With the closing on Wednesday of the 10-day federal recreational red snapper season in the Gulf of Mexico, the state currently has no plans to increase the daily snapper limit in Louisiana waters, according to the head of fisheries.
Randy Pausina, with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, said the ongoing real-time harvest tracking through the LA Creel program indicates the current two-fish limit will probably extend the state season into December and come very close to the target quota established by NOAA Fisheries.
“If I felt like we were going to get to December and leave a bunch of poundage on the table, that’s when we would seriously consider raising (the daily creel limit),” Pausina said. “Or if there was a public push for four fish while the season was still going and ending it earlier, I would consider that.
“But I don’t think that’s going to happen, and I think it’s less confusing to leave it at two fish and fish the season out.”
A news release from LDWF last week showed NOAA Fisheries data indicated only 3.8 million pounds of snapper were harvested by recreational anglers in the Gulf in 2014, 28 percent below the recreational quota of 5.39 million pounds.
“That’s because they just have to be so conservative and they’re so scared because their program isn’t designed for real time counts for a recreational fishery with a quota, and they have to be ultra-conservative for fear of over-harvesting,” Pausina said. “So now they’re under-shooting.”
LDWF, however, plans on hitting the state’s share of the recreational quota this year, he said. The state season opened on March 20 and has been going seven days a week ever since.
“We’re not going to leave any fish on the table,” Pausina said. “We’re going to do it right, and we’re not going to harvest more than we need to.”
Pausina said he wouldn’t get a feel for how the 10-day federal season went in Louisiana until late next week, when harvest data from LA Creel for that time period would become available.
“Our data is near real-time, and it’s about a 10-day drag, so we won’t see the real numbers until the 20th after they do the effort calls,” he said. “But based on what I’ve seen preliminarily, it’s probably right in line on what we projected based on last year.”
With the closure of the federal season, LDWF officials again encourage fishermen to use caution and their own personal judgment when fishing beyond the three-mile boundary that is currently recognized as federal waters, as it is expected that federal agents will continue to enforce federal law. (In June 2012, the Commission took action to extend Louisiana state waters from three miles offshore to three marine leagues, or approximately 9 nautical miles, offshore.)
But until the U.S. Congress confirms Louisiana’s action, the battle will continue over Louisiana’s state water boundary.
LDWF also reminds anglers that a Recreational Offshore Landing Permit is required in order to possess certain species, including red snapper. Anglers may obtain or renew the permit, free of charge here.