With the state’s position on the recreational red snapper issue heading for national news, deer hunters and bass fishermen held some of the spotlight during Thursday’s Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission meeting in Baton Rouge.

Defying federal mandates, the state will open its recreational red snapper season March 23, far ahead of the expected June 1 opening in federal waters.

During the same three-hours-plus meeting, a proposal for new size and creel limits for black bass in and around the Atchafalaya Spillway and a dramatically different approach to taking deer across the southern parishes were offered beginning with the 2013-2014 hunting season.

Debated and discussed among south Louisiana freshwater anglers since the restrictive regulations were imposed in 1993, the new black bass proposal for the spillway, waters in the Lake Verret and Lake Fausse Pointe. It eliminates a size limit, but reduces the daily limit to 7 bass.

State district fisheries biologist Brac Salyers told the commission that the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries’ latest three-year study “...determined that the 14-inch minimum size length limit (the current rule) will not produce increased abundance of large bass and is not suitable for the Atchafalaya Basin.”

Salyers added that the study showed a 14-inch bass averaged 3.4 years old and further described basin bass as “short-lived, seldom reaching 5 years of age.”

For deer hunters, studies during the same time period produced a dramatic overhaul in the deer-season structure for the 2013-2015 hunting seasons.

Citing a transformation of land use to pine-tree farming, continued land development for homes, disappearing marshes and the constant threat from tropical storms and flooding, State Deer Study leader Scott Durham offered dramatic changes to the deer-hunting landscape across south Louisiana.

State Deer Area 6 has been reduced by more than two-thirds of the size it has occupied on state maps for more than 20 years, and East Baton Rouge and West Feliciana parishes will be split (at U.S. 61) between Area 6 and newly created Area 4 that will take in the upper portions of the Florida Parishes.

The plan adds Area 9 and 10, with Area 9 taking in all the lower portion of old Area 6, and area 10 taking in the coastal lands in old Area 3.

The plan, Durham said, is to re-establish doe-hunting days in the areas that have been heavily impacted by development and/or by storms and floods in the last eight years.

In other action Thursday, the LWFC:

  • Had a moment of silence in memory of commission member Mike Voison, who passed away Saturday;
  • Passed final rules for the Alternative Oyster Culture Permit;
  • Continued the commercial fishery closure at the mouth of the Mississippi River, Grand Terre Island and Bay Jimmy due to continued problems after the BP-Deepwater Horizon oil disaster;
  • Approved the annual striped mullet stock assessment;
  • Learned that agents issued 1,322 citations during January;
  • Set its June meeting for June 6 in Baton Rouge.