The Wild Side: It’s time we take back our fishery

The report was quick and to the point: “11 guys, 33 snapper, 9 a.m., 4½ miles out. Great day.”

It was Saturday of Easter weekend, and these guys were bound and determined to make up for time lost after rough seas left them and lots of others sitting dockside for Louisiana’s recreational red snapper opener the previous weekend.

That they bragged they were 4½ miles out and took three fish per man was a collective thumbing of their noses at federal managers who have continued to limit their snapper seasons for most of this century. These anglers said they were just following the state’s new three-day weekend, three-snapper daily take.

Their reaction, too, was a special snap back at Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council administrator Roy Crabtree, the man who declared Louisiana would get a reduced nine-day recreational red snapper season in federal waters.

The cry came from all recreational quarters, including state fishery managers, that Crabtree’s proclamation was punishment for Louisiana’s move to regional fishery management for what Crabtree apparently believes is a God-given mandate to control all recreational fishing for the five Gulf states.

But let us not blame Roy Crabtree: It’s our fault that we’re in this fisheries management mess.

We have allowed federal employees to take ownership of what we’ve hired them to manage. We see that everywhere in the federal bureaucracy, from attempts to shut down access to federal waters and lands, decreased hunting opportunities on federal lands, to the debacle that has become fisheries management not only in the hotly debated Gulf of Mexico, but controls on fishing along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

Crabtree’s czar-like decision about Louisiana’s red snapper season could not have been his decision alone. He has to report to folks in this federal fisheries management scheme, and it’s apparent he was following a plan that allows federal employees to make moves we tacitly have allowed them to take in the past.

That was our fault. Now it’s time to stop that process. It’s time to reclaim ownership and tell the folks who manage these resources that they work for us, not for themselves or some special interest groups.

For ‘the professor’

Doug Hannon came into our homes via Bassmaster TV, and folks interested in such things quickly came to know him as “The Bass Professor.” A PhD, Hannon shared his knowledge of bass species with any angler who cared to listen.

He was a soft-spoken man who helped bass anglers understand how better to keep bass living in boats’ live wells, and kept the movement going for live-bass releases after tournaments. He understood the future of bass fishing lay in returning fish to the water. He also invented a terrific spinning reel, the WaveSpin.

Hannon passed away last week. He was 66, and his passing has left a void in the fishing world.