LDWFC announces hunting dates

GRAND ISLE Most of Louisiana’s near 100,000 duck and goose hunters face much the same dates and daily limits for the 2013-14 season as they did last season after the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission approved waterfowl seasons during its monthly meeting Thursday at the State Marine Lab.

The commission also approved an emergency plan to reopen hunting in the eastern areas of Orleans Parish.

Ducks came first, and for the first time in more than a decade, youth hunters in the East and West zones will have their special days allowed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service split between the Saturday before and the Saturday after the regular 60-day seasons in both zones. That’s Nov. 16 and Feb. 1 in the East Zone, and Nov. 9 and Jan. 26 in the West Zone.

Youngsters 15 and younger hunting in the Coastal Zone will have the customary weekend before the regular season opener. Those dates are Nov. 2-3. And West Zone hunters, who clamored for more hunting days in December, got their wish: a 30-day first split (Nov. 16-Dec. 15) and a 30-day second split (Dec. 21-Jan. 19).

It’s the second year in the new three-zone, duck-hunting configuration for the state. The two-year-old Coastal Zone was carved from the West Zone, and West Zone hunters said more days in December gave them greater access to ducks.

State Waterfowl Study leader Larry Reynolds said kill-total data from the West Zone lands in the northwestern parishes showed hunters there got “bumps” in duck populations after Arkansas opened its season. The West’s 30-day first split covers Arkansas’ planned opening days of that state’s 60-day season.

The only other changes came in daily duck limits: An increase in canvasback numbers on breeding grounds allows taking two “cans,” but a decline in scaup numbers mandated a reduction to three scaup during the upcoming season.

Goose, merganser, coots (poule d’eau), rails, galinules and snipe seasons remained unchanged from last year with only calendar adjustments made for opening and closing dates in either zonal or statewide seasons.

The move to “repeal the closure of hunting in a portion of Orleans Parish” was to allow the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to allow for youth waterfowl hunting opportunity on the Bayou Sauvage Nationa Wildlife Refuge and plans to hunt feral hogs on the NWR to help control a growing population of the nuisance animals.

Other LWFC action included:

Posting a notice to establish an 18-inch minimum size limit on tripletail with a five-fish recreational daily limit and a 100-pound-per-day commercial limit. The notice faces a 120-day public comment period;

Approving a coastwide Aug. 12 opening of the fall inshore shrimp season with waters from the Louisiana-Mississippi line west to the Atchafalaya River opening at 6 p.m. and inside waters from the Atchafalaya River west to the Louisiana-Texas line opening at 6 a.m.;

Extending for another 120 days the closures of waters around the mouth of the Mississippi River and Bay Jimmy, Grand Terre and Elmer’s Island to all commercial fishing and all but rod-and-reel recreational fishing in the aftermath of the BP-Deepwater Horizon oil disaster;

Approving opening days for oyster harvest of seed and marketable oysters on public grounds for Sept. 4 in Little Lake, Lake Tambour, Deep Lake and Vermilion and Atchafalaya bays, Oct. 15 in the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, Lake Borgne, Sister Lake, Lake Mechant and the sacking-only areas in Lake Machias/Fortuna and Bay Long; and Nov. 1 in the West Cove area in Calcasieu Lake;

Approving a notice to remove the requirement for recreational anglers to report the take of and tagging rules for yellowfin tuna before landing the fish at a Louisiana port, and added other species that required anglers to have the Louisiana Offshore Landing Permit;

Learning there were four boating fatalities in the state during July, and the Enforcement Division agents issued 1,776 citations and 901 written warnings, mostly for expired fishing licenses during July;

And, voting its December meeting for 9:30 a.m. Dec. 5 at in Baton Rouge.