Too bad during the week before Easter so much pent-up frustration throughout our state’s offshore fishing community was vented in such a way as to cast a pall over this glorious day.
Sure, the ever-building anger over increasingly lower red snapper seasons and daily limits was bound to boil over. It was coming: It had to come and it did during Thursday’s Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission meeting.
While enduring catch limits that went from unlimited 20 years ago to four-per-day and now two-per-day, and seasons that dropped from 365 days, to 70, to 54, to 47 and now facing what has been announced as 30-40 days this year, offshore fishermen have watched red snapper populations explode off the Louisiana coast.
Yes, explode, almost to the point where it appears red snapper doubled their numbers and doubled in size every year since 2005’s Hurricane Katrina.
Since then, recreational anglers have gone from taking red snapper, mangrove snapper, grouper, amberjack, triggerfish, spadefish and king mackerel from offshore oil and gas platforms to seeing red snapper become the predominate and dominant species over and around our state’s most abundant artificial reefs.
The frustration is that this explosion has come at a time when federal biologists and managers repeat that red snapper continue to be overfished and that we’re overfishing the species.
That’s what’s angered recreationals: This continued position by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council and the National Marine Fisheries Service that red snapper are in peril in the western Gulf of Mexico has little traction when simple observation — not outdated biological models, not sampling methods, not the suppositions inherent in estimating fish populations — tells anyone who cares to look that’s not the case.
Commission member Billy Broussard boiled down the mood to a few words: “We are sick and tired of being sick and tired.”
Broussard went further when he called for a move for Louisiana to refuse to accept federal red snapper regulations for state waters.
The call for the state to join Texas on the “non-compliant” list had supporters. While all those who spoke declared their frustration with the continued restricted seasons and daily limits, there were notes of caution about Louisiana’s move to join Texas and that Florida was waiting to become the next state on that list.
If that happens, and with federal managers so adamant that their way is the right way, it’s likely the feds’ next move would be to close all recreational red snapper fishing in the Gulf of Mexico. And until laws governing all this can be changed, the reality is that the feds, not frustrated fishermen, will rule the roost.
Butch Muir retired Thursday from Advocate Sports’ top job.
No one worked harder, and no one deserves retirement more. Good luck my friend. Enjoy.