LWFC approves increased teal limits

There were no surprises in the recommendations that the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission approve a 16-day special September season for teal hunters, nor that dove hunters will get their usual 70-day season, nor that woodcock hunters face another restricted 45-day season during the commission’s July meeting Tuesday in Baton Rouge.

Nor are there major changes to the 2014 spring turkey season outlined during Tuesday’s lengthy meeting.

The surprises came in the details for those seasons, and the pitched battle that awaits the commission when it comes to handling the dispute over use of the Comite River basin.

With teal numbers at or near record highs, hunters will be allowed to take six teal per day in a Sept. 14-29 season. Hunters will be allowed to take rails and gallinules then, too. New, too, is that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will allow hunters to have a three-day possession limit for migratory birds and waterfowl beginning with the Sept. 1 start of the dove season.

Because Labor Day falls on Sept. 2, the opening day in the dove season’s North and South zones will be Sept. 7 with the customary noon opening time. After that, it’s one-half hour before sunrise to sunset for the remainder of the season: In the South Zone that’s a first split ending Sept. 15 with Oct. 19-Dec. 1 and Dec. 21-Jan 6 splits to follow, while the North Zone’s first split runs through Sept. 22 with Oct. 12-Nov. 10 and Dec. 14-Jan. 6 splits filling out the 70 days. There will be a 15-doves-per-day limit.

The woodcock season will run Dec. 18-Jan. 31 with a three-bird daily bag.

The duck, goose and snipe seasons will be presented at the commission’s Aug. 1 meeting on Grand Isle.

The five attending members of the seven-member LWFC appeared to be surprised by the turnout of Agenda Item No. 4, which covered consideration of posting a notice to change rules and regulations in the state’ Natural and Scenic Rivers System.

While Department of Wildlife and Fisheries’ program manager Keith Cascio touched on problems of the 100-foot setbacks, littering and mooring in other waterways in the state’s NSRS, the major rules changes targeted the increased ATV riders in the Comite River.

Of the 18 landowners and representatives identifying themselves as members of the Southern Mud Riders and the Zachary Creek Riders, 11 said they were opposed to and seven sought rules that would prohibit the use of ATVs in the Comite River bed. Those seeking more stringent rules claimed riders were trespassing, fouling the river with waste, littering, riding recklessly, and, in two instances, threatening landowners.

LWFC member Pat Manuel of Eunice responded that trespassing and threatening behavior issues do not fall under the commission’s purview, but rather to local law enforcement.

“No rule or regulation we can pass here can protect you from that,” Manuel said.

It was the Scenic River regulations that became the argument.

Belinda Bordelon told the commission that she was “raised on the creek. We police ourselves and I do not see anything that riding the creek is doing anything harmful.”

Property owner John Day identified himself as an aquatic biologist and said riders are degrading the river.

“Since intensive riding began on the river, the wildlife has disappeared,” Day said. “They are degrading the system and our private property rights.”

The commission voted to table the issue and promised to return it to the agenda later this year.

Other LWFC action included:

Learning that state Enforcement Division agents issued 1,443 citations and 544 written warnings during June. Lt. Col. Joey Broussard also reported two boating-related deaths during June, one in Plaquemines and the second in Terrebonne parishes to double the number of 2013 boating fatalities to four compared to 20 during the first six months of 2012;

Hearing a report on tripletail from state marine biologist Jason Andriance, then comment from Coastal Conservation Association-Louisiana executive director David Cresson asking the commission to establish recreational and commercial take of the species in state waters;

Hearing a report from State Waterfowl Study leader Larry Reynolds outlining hunter preferences for the upcoming duck season after surveys conducted after the 2012-2013 season. Reynolds also told the commission he expect a 60-day, 6-ducks-per-day season framework from the USFWS;

And, voting its November meeting for Nov. 7 in Baton Rouge.