In the week leading up to Easter Sunday, and the days following when, it appears, schools are taking a holiday, it’s been a custom in thousands of south Louisiana homes to catch — and enjoy — crawfish.
The Sherburne Wildlife Management Area is one of those public-accessible areas where families could enjoy a morning catching crawfish before venturing home to a boil before the family gathering to a pinchin’ tails and suckin’ heads feast complete with whatever it is families add to this unique Louisiana gathering.
There’s a problem: spring’s floodwaters have forced state Wildlife and Fisheries to close Sherburne’s South Farm complex. It appears other areas remain open to the take of a per-person 100-pound crawfish limit.
Backwater flooding is the cause and the LDWF promised in their announcement that “once water recedes and necessary repairs have been made, the farm will be re-opened for public use.”
If you aren’t familiar with the South Farm, it’s in Iberville Parish about a mile north of Ramah off Interstate 10.
A map of Sherburne is available on the LDWF’s website: www.wlf.louisiana.gov/wma/2763.
If you want to venture into Sherburne from the north, then take the exit off U.S. 190 on the east side of the Atchafalaya bridge before you get to Krotz Springs. There’s a shooting range there and it appears it will be open to the public during the holidays.
The LDWF advised that the Woodworth shooting range in south Rapides Parish will be closed Friday, April 19 and Easter Sunday (April 21), but will be open Saturday, April 20.
The biggest news coming from this month’s Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council meeting was the 17-0 vote approving state management of the private recreational red snapper seasons.
At the risk of repeating, the biggest advantage from this vote was something outlined in Reef Fish Amendment 50 (the label for state management) was “delegation,” a term meaning each of the five Gulf states now has the authority not only to set seasons, but have full control over the daily limits as long as each state’s management accounting system works within the allotted percentage allocated from the total private recreational quota.
The new plan begins with the 2020 season. State’s will operate under a federally approved Exempted Fishing Permit this year.
Louisiana gets 19.12 percent of the overall quota, which translates into more than 800,000 pounds this season — and, presumably next year — up from the 743,000 pounds LDWF marine biologists and fishery managers allotted during 2018’s 60-day EFP season. Note: Florida has 44.822 percent; Alabama 26.298; Texas 6.21; and, Mississippi 3.55 percent. (Agreement among the states gave the remaining 3.78 percent to Florida and Alabama.)
Another Amendment 50 section allows the states to set a minimum-size limit between 14-18 inches, and to close federal waters “adjacent to the state” upon request to the National Marine Fisheries Section to “implement the closure.”
Louisiana’s Wildlife and Fisheries Commission followed the recommendations of the LDWF staff to keep the minimum size at 16 with a two-fish daily limit. The weekends-only season was set to begin on the four-day Memorial Day (May 24-27) then continued with Friday-through-Sunday periods until state managers, using LA Creel, determine the new quota will be met. Another four-day opening is schedule for July 4-7.
Recreational snapper fishing advocates have been pushing the GMFMC for a handful of years to follow a part of the Magnuson-Stevens Act mandating reallocation between sectors when data indicates the need for such a move. (M-S is the federal law that triggered establishing council and results regulations.)
A couple of years ago, a commercial-to-recreational catch-data survey showed a possible red snapper reallocation boosting the recreational allowed take to 57 percent and commercial to 43 percent of the overall Gulf red snapper allowed catch. It’s been 51 percent commercial, 49 percent recreational since red snapper regulations were instituted some 20 years ago.
The latest council report stated: “The council decided to postpone further action on this document until August 2019 in hopes that by then, the Modern Fish Act and revised (Marine Recreational Information Program) recreational landings will provide further insight on how to move forward with reallocation.”
Furthermore, the council wants staff members to “begin work on a document that would consider reducing the buffer between the red snapper annual catch limit and annual catch target for the for-hire component of the recreational sector.”
While the council staff continues to use a 20 percent private recreational buffer — a total extracted from the allowed annual catch to avoid catch overages — the council already has lowered the for-hire buffer reduced from 20 percent to 9 percent.
With LA Creel and federal approval of Florida’s data-collection program, it appears at least two states — and their recreational fishermen — could enjoy similar relief.
After the council heard “a summary of public comments,” it took final action on a plan to consider increasing shrimping in special areas the staff has monitored for juvenile red snapper bycatch.
The vote approved a reduction in “allowable shrimp effort” to 60 percent below baseline years and to revise the plan “to allow future changes to shrimp effort thresholds.”
Updated stock assessments indicated brown, white and pink are not considered to be overfished nor experiencing overfishing.