Adriance reports Louisiana redfish situation “requires management”

Maghin Davis with a redfish she released after a quick photo. (Photo courtesy Brett Lunn)

Louisiana’s red drum stock is being depleted, warned Jason Adriance, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) marine fisheries biologist.

Adriance gave the update at Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Commission monthly meeting Dec. 1. He reported the stock assessment showed spawning stock was still above limits but was being depleted at a rate that “requires management.”

“Overfishing is occurring,” Adriance told commissioners in his report. “We are overfishing the stock. That overfishing has been going on in the most recent decade. Eight out of the 10 years there has been more removals than are needed for the stock to maintain or replenish itself. Spawning potential ratio has been declining since 2005. Our landing is the lowest since the 80’s. This year looks like it is going to be about the same as last year.”

More redfish numbers

According to Adriance, Terreborne Parish is where the majority of the red drum harvest occurs, which has declined overtime. Ninety-three percent of harvested red drum is private while the remaining seven percent is from charter.

Escapement rates will need to be increased through management measures to rebuild the red drum population and prevent it from declining below the SPR limit in nearshore and offshore waters.

While escapement rates can recover to management targets relatively quickly with action (three to five years), recovery of the spawning stock to above management targets could take until the year 2050 given the life span of red drum, Adriance said.

LDWF monitors two portions of the red drum stock, the juvenile stock (up to age five and generally under 27 inches in length) that resides in inshore waters and the adult spawning population (greater than age five) in nearshore coastal waters.

The future of the stock

Red drum is unique in that the vast majority (97 percent) of harvest is on the juvenile stock when it is between 16 and 27 inches in length or about 1.5 to 4 years old. Given this type of harvest strategy, the amount of red drum that moves through the fishery and into the offshore spawning population is critical to the future status of the stock, he said.

Adriance predicted in his report red drum numbers will continue to decline initially before it rebuilds because of the lag of escapement. Fish have to make it offshore and start rebuilding stock.

The report and data used to compile it will certainly come under scrutiny, as will possible solutions to the issue. It will continue to be a hot topic of conversation among fishermen and fisheries managers in the coming weeks and months. Adriance did not address other issues with the declining redfish populations in his report, including loosely regulated pogie fishing on the coast and declining habitat.

More on red drum

Red drum, or redfish, are a dark red color on the back, which fades into white or goldish color on the belly. The red drum has a characteristic eyespot near the tail and is somewhat streamlined. Three-year-old red drum typically weigh six to eight pounds. Male red drum make a knocking or drumming sound during spawning by vibrating their swim bladders.

The most distinguishing mark on the red drum is one large black spot on the upper part of the tail base. Having multiple spots is not uncommon for this fish, but having no spots is extremely rare.

As the fish with multiple spots grow older, they seem to lose their excess spots.

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