Delta NWR fishing regs need clarification, angler says

Fishing regulations pamphlet could be clarified, refuge manager says.

Craig Graham of St. Francisville is an avid angler who isn’t afraid to travel a few miles to catch a few fish. So when he heard that sizable speckled trout were being caught in Delta National Wildlife Refuge at the mouth of the Mississippi River, he didn’t hesitate to begin planning a trip there.

But he did take the time to read the refuge hunting and fishing guidelines pamphlet.

When he did, he was confused.

“I went last year and when I read the pamphlet, I interpreted it that you could fish (wherever you wanted) in Delta after noon,” Graham said. “After I fished, I asked questions on the form, wondering where I could go and where I couldn’t go. To me, it wasn’t clear.”

He also went online to see if other anglers had similar questions. He found they did.

“Everyone had different interpretations of what you can do, what the regulations were on where you can fish,” Graham said.

At issue are two sections of the hunting regulations pamphlet — one section that stipulates access to most of the refuge is prohibited during waterfowl season and another portion that states recreational fishing is allowed after noon during waterfowl season.

Click here to read the regulations pamphlet.

Graham eventually made contact with someone in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services offices, and he said a woman he spoke with told him that the regulations were vague and that plans were in the works to change the wording of fishing regulations in next year’s refuge pamphlet.

That’s news to Ken Litzenberger, the Southeast Louisiana National Wildlife Refuges Project Leader. Litzenberger said he finds the wording of fishing regulations to be clear, but that the USFWS reviews the pamphlet each year and makes changes to the way regulations are worded if they are confusing to the public.

“We can’t change anything this year, but next year, sure,” Litzenberger said. “Before we print, it goes through the Code of Federal Regulations for publishing. We sit down with refuge managers and law enforcement and see what, if anything, needs to be clarified.”

Here’s what Graham, and apparently other fishers, are finding a bit confusing.

The Delta National Wildlife Refuge General Fishing and Hunting Regulations pamphlet states “All refuge lands between Main Pass and Raphael Pass are closed to the public entry during the (s)tate waterfowl hunting season, except during early teal season and conservation order for light geese.”

Then, under “Specific Sport Fishing Regulations,” it is states that “(w)e only allow recreational fishing and crabbing from ½ hour before legal sunrise until ½ hour after legal sunset. However, during (s)tate waterfowl hunting seasons, we only allow recreational fishing and crabbing from after 12 noon until ½ hour after legal sunset.”

Graham feels those two regulations conflict.

“That’s a grey area,” he said he told the USFWS. “If I went down there and go ticketed, I’d get a good attorney.”

Litzenberger said the first regulation, the one stating you can’t hunt or fish between Main and Raphael passes during waterfowl season (except for short stints in early teal season and the geese conservation order) supersedes the regulation further down in the pamphlet that discusses hours when someone can legally fish on the refuge.

“You can’t go into the area between Main Pass and Rafael Pass during waterfowl season as it reads, except during early teal season and conservation order for light geese,” Litzenberger said. “The logic is that it’s to keep people from rustling up the ducks.”

But again, Litzenberger said if there is any confusion with the wording of the regulation, he’s open to changing next year’s pamphlet for the sake of clarity.

“And if it needs to be made more clear, to make it easier to understand, we’ll change it,” he said. “We can tweak the wording.”

For his part, Graham would have found it clear if the second regulation referenced the first regulation’s off-limits areas.

“If it said the areas that were off limits where it says the times you can fish, I’d be fine with that,” he said.

Litzenberger said not a problem.

“We’re not here to trick anybody,” he said.

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