Turkey photo

A rare bird, indeed

Veteran hunter Mike Austin was getting in the last deer-hunting days (and possibly an early jump on scouting for the spring turkey season) on his uncle's farm when he spotted these two oddly colored wild turkeys. State Wildlife and Fisheries upland game biologist Tommy Tuma described the coloration as an 'anomaly," and said biologists call this a 'smoke phase. They are pretty common in the hatch, sometimes several in a hatch which suggests a genetic link, but very rare as an adult. Some studies suggest one per 250, others even more common at one per 50. I would probably lean more toward one per 500 as very few biologists have even encountered one, much less harvested one,' Tuma said. 'They are believed to be more susceptible to predation, hence the difference in survival from hatch to adult. True albino turkeys with pink eyes are even more rare.'

The series of public meeting on speckled trout management begins Monday in Gray, then continues Wednesday in Baton Rouge and Thursday in Lafayette.

For New Orleans and north shore area fishermen, your days are coming Feb. 19 and Feb. 20.

Having been around during the no-limit days, then the short 50-per-day combination of trout and redfish, then to the current 25-per-day trout limits — it’s 15 a day in the Calcasieu Lake area — these meetings, and the public comment sure to come, will shape the future of our state’s most sought-after saltwater fish.

State marine fisheries biologists laid out their findings in January, a set of data that will be confusing to most folks unfamiliar with factors labeled “recruitment,” “spawning biomass ratio,” “spawning stock potential,” and “discard mortality” when the same info is laid out during the public meetings.

Still, the data shows a notable decline in trout populations, and there appears to be a strong push to lower the current limit — or to take some other action to “rebuild” the speckled trout stock.

From the initial announcement for public meeting, Wildlife and Fisheries’ Marine Fisheries Section first suggestion stated: “LDWF’s biological opinion is that a 20% reduction in harvest is needed in order to recover the stock by 2025 or sooner, but there are a range of options that can achieve that goal.”

So, before you attend one of the statewide meetings, know this appears to be the starting point for any discussion in the “range of options.”

There are many others, and a 20 percent reduction means a 20-per-day limit. Many folks who’ve spent time emailing and phoning want an even more dramatic reduction — to 15 a day.

The question here is will a fisherman want to keep the first 20 or the first 15 12 inches (the minimum keeper size) or longer trout, or discard those 12-inchers for larger fish?

And, if there is a substantial increase in the number of “throwbacks,” how does that affect the overall trout population? That’s where “discard mortality” enters the picture.

If you’ve fished recently in the lower Barataria area or inside waters west of Belle Pass, you know about “welfare” dolphins, that awe-inspiring marine mammal we’ve “trained” to gather around our boats and eat darned near every trout we return to the water.

While there appears to be changes forthcoming, maybe it’s time we fishermen start thinking about how many fish we discard just to say we caught a limit of 15-20 inch-long trout — whatever that limit is or might be.

And the more time spent with fishermen from other states, it sure looks like we’d better start thinking about how we can preserve this undeniably grand resource before we become like them — places where fishing is either seasonal or where catching two or three fish in a day makes you the talk of the marina.

Bite on, then gone

Just when it was getting time to write about the sac-a-lait bite in the Verret Basin (mostly in the canals near the big lakes), the bite slowed Thursday and Friday. Guess it was the storm, but maybe the full moon triggered some action for the sac-a-lait to get into prespawn mode.

With rain predicted throughout the week, it’s not likely water conditions will improve to get the bite going again anytime in the next six days.

Pearl River closure

Damage from the recent flood forced LDWF managers to close Oil Well Road on the Pearl River Wildlife Management Area to motor vehicles, but ATVs and UTVs will be allowed. All other roads on the WMA are open.