After a couple of weeks of full-blown speckled trout action — OK, not every day, but most days — there’s usually a hiccup in catches when the spring inshore shrimp season begins because there are more boats on the water.
That’ll begin a week from Monday. During Thursday’s Wildlife and Fisheries Commission meeting, the season was set to open at 6 a.m., May 18 in Shrimp zones 1 and 2, which means from the Louisiana/Mississippi state line west and across Freshwater Bayou Canal.
Also set was a 6 a.m. May 27 opener for inside waters from Freshwater Bayou Canal west to the Louisiana/Texas state line. The reason for a the opening on a Tuesday was to get shrimpers more open water after the Memorial Day holiday weekend.
May 18 will see the opening of state outside waters from the Atchafalaya River Ship Channel at Eugene Island west to Freshwater Bayou Canal.
The dates were proposed by state Wildlife and Fisheries biologists working in the State Shrimp Study section and came after monitoring freshwater discharge, rainfall, water temperature and salinity levels. The recommended dates came after projections of when at least 50% of the brown shrimp in these areas will reach a minimum of 100 to the pound. Except in Vermilion Bay where white shrimp dominate, brown shrimp are the primary catch in the spring season.
The first year of state management for red snapper will begin May 22 and herald in a summer of three-day weekend (ending on Sunday) red snapper seasons for recreational fishermen and state-chartered for-hire operations. The lone exception is the opening Memorial Day weekend, which will run through Monday, May 25.
Because July 4th falls on a Saturday, that weekend will be a three-day season. The only other possible four-day weekend would be Labor Day if there is any unfilled quota.
State charterboats are limited to fishing in state waters out to nine miles. Private recreational anglers can fish in state and federal waters out to 200 miles.
The daily creel will remain at two per angler, as will the 16-inch minimum length limit.
The LWFC approved the season during its Thursday meeting, but came with explanations from Wildlife and Fisheries marine biologist Jason Adriance.
Adriance said 2019’s 109-day season resulted in a LA Creel system-monitored catch of 848,340 pounds for recreational and state charters, or some 31,901 pounds over the state’s allowed quota (19.1% of the sector in the Gulf of Mexico.)
So, the state must “pay back” for that excess this year, which results in thwe 2020 quota of 784,332 pounds.
Adriance said staff charts, based on 2018 and 2019 catches, projected three-day seasons would extend the overall season to the end of August, a four-day weekend season to Aug. 17 and week-long season would be “much shorter.”
Adriance said he disliked making projections because “once we start fishing they’re useless.” He said the LDWF’s highly acclaimed LA Creel system begins tracking catches and will more clearly correlate red snapper catches with variations in weather and the effects COVID-19 will have on fishing activity.
The LWFC also approved for state regulations the federal move to increase the size for “keeper” cobia (ling, lemonfish) from 33 inches to 36 inches minimum fork length.
LDWF assistant secretary Patrick Banks said the marine fisheries staff continues work on any proposed changes in speckled trout regulations following outlines of declining population presented earlier this year and after a series of statewide public meetings.
Adriance said there was a short pause because of COVID-19, but the next step is an email survey of 10,000 “randomly selected anglers, and posting the same survey on our website. We will compile these surveys and combine them with what we have from the public meetings, then present (the findings) for guidance to the commission before moving on.”
After several minutes wrangling over product testing and proper labeling, the LWFC voted to continue the ban on the use of deer urine as an attractant used by hunters. Fears about the spread of chronic wasting disease was the reason. An amendment to the 2020-2021 hunting seasons would have allowed properly tested products in the state, but it was clear the six commission members were not assured untested product would be removed from store shelves this year.
The LWFC did approve the use of UTVs by physically challenged hunters on state ATV trails, and changing the state’s South Zone dove hunting season dates to Sept. 5-16, Oct. 17-Nov 29 and Dec. 19-Jan. 21. The change came after hunters asked for a season to run during the Thanksgiving holiday in the second split. The original second split was to end Nov. 17, and hunters were given the extended second split by cutting 10 days off the back end of the third split.
Spurred on by LDWF secretary Jack Montoucet, the LWFC approved a notice to allow the agency to issue alligator tags to landowners after the alligator season opens, and to lengthen the alligator season from 30 days to 60 days. Public comment will be taken through the LWFC’s Aug. 6 meeting.
A demain, mes amis
During these unsettling days, entertain this thought captured in “The Angler’s Book of Favorite Fishing Quotations,” from former President Herbert Hoover: “Be patient and calm — for no one can catch a fish in anger.”