Only five days after saying that catch-and-release fishing in oiled waters would be an “enforcement nightmare,” Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries chief Robert Barham announced that anglers can now fish closed areas as long as all fish caught are immediately released.
The regulations went into effect about 8 p.m. today (July 6).
“Even at this critical time, we want to offer our anglers every opportunity to continue to enjoy the sport,” Barham said in a news release today (July 6). “This option has been on the table for some time now and is part of our ongoing effort to be proactive as we continue to write the play book on this event.”
However, during an interview Friday (July 2) for a Louisiana Sportsman article scheduled for the August issue, Barham said he couldn’t allow catch-and-relase fishing because enforcement agents would be overwhelmed.
“That’s an enforcement nightmare,” he said at the time. “If I had a catch-and-release situation, every time my agents saw a boat fishing (in a catch-and-release-only area) they would have stop and make sure they didn’t have any fish.
“It’s a practical impossibility.”
No reason for the about-face was provided in tonight’s news release.
The new catch-and-release provision applies only to finfish, meaning that species such as shrimp and crabs are still off limits
It is important to note that anglers can continue to transit through closed areas with fish legally harvested from open waters. However, they may not fish in a closed area while possessing any species of fish.
The measure still has to be ratified by the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission during their meeting this Thursday morning at 9:30 a.m.