14-day snapper season set

State to stop reporting numbers to feds; bill seeks to revamp system

Photo provided by JEFF DePRATORiver bassYoung Jake DePrato shows a hefty catch of largemouth bass taken on a 7-inch soft-plastic worm. Fishing with his dad, Jeff, catches like his are common in most rivers and in the Atchafalaya Spillway as anglers head from summer into the early days of fall. Water levels are stable, and there's  enough wind and rain to keep oxygen levels high enough in most areas to avoid what usually are late-summer die-offs of shad and some sunfish  species that are susceptible to low levels of dissolved oxygen that plague shallow-water areas. Bass fishermen are reminded that new regulations allow the daily take of seven black bass with no size limits in the Atchafalaya Spillway and the Lake Verret Basin.
Photo provided by JEFF DePRATORiver bassYoung Jake DePrato shows a hefty catch of largemouth bass taken on a 7-inch soft-plastic worm. Fishing with his dad, Jeff, catches like his are common in most rivers and in the Atchafalaya Spillway as anglers head from summer into the early days of fall. Water levels are stable, and there's enough wind and rain to keep oxygen levels high enough in most areas to avoid what usually are late-summer die-offs of shad and some sunfish species that are susceptible to low levels of dissolved oxygen that plague shallow-water areas. Bass fishermen are reminded that new regulations allow the daily take of seven black bass with no size limits in the Atchafalaya Spillway and the Lake Verret Basin.

Fisheries managers in the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration did not identify the numbers used from its assessment of the take during June’s 28-day recreational red snapper season, only that the supplemental season will run from 12:01 a.m. Oct. 1 to 12:01 a.m. Oct. 15 in the federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

Earlier this summer, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council approved an increase in the annual red snapper total quota from 8.46 million pounds to 11 million pounds. That quota is divided into 51 percent for commercial interests and 49 percent, or 5.39 million pounds for the recreational sector.

In late August, NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service Southeast Region director Roy Crabtree said an early assessment of June’s recreational catch showed recreational fishermen might have exceeded that quota.

Crabtree also said there could be a discrepancy in a new method used to determine the number of pounds taken in that June season. Friday’s announcement didn’t identify any problem with that survey methodology nor with any allowance difference from the June season’s numbers and the new annual quota.

More on snapper

Last week produced two more developments on the red snapper front.

Early in the week, Department of Wildlife and Fisheries decided to stop reporting its red snapper numbers to federal managers. The explanation was the feds misused the numbers in extrapolating the recreational catch during the June federal season and the state’s new spring-summer, three-day weekend snapper season.

Thursday, a bill was filed in the U.S. House to revamp Gulf of Mexico red snapper regulations.

Congressmen Jeff Miller, R-Fla., and Cedric Richmond, D-La., introduced the Gulf of Mexico Red Snapper Conservation Act. Among the co-sponsors are Steve Scalise, R-La., and Charles Boustany, R-La., and representatives from Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina, Georgia, Virginia, Minnesota and Ohio.

The proposed legislation comes after Gov. Bobby Jindal and three other Gulf states governors sent a letter to Congress calling for revamped red snapper regulations throughout the Gulf of Mexico. The governors called the regulations “irretrievably broken,” and said they were seeking a form of fisheries management that allowed for states, not federal agencies, to manage Gulf red snapper stocks.

Jeff Angers, the Baton Rougean who heads the Center for Coastal Conservation, said the legislation, if passed, is an important first step in correcting increasing problems with the multi-tiered federal fisheries plan.

“Federal management of red snapper has painted itself into a corner,” Angers said Thursday. “We have a robust red snapper population in the Gulf, but 2013 was as chaotic a season as anglers have ever seen. The season started as the shortest ever, saw a revolt by some states that resulted in even shorter seasons, endured a lawsuit, received a glowing stock assessment and the promise of a fall season, only to crash on wild estimates of overharvest that put the fall season in jeopardy.

“This is no way to manage a fishery, and this legislation presents a way out of this no-win situation,” Angers said.

Angers said moves by Louisiana, Texas and Florida to move away from federally imposed recreational red snapper fishing season, and the federal reaction to as few a nine-day season spurred the Congressional action. A federal court ruling that turned aside the restricted red snapper season further supported the move.

The American Sportfishing Association’s assessment of the Red Snapper Conservation Act indicated this bill would set up a partnership among the Gulf states for red snapper management.

“There are many examples where a shift to state-based management of a given fishery resource has been called for, producing better results,” ASA President Mike Nussman said.

White Lake hunts

Hunters 18 and older have until 4:30 p.m. Oct. 11 to apply for lottery waterfowl hunts in the rice fields and marshes in the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries’ White Lake Wetlands Conservation Area in Vermilion Parish.

See the application for available dates, which stretch through January. Hunters must send a $5 fee (check or money order) for each application. Successful applicants will be notified by mail.

Rice field hunts allow two more hunters and cost $225. Marsh hunts allow one more hunter and cost $350.

Applications are available at LDWF field offices or online at wlf.louisiana.gov/hunting/lottery-hunts.

Call Wayne Sweeney (337) 536-9400 for information.