After what happened during Thursday’s Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission meeting, it’s difficult to know where to start for sportsmen in our Sportsman’s Paradise.
Let’s see, is it with red snapper, or how about ducks, or maybe speckled trout?
The most immediate impact among these three came from Wildlife and Fisheries marine biologist Jason Adriance, and it concerned red snapper.
Adriance announced the latest numbers. Through July 26, 10 weeks of weekend seasons, LA Creel data shows a 609,371-pound catch, or about 78% of our state’s 784,332-pound private recreational quota.
It’s that 22% residual that raised eyebrows: Adriance said those 174,961 pounds remaining could be gobbled up quickly.
He cited August’s favorable offshore weather and sea conditions allowing more recreational offshore fishing trips, which, he said, “there’s the potential for large landings.”
So, as we near the annual quota, there’s the charge of staying within that number, and the potential of “large landings,” Adriance said. “It would not be a surprise to see possible closure information next week.”
So, until LA Creel needs its two-week processing time to determine the total catch, the season could be shut down sooner than later.
Larry Reynolds, Wildlife and Fisheries’ Waterfowl Study leader, knows how to jump from the frying pan into the fire.
Using what he called the biggest waterfowl hunters survey — 68,578 surveys were mailed and 13,500 responded — Reynolds said responses boiled down to a handful of issues.
Note here, the reason Reynolds’ presentation was on the agenda is the commission needs to decide how it wants waterfowl hunters to spend their time in blinds across the state for the five years beginning with the 2021-2022 season. And, a decision has to be sent to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service by Oct. 1.
Boiling down a hefty presentation, and a near hour-long discussion, Reynolds recommended a two-zone, two-split season, a move that would give Louisiana duck hunters three segments of what’s projected to be a continuing 60-day duck season.
The current five-year plan has three zones and one split.
Under the new framework, this year’s East Zone will remain largely intact with the West Zone taking in all coastal parishes, and would give hunters in the rice-growing areas the benefits of “early and late ducks.
“Ducks use the coastal marshes and also fly into the rice fields. Those birds just don’t hold up in the coastal zone,” Reynolds said, explaining the move of the rice-growing areas from the East Zone into the West Zone.
The move would also apply to zones for goose-hunting seasons.
Public comment will be accepted through Aug. 31.
Since little will happen soon on any new speckled trout management plans, this stands last in this line.
Adriance held the floor again and said after a series of statewide public meetings and email and website surveys, there are five options all designed to fix what LDWF marine biologists believe is an overfished stock of speckled trout in state waters.
From the meetings and the surveys, Adriance said the greater preference would be a reduction from the current 25-trout/12-inch minimum daily limit to a 15-fish limit with a 13.5-inch minimum size.
Other options would be a mix of a reduction to as low as a 10 fish daily creel and as much as a 14-inch minimum size restriction.
Another option, this one for a closed season, met with almost no support.
“We’re looking for some direction from (the commission),” Adriance said. “We have the surveys of the angler’s preferences." He also told the seven-member commission that the staff will continue to monitor the viability of the species.
He said a possible decline in the overall health of the trout population because of the marked increase in the number of basic and saltwater fishing licenses sold since the marked increase in coronavirus pandemic measures.
“COVID has had an effect,” Adriance said. “We began seeing summer-like (fishing) effort beginning in March. It means a lot more fish are being removed, but one more year of data is not likely to impact the overall data. Our gill-net sampling shows less biomass, and that’s because we removed more fish.”
After a lull between the new and last week’s full moon, trout action was brisk along the Central Coast. Hot spots were the beaches along Elmer’s Island, Grand Terre and the Last Island chain.
Redfish and largemouth bass dominated the action east of the Mississippi River, although there was some trout action off the passes on the east side of the river.
The Atchafalaya Basin remains the hottest freshwater spot for bass, sac-a-lait and bream.
Note here that the fall inshore shrimp season opens Monday in most inside waters, except for waters in the Biloxi Marsh and Mermentau River areas (too many small white shrimp) and those places will open Aug. 24.