The Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission is proposing "limited access areas" within four of the state's wildlife management areas in an effort to improve waterfowl hunting. If approved, no internal-combustion engines would be allowed in these areas.
The proposal, made during the Commission's February meeting, would impact Pointe-aux-Chenes, Salvador, Pass-a-Loutre and Atchafalaya Delta WMAs.
Access into these so-called "limited access areas" for any activity would be allowed only in boats without internal-combustion motors from Sept. 1 through Jan. 31. Trolling motors would be acceptible under the proposal.
"Our goal was to set aside about 10 percent of each WMA for traditional style hunting," said Todd Baker, biologist program manager for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries' Coastal Operations Program.
While one goal is to provide traditional hunting opportunities, another reason for the proposal is to provide sanctuaries for birds.
"Last year we got calls — lots of calls — after opening weekend from hunters who said that people in surface-drive boats were running all over the WMAs to scout the week before the season," state Waterfowl Study Leader Larry Reynolds said. "By the time the season opened, all the birds had been pushed out.
"People with these boats and motors are accessing areas that were natural sanctuaries in the past."
While Reynolds admitted the paddle-only areas might be too small to have a noticeable sanctuary effect, Baker said the size of the limited access areas were limited by managers' concern about the effects on fishermen.
"It's a compromise," he said. "When we looked at this, we sat down and said, 'How big do we want to make these things?' We didn't want to take away areas from fishermen."
The only area in which the impact to anglers could be significant is on Salvador WMA, where the limited access area covers the Tank Ponds - one of the most-popular bass-fishing areas in Lake Cataouatche.
Click the links below to see WMA map showing the proposed locations for these paddle-only areas, and make any comments below the maps.