If you fish, then you gotta love July.
Yes, it’s hot, but what else could you expect from Mother Nature’s torrid love affair with Louisiana?
Here’s a good thing! We don’t expect visits from the tropics. Those stormy arrivals usually are reserved for August and September. This month it’s the big saltwater rodeos fueling fishing dreams, and places like Port Fourchon and Grand Isle are the focal points.
True, there are other fishing competitions in St. Bernard and Terrebonne parishes, but it’s the Golden Meadow-Fourchon Tarpon Rodeo and the International Grand Isle Tarpon Rodeo that provide the bulk of the activity.
Big fish, little fish
Big fish, little fish, bluefish and redfish, brown fish and white fish, silver fish and black fish spur thousands of our saltwater brethren to head to our south-central coastline to win prizes ranking far below the right to brag about a first-place entry on rodeo leaderboards.
All this activity, and all the weekends and vacation weeks Louisiana’s coast absorbs between Memorial Day and Labor Day, somehow gets lost when it comes to fisheries managers, state and local, when it comes to talking about fish.
Having engaged in one way or another in these summertime fishing adventures for a little more than five decades, it’s clear that many of these fisheries folks have a one-track mind — fish — and little else.
Maybe, that’s as it should be.
But there are other factors, things like how much of our coastal community, and others across our nation, depend on the economic driver that is recreational fishing in Louisiana.
As far back as the mid 1990’s, an economic survey of recreational and commercial fishing in Louisiana showed far more economic impact from the recreational side, not only in terms of dollars, but also in economic multipliers, a term meaning (loosely translated) into how many times a dollar spent moves up the economic chain in a community.
Talk about jobs!
Years spent along Louisiana’s coast has shown just how many summertime jobs are created for any high school- or college-aged young folks who want to work — real paying work — at marinas, bait shops, launches, gas stations and convenience stores.
So much so, that economic survey of years ago showed some 83,000 full-time or part-time jobs came from fishing activity across our state.
Just think of the financial inducements and incentives our elected officials would throw at a business that promised that kind of economic punch. We could only imagine the wining and dining that would accompany the weeks of wooing to attract this business.
But, throughout these years, there has been so very few incentives provided these ventures — the exceptions have been a couple of highly politically connected enterprises — that it’s time to consider what Louisiana politicos could offer to non-connected groups of entrepreneurs to develop one or more first-class coastal marinas, or tax incentives to improve the ones we have.
Moreover, why don’t we throw boat launches into this discussion. How many first-class boat launches do we have across our state, developments to provide and/or enhance fishing access not only along the coast but also in the hundreds of freshwater spots across Louisiana.
Someone in state government needs to set the mechanism whereby local governments can apply for state-held funds in a cooperative agreement for modern boat-launching facilities.
What about them?
And, while we’re at it, when’s the last time you read an announcement about a state or local entity announcing the opening of a first-rate fishing pier?
Yeah, the launches and marinas are great for the folks with boats, but what about the tens of thousands among us without the means to afford a boat?
They deserve safe places to take their families for a morning at the water.
It should be more than building a pier: provide good water, structure and habitat around the pier to hold fish.
Believe this: these piers don’t need to hold giant bass. Catfish, bluegill and other sunfish species are enough to light a child’s eyes and something to take home for supper, then have personnel making rounds to make sure the greedy don’t take more than their fair share (yes, that happens.)
None of this needs to be excessive, and nobody is asking for dozens of projects to begin next year. A handful every year would suffice. While there are programs around the state, notably Get Out and Fish, those few special fishing weekends hardly develop a fishing habit or generate economic impact.
And, it’s the habit that sells fishing licenses. It’s this habit that takes a youngster to 18 years old when he or she will want to have a fishing license. It’s this habit that can last a lifetime, a habit to be passed along to generations.
As most of us know, it’s a habit so very difficult to break.
Help me, I’m hooked.