The Wild Side for October 30, 2011

Almost as sure as the sun rises in the east and LSU will beat Alabama is that we outdoorsmen face constant challenges to what we like to do best — fish and hunt.

Don’t know how it happened, except that for a fleeting moment when common sense ruled in our nation’s capital, efforts to remove lead from the bullets we use for our shooting and hunting sports were rejected this past summer.

That doesn’t mean lead-ban proponents have faded into the woodwork. It means that sometime in the next months animal rights, anti-hunting and environmental groups will be on the attack again.

Another challenge came last week, this time from the federally funded Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, which somehow believes it can continually beat down recreational fishermen across the five Gulf states and we’re never supposed to cry foul, protest or call for their jobs.

Here’s the situation: Since the GMFMC has so dramatically reduced the recreational season and creel limits on red snapper during the past 10 years, charter skippers have complained that their ability to sustain their for-hire businesses has been threatened by reductions in the red snapper take.

Can’t blame them, not when the charter skipper and his crew are prohibited from keeping any red snapper they catch — their daily haul is limited to two per paying customer — even though most charter boat crews purchase recreational fishing licenses in the state in which they operate.

Without getting into the alphabet soup that comes with every federal agency or commission to outline the GMFMC’s action, the charter skippers wanted to have a season to provide for their catch. They wanted a quota. They wanted the ability to pick and choose the days they can catch red snapper for their for-hire parties and not be confined to the 48-day recreational red snapper season like we had this year.

So what did the GMFMC do? It decided to employ something called “sector separation” to add another group to the commercial and recreational sectors. Current rules allow commercials a 51 percent cut of the annual red snapper quota, thereby limiting the recreational side to 49 percent.

Last week, the GMFMC’s advisory panel used data to show that the recreational side must provide all the fish to this new “for-hire sector.” If the GMFMC adopts that move, it means a further reduction in the recreational season, how much of one no one can yet say.

While we have a number of offshore charter operations here, Louisiana’s numbers pale in comparison to the vast number working from Florida’s Gulf Coast. The big question is does another money-making operation have the right to dip into the recreational pot? Why can’t the commercial side give?

Does making money on the fish you bring on your boat sound like recreational fishing to you?

It doesn’t to me.