The plight of Louisiana’s recreational offshore fishermen and all those who ply western waters in the Gulf of Mexico is a seemingly never-ending juggling act with federal fishing regulations.
Just when the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission will vote on the opening of this year’s recreational red snapper season — it’s an agenda item for Wednesday’s meeting in Baton Rouge — word from the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is further restrictive seasons on greater amberjack and gray triggerfish.
In both cases, the LWDF closes state waters at the same time National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration Marine Fisheries closes seasons in federal waters.
The recreational amberjack data collection/monitoring season runs from Aug. 1 through July 31 annually, but that annual season has a built-in Nov. 1-April 30 and June 1-July 31 closures.
In “normal” years, the recreational season opens in May, then closes for two months before opening Aug. 1 and running through Oct. 31.
The latest federal dictate means there will be no May 1-31 open season, which means the current season is closed from last Nov. 1 through July 31 leaving recreational anglers with a three-month, July 1-Oct. 31 season or until federal catch data indicates the “the (recreational) quota is met or projected to be met.”
LDWF’s Marine Fisheries Section received information from federal fishery managers indicating “the annual catch target of 902,185 pounds was met by October 31, 2018.
The federal fisheries release stated the closure is “necessary to prevent overfishing of the greater amberjack stock.”
Federal fisheries folks also advised the LDWF that recreational fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico will have reached their catch “target” of 217,100 pounds of gray triggerfish, and the season will close at 12:01 a.m. May 11 and will remain until March 1, 2020.
Again, the closure is to “prevent overfishing of the gray triggerfish stock.”
Thursday’s LWFC meeting — 9:30 a.m., state Wildlife and Fisheries headquarters on Quail Drive in Baton Rouge — has three recreational items covering most Louisiana’s outdoors folks.
The first is what’s called a “Declaration of Emergency: to set this year’s private recreational red snapper season. After last year’s hit-the-nail-on-the-head LA Creel count — the LDWF’s highly acclaimed fisheries data system got within 5,000 pounds of the annual quota — it’s expected the seven-member commission will follow the same schedule as last year’s Memorial Day weekend opening.
Debate likely will focus on whether to open a seven-day-a-week season or some form of weekend-only approach. Louisiana, like the other four Gulf states, will operate this private angler season under the second year of a federal Exempted Fishing Permit, and, after an increased overall red snapper quota, will have slightly more than 50,000 additional pounds of the species in their allowed take this year.
The second, the result of high water along the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers, will be to close turkey seasons on the Grassy Lake, Richard Yancey and Dewey Wills wildlife management areas.
The third is to receive final public comment on the 2019-2020 hunting season on private and public lands. The seasons, proposed in January with amendments since, covers new rules banning hunters from bringing in parts of deer and elk, and any other animals in the Cervid family, into the state. This is a precaution taken to prevent the spread of chronic wasting disease. The rules and regs also cover all resident game and migratory bird seasons.
Other agenda items include:
- Reports updating the progress of the spring inshore shrimp season, airboat restrictions on wildlife management areas, proposed bills affecting the LDWF in this years State Legislature, and about how much cultch material is removed from the state’s public oyster grounds in the oyster harvesting process.
- Final action on a notice to remove waterbottoms in areas east of the Mississippi River from the state’s public oyster seed grounds and open them to private leases for oyster cultivation.