The Wild Side for July 8, 2012

While ducks dominated the discussion during last Monday’s Wildlife and Fisheries Commission meeting, fishermen needed to pay attention to what’s ahead, too.

The LWFC reinforced the National Marine Fisheries Service move in June to close the recreational season on gray triggerfish. Effective last Wednesday with the close of state waters, the entire Gulf of Mexico in and around Louisiana is closed to taking gray triggerfish until the end of the year.

Then, following a June vote requiring what state marine fisheries managers are calling a Recreational Offshore Landing Permit to land all tunas, all billfish and swordfish in the state, the same managers sought, and got, permission from the commission to require the same permit for landing all snapper, except for mangrove snapper, all amberjack and all grouper and hind species in the state.

In short, you’ll need to have this permit aboard your boat if you have any or all of the following species on your boat: greater amberjack, gag grouper, red grouper, black grouper, scamp, rock hind, red hind, yellowfin grouper or yellowmouth grouper, and all snapper species, except for mangrove snapper.

The second part of this proposed rule is that each boat will have to maintain records of the number of these fish taken, the date, the permit number of the angler catching the fish, the location and the length of each fish.

The vote approved a Notice of Intent, which means recreational fishermen will have until the LWFC’s Nov. 1 meeting to comment on the need to have this permit.

Now for the ducks: It’s a good move that State Waterfowl Study leader Larry Reynolds came out with planned dates for the upcoming duck season a month before the commission approves the dates in early August, dates the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries will forward to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for what has been a customary rubber stamp. (We should be so lucky in other dealings with the federal bureaucracy).

Duck hunters will have until Aug. 1 to comment on the dates. With the state’s new three-zone plan, it’s time to put in your two cents. The dates are listed on this page, and it’s the West Zone’s two 30-day splits that caught my eye. Don’t know that during any of this long string of 60-day duck seasons that any state hunter has had an even number in the two-split framework.

Another issue certain to draw some fire is Ronny Graham’s insistence that the youth-only waterfowl weekend in the East Zone come at the end of the season. In 2013, that’s Feb. 2-3 and would be the latest ever anyone legally has hunted ducks in our state. Graham’s push to move young hunters from the front of the line (the weekend before the regular season opens) to the back of the line breaks a string of giving 15-and-younger hunters first crack at the ducks. Graham said he doesn’t have ducks on his north Louisiana hunting area in early November, though he’s likely to hear a different story from lots of other East Zone hunters.