The redfish boom

Madisonville teenager used the first days of 2019's summer to take this 'keeper' redfish on a trip to Chef Menteur Pass. Redfish have become the mainstay target for coastal anglers throughout this year when speckled trout turn finicky, and have provided near nonstop action in most inshore marshes for the last six weeks.

If there’s anything to hang your hat on for 2019, it begins in the year’s first two months when Mississippi wildlife biologists found chronic wasting disease in a deer in an area close to the Mississippi River, and too close to Louisiana for comfort.

Since deer can swim most any river, the alarm went up at Wildlife and Fisheries headquarters in Baton Rouge.

If there’s one thing to learn from more than 35 years of dealing with wildlife and fisheries issues, it’s the unparalleled dedication of LDWF biologists and game managers. And since CWD has been found in Louisiana’s three neighboring states, you can add Dr. Jim LaCour’s LWDF veterinarian section to that list.

Enlisting the help of landowners in three parishes near the Mississippi CWD site, LDWF teams set about testing nearly 300 deer for this dreaded disease.

They found nothing — thank goodness — yet vigilance is the byword here, and LaCour and the biologists are a most determined lot in keeping CWD from our state.

The ‘act’

Offshore fishermen, the “private” kind, enjoyed a second Extended Fishing Permit for taking red snapper, and they took to state and federal waters with the largest allotment of red snapper since the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council put the clamps on red snapper catches a generation ago.

Now that the Modern Fish Act will allow state fishery commissions in 2020 to regulate the take of red snapper for private recreation anglers, let’s hope state marine fisheries managers learned from the past two EFP seasons.

In 2018, when LA Creel, the LDWF’s heralded fishery data collection system, got our state within 5,000 pounds of a near 750,000-pound quota, it seemed we stumbled around in the final two months of the season trying to get that close to a near 816,000-pound quota this year. It wasn’t until Nov. 28 when the LDWF opened everyday red snapper catches after months of Friday-through-Sunday openings. It should have come earlier, if only to allow for the rough weather fall brings to our state’s offshore waters.

Knowing the nearer-to-shore movement of red snapper in the winter months, maybe in 2020, there could be a weekend-only red snapper season in February or March. True, those months bring their versions of foul weather, but there are those periods in those two months when calm seas and cooler conditions might prompt fisheries managers to allow trips.

Trout talk

Speckled trout became a hot topic in the middle of the year when state fisheries biologists used data to show what appeared to be a population decline.

It might be too early to make a definitive statement on the overall health of our state's mostly highly sought-after saltwater fish, but it started a discussion, and that can open doors to a far-ranging discussion about the interplay between a fish population and the growing number of fishermen chasing them.

A new term

After the stormy beginning Gov. John Edwards brought to the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries in his first term, Louisianans can only hope and pray we don’t see a repeat of the same in Edwards’ second term.

It’s likely Jack Montoucet will remain LDWF secretary, and this former state representative has new ideas about the growing number of wild alligators in our state that could add another nuisance to our Sportsman’s Paradise nickname.

On the horizon

It’s a near sure bet there will be a bill introduced in the next legislative session to raise hunting and fishing license fees. Backers gave it a shot in 2018, but the bill gained little traction if only because there was no corresponding increase in commercial licenses. Maybe the folks who pushed in 2018 learned from that attempt.

Get the kids out

By now, most folks know BREC teamed with the LDWF to stock rainbow trout in Forest, Perkins Road, Zachary, Central, Howell and Burbank community/sports parks in East Baton Rouge Parish.

Ponds at the Lamar Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales got rainbows, too.

Now comes word from the LDWF about 1-2 pound rainbow trout stocked in community parks’ ponds across the state.

Ponds in Acadiana, Northshore and New Orleans areas include Girard Park in Lafayette, Southside Regional Park in Youngsville, I-10 Park in Jennings, Siidney Hutchinson Park in Walker, Zemurray Park near Hammond and Joe Brown Park in New Orleans.

Six other parks in central and north Louisiana were stocked, too, as part of the LDWF’s Get Out and Fish! Program with funding coming from the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Foundation and the Sport Fish Restoration Fund.

There are daily limits, and if you're 16 or older you need a state basic fishing license.