The proposal, which has been a hot-button issue on the LouisianaSportsman.com forum, with our users sounding off on both sides of the issue on numerous threads, is set to be heard before the Senate Natural Resources Committee on April 22.
The original language Senate Bill 573 can be read here.
Claitor said the bill is set to be considered at 10:15 a.m. or after the full Senate adjourns for the day, whichever is later.
The Baton Rouge Republican told LouisianaSportsman.com this week that he first considered introduction of the bill after being approached by former Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries secretary Jimmy Jenkins, who has made no secret over the past few years that he'd like to see the practice stopped.
"I represent basically 115,000 people, one of which is Jimmy Jenkins," Claitor said. "He visited with me and points out that redfish do not have the same protection as other game fish."
However, he didn't introduce the bill until speaking with Coastal Conservation Association-Louisiana leaders and learning that the organization's board unanimously backed the prohibition.
"To me as a legislator, that means it's not just one guy coming to see me about an issue: It's an issue supported by about 18,000 people," Claitor said.
The powerful Louisiana Land Association, who has successfully lobbied to protect the right to block waterways to public access, also has come out in favor of the bill.
While Claitor said enforcement concerns with the largely night-time activity were part of the equation, CCA Chief Executive Officer David Cresson said his group backs the bill for one reason.
"Once you break it down to its purest form, a game fish in Louisiana is a fish that can be taken for recreational purposes using a rod, line, a reel and bait," Cresson said.
Indeed, Louisiana Revised Statute 56:320 states that " skin divers fishing for recreational purposes in fresh water, when submerged in the water and using standard spearing equipment, or any person using a bow and arrow, or any person using or possessing nets or traps, including recreational hoop nets, recreational slat traps, recreational pipes, recreational buckets, recreational drums, recreational tires, and recreational cans, may not take or possess any game fish except red drum may be taken using a bow and arrow or by skin divers using standard spearing equipment fishing for recreational purposes while submerged in water" and "(n)o person shall take or possess game fish taken by means of snagging devices, not including bow and arrow."
Cresson said that's a fundamental problem.
"We don't have a problem with bowfishing," he said. "We just have a problem with this particular language that basically negates the law.
"It's not a problem with bowfishing – it's a problem with bowfishing redfish."
This move is simply an extension of the original impetus to form CCA, he said.
"Our organization and many, many others over many, many years battled to achieve game fish status for this fish, this iconic fish that was being decimated at the time - yet this game fish (redfish) is not enjoying the same protection that other game fish enjoy," Cresson said.
However, opponents of Claitor's bill say that there's just no reason to prohibit the use of archery equipment for redfish.
"They were granted game fish status to protect them from commercial over-harvest," said Lance Gremillion said, known on LouisianaSportsman.com as "lanco1."
Gremillion said that bowfishing hasn't caused any great calamity to red drum stocks during the more than two decades since being granted game fish status.
"In those 25 years, redfish populations have consistently increased," he said. "If we're not impacting the resources, then it's just semantics and sentiment if they want to stop bowfishing."
Gremillion said the bowfishing is just like any other form of fishing, with its ups and downs.
"There are certainly nights you get skunkced, and there are days you can't help but limit," he said. "But I would say people generally shoot 50 percent or less."
And he added that it's a niche sport that probably would never cause any damage to the overall fishery.
"There aren't that many people doing it," Gremillion said. "It's pretty limited, and it's usually pretty lonely at the launch."
While some of those supporting the ban have questioned possible killing of undersized redfish with bows, Cresson said his organization isn't pursuing the prohibition based on that or even on any allegation that the practice is harmful to stocks.
"We've never said there is any negative impact on the species," he said. "All we're saying is, 'If we're going call a fish a game fish, let's make sure that it gets the same protections as other game fish.'"
Cresson said he wasn't surprised that there were vocal opponents of the bill, but that he was taken aback by one group of opponents.
"I was surprised at the number of people who said they are CCA members but don't support the bill," he said. "I was under the impression that when you get a unanimous vote by the board (of any organization) that it represents the will of the membership."
Cresson said the opposition within his group should be a shocker.
"When you have 16,000 members from all parts of the state and all walks of life, you're gong to have difference of opinions," he explained.
However, he said that didn't change the group's official stance.
"We as an organization feel like we've got to do what's best for the resource, and in this case we feel what is best is sticking to what the law originally intended," Cresson said.
Claitor said he's actually pleased to have a vibrant discussion on the proposal, and encourages everyone to contact him and the Senate Natural Resources Committee members.
"One of the things you can do is fill it at the last minute to stifle discussion, but we pre-filed the bill to be sure it's out there and people have an opportunity to respond and have dialog on it," he said.
The legislator encouraged LouisianaSportsman.com users to email their opinions about the bill to him and to the Senate Natural Resources Committee members; however, he said there's one caveat.
"I don't read anonymous emails," Claitor said. "They need to state their name and contact information so I can keep them informed."
Links to each of these influential senators is below, but remember to include your real name, your address and contact information.
• Sen. Dan Claitor - firstname.lastname@example.org
• Sen "Nick" Gautreaux - email@example.com
• Sen. Dan "Blade Morrish - firstname.lastname@example.org
• Sen. "Jody" Amedee - email@example.com
• Sen. Norby Chabert - firstname.lastname@example.org
• Sen. Troy Hebert - email@example.com
• Sen. Michael J. "Mike" Michot - firstname.lastname@example.org
• Sen. John R. Smith - email@example.com
• Sen. A.G. Crowe - firstname.lastname@example.org