Feds raise snapper quota

Federal fisheries managers finally decided on the total allowable catch for 2013 for red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico and posted what turned out to be a increase from the 2012 quota Thursday in the Federal Register.

The final rule issued by the Fisheries Section of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration upped the 2013 red snapper limit to 8.46 million pounds, up from 2012’s 8.08 million pounds. Commercial fishermen receive 51 percent (4.315 million pounds) from that quota. Recreational fishermen receive the balance, or 4.145 million pounds.

More importantly for Louisiana recreational fishermen is the NOAA’s posting outlines a 24-day season for the federal waters off the Louisiana coast. Earlier this year, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council set a 27-day season beginning June 1 across the Gulf of Mexico.

In February, when Louisiana affirmed its intention to open a weekends-only recreational red snapper season running from late March through the end of September, the GMFMC turned aside Louisiana’s petition for regional management for red snapper, several other reef fish species, and several offshore species.

It was then that the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission re-affirmed its plans to push state boundary waters from three miles out to three marine leagues, or 10.357 miles, for fisheries matters only.

Texas also confirmed its year-round red snapper season in state waters, and Florida’s commission also approved a plan to open recreational red snapper season in its state waters. Texas and Florida have nine miles of state boundary waters.

Louisiana and Texas also turned aside the federal two-per-day red snapper limit. In state waters, Louisiana’s daily limit is three. In Texas, it’s four per day.

The Federal Register posting made note of what NOAA managers identified as “inconsistent regulations” by Louisiana, Texas and Florida when it came to setting the final dates for the recreational red snapper seasons for the Gulf States.

The posting indicated that the revised quota “would support a 34-day federal recreational fishing season if all states implemented compatible regulations.”

The postings of the new seasons included:

LOUISIANA: 24 days in federal waters off the Louisiana coast, June 1 to a close at 12:01 a.m. local time June 25;

MISSISSIPPI AND ALABAMA: 34 days in federal and state waters to open on June 1 and close at 12:01 a.m. local time July 5;

TEXAS: 17 days in federal waters off the Texas coast, June 1 to a close at 12:01 a.m. June 18;

FLORIDA: 26 days in federal waters off the Florida coast, June 1 to a close at 12:01 a.m. June 27. Florida state waters will be open June 1-July 14 with a two-fish daily limit.

Federal fisheries managers noted that reduced opportunity in federal waters off Louisiana, Texas and Florida coasts are the result of those states setting seasons outside the federal framework.

The posting of a notice also included a note that the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council “will review the 2013 red snapper benchmark assessment during their June meeting in Pensacola, Fla., at which time the Council may request to increase the quota should the assessment show that such action is warranted.”

LOGT awards

Louisiana Operation Game Thief announced awards totaling $5,200 to folks who reported potential wildlife and fisheries violations during the first quarter of the year.

During LOGT’s May 18 meeting, Lt. Will Roberts, the LOGT coordinator for the Department Wildlife and Fisheries identified 11 cases eligible for cash awards.

The LOGT board reviewed the cases and awarded cash to the public for assistance in cases the LOGT board noted that led to arrests for “...mostly of turkey, deer and alligator cases.”

LOGT is funded by private citizens along with anti-poaching and conservation organizations.

Anonymous reporting of possible wildlife and/or fisheries violations can be made by calling the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries 24-hour Operation Game Thief hotline (800) 442-2511, or by using the LDWF’s new tip411 program that requires fee-to-download iPhone or Androis apps from the iTunes or Googgle Play store. App users or texters can also send photos to support claims.

Wham Brake drawdown

The newly added Wham Brake area into the Russell Sage Wildlife Management Area is scheduled for the drawdown beginning Saturday.

The 4,900-acre impoundment near Monroe will be managed primarily for waterfowl and the drawdown is designed to improve waterfowl habitat, to include assessing the multiple water-control structures to determine their effectiveness in manipulating water levels to enhance the growth of submerged aquatic vegetation migratory waterfowl use for food.