You can add one more item to the list of things you’re thankful for at next month’s Thanksgiving dinner: officials with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries announced a recreational fall red snapper season is tentatively set to kick off in state waters on Friday, Nov. 20 and go through the end of 2015.
Randy Pausina, head of fisheries for LDWF, said while LA Creel estimates show recreational fishermen landed 763,248 pounds of snapper through Sept. 8 when the state season ended, charter boats caught 230,715 pounds during their 45-day season — only 68 percent of their target allocation.
And since charter boat captains — as Federal Reef Fish Permit holders — are prevented from fishing in state waters because of Amendment 30B, Pausina wants Louisiana’s recreational anglers to harvest the fish before the end of the year.
“It’s the only option I have,” Pausina said. “I can’t give them back to the charter guys in any way, shape or form. Those fish would essentially be lost for Louisiana, so I’m just going to open it and let the rec guys go get them.
“They’re Louisiana’s fish.”
Even though charter captains were granted a 45-day federal season as part of sector separation — while recreational anglers were permitted to fish in federal waters only nine days — Pausina said LA Creel estimates indicate charter boats came up well short of their 338,548-pound allocation.
“They fished for 45 days and got a lot of trips, and it was definitely a good thing for them — better than the nine days the recs got stiffed with,” Pausina said. “But the reality is, I told them all along, ‘You’re still getting screwed because if I managed it, I’d give you a hundred-and-something days.
“‘I’d give you your fish. Not some crystal ball to the future.’”
Right now, the season is tentatively set to reopen on Friday, Nov. 20 and run seven days a week through the end of the year with the same creel, possession and size limits, he said.
Reopening a fall season for recreational anglers in state waters validates the LA Creel program’s ability to compile accurate, up-to-the-minute harvest information, he said.
“Everything we do is for a point, and the point is that real time management can be done, no matter what NOAA says, and no matter what the idiots on the Gulf Council vote,” Pausina said. “Louisiana is not just going to sit around and talk about it. We’re just showing it all the time.”