News of Monday’s unanimous passage of the U.S. Senate’s version of the Modern Fish Act was hailed by sportfishing organizations as a Christmas present for the country’s 11 million saltwater recreational fishermen.

The Senate’s version has a handful of different provisions than the U.S. House bill pushed by Rep. Garret Graves, R-Louisiana and passed in July, and the bill’s backers are hopeful the House will pass the Senate’s version before it adjourns later this week for the Christmas holiday.

The House needs to vote to suspend regular rules to take up the bill, and, although there continues to be push-back from environmental groups, backers believe there are enough votes in this lame-duck session to send the bill to the White House.

There are several key provisions in this landmark fishery-use regulation, including:

  • A requirement for the country’s Comptroller General “to conduct a study on the process of mixed-use fishery allocation review by the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico Regional Fishery Management Councils and report findings to Congress within one year of enactment of the Modern Fish Act;
  • Mandating the National Academies of Sciences to “complete a study and provide recommendations within two years of the enactment of the Modern Fish Act on limited access privilege programs (catch shares) including an assessment of the social, economic, and ecological effects of the program, considering each sector of a mixed-use fishery and related businesses, coastal communities, and the environment and an assessment of any impacts to stakeholders in a mixed-use fishery caused by a limited access privilege program.” The Pacific and North Pacific Regional Fishery Management councils are excluded from this provision.

“Senate passage of the Modern Fish Act proved marine recreational fishing is a nonpartisan issue, and anglers are closer than ever to being properly recognized in federal law,” Baton Rougean Jeff Angers said. Angers, the president of the Center for Sportfishing Policy, thanked Senators Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi, and Bill Nelson, D-Florida for their push in the Senate to get the bill passed.

Others, including Thom Dammrich, president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association; Patrick Murray, president of Coastal Conservation Association; Whit Fosburgh, president of Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership; and Jim Donofrio, president of the Recreational Fishing Alliance lined up to offer thanks for the bill’s passage after more than a four-year battle.

“We applaud the U.S. Senate for approving this commonsense legislation, which will modernize our federal fisheries management system and protect recreational angling for generations to come,” Dammrich said.

Said Murray, “We are proud of the extensive work that went into producing this bill and are grateful to our champions in Congress who worked to establish recreational angling as an important component in the management of our nation's fisheries, at long last.

Check out rainbows

BREC ponds in Zachary, Central and North Baton Rouge were stocked with rainbow trout earlier this week, and should be acclimated to their new environs by the weekend.

The trout came from Ava, Missouri, and were placed in Zachary Community Park, 20055 Old Scenic Hwy.; Palomino Drive Park, 14100 Palomino Drive in Central; and Howell Community Park, 5509 Winbourne Ave. in Baton Rouge.

Complete rules and regulations are posted on the Baton Rouge Recreational and Parks website” brec.org/rainbowtrout.

The annual Geaux Fish Rainbow Trout Fishing rodeos are scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Jan. 12 at Zachary Community Park, and 8:30 a.m. Jan. 13 at Howell Community Park.

December’s returns

If you’ve had trouble taking ducks in the first few days of the second split, there’s good reason. The state’s December aerial survey estimates showed 1.94 million ducks, about 36 percent lower than December, 2017 (3.02 million) and 32 percent lower than the month’s long-term average of 2.84 million.

Totals for the southeast marshes were 305,000 dabblers, 585,000 divers, including an estimated high count of 106,000 canvasbacks. And with an 806,000 count of poule d’eau, the chances of taking a few of them are good, too.

The southwest marshes came in with a 886,000 total ducks and Catahoula Lake’s count was 156,000, and the report noted the “estimate of 220,000 canvasbacks is the second highest on record behind only the 272,000 estimate in January, 2015.”