changes to hunting rules and regulation on private and public lands.

And continuing with a new schedule, migratory bird and waterfowl hunters will find out proposed next season’s dates for doves, teal, ducks, geese, snipe, rails, gallinules and woodcock.

Other agenda items include:

  • An update from the Feral Hog Management Advisory Task Force, and a notice on the state’s feral hog transport regulations;
  • A report on state’s application for an Exempted Fishing Permit application for red snapper;
  • A Louisiana Charter Boat Association presentation outlining survey results of the state’s federally-permitted charterboat operators;
  • Consideration of support for the Louisiana-Only Amendment and the Louisiana Habitat Based Exempted Fishing Permit to be presented during the Jan, 29-Feb. 1 Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council meeting at the Hyatt-French Quarter in New Orleans;
  • And, the election of a new chairman and vice chairman.

A reminder: The meeting has been pushed to 1 p.m. and not at the usual 9:30 a.m. start.