Redfish Bay lives up to its name during the springtime.
The dominoes are starting to fall. Regular readers of this magazine know that Louisiana Sportsman for years has covered the issue of the privatization of the public’s tidal and flowing waters. Over that same time period, we’ve predicted that the problem would get a whole lot worse — with giant sections of marsh “off-limits” and anglers effectively locked out of popular ports — before it could ever get better.
That’s because anglers are, by nature, a fairly apathetic group. We tend to be low-key, easy-going people who enjoy the smell of salty air and the scenic vistas that nature paints daily. Fishing is supposed to provide rest and relaxation — a little time away from the stresses and strains of the rat race. Nobody goes fishing hoping to come back with more work to do.
And that’s what the fight for public access to flowing waters is — it’s work. Actually, it’s more than work; it’s war. And anglers don’t want that. They want peace and quiet. If one area’s blocked off, they’ll just go somewhere else. That’s one of the great things about Louisiana: There are always options.
But the options are becoming more limited, and one major one was removed last month. A company named Offshore Marine began posting the waters immediately adjacent to the public launch at Golden Meadow. Company representative Wayne “Buck” Rogers confirmed to Louisiana Sportsman that anglers and hunters who wish to access the series of canals between the public launch and Catfish Lake will have to pay upwards of $650 every year for that right.
That’s nearly $2 a day — whether you’re there or not — to access waters that were given to you through the Public Trust Doctrine when Louisiana became a state. These are waters that come and go with the ebb and flow of the tides, and contain fish that enter the area and exit it according to their moods, fish that are managed by the agency you support when you buy your license.
How kind of the state to use our license fees for the benefit of Offshore Marine and any anglers and hunters willing to plunk down the money for their own private fishing paradise.
But that’s not the worst of it. The public launch at Golden Meadow, which was paid for by your tax dollars and is managed by the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, exists now primarily for the benefit of Offshore Marine, a private company making money on what should be the public’s resource.
The very canal into which the Golden Meadow public launch provides access sports a “No Hunting or Fishing Without Permit” sign. Almost immediately after you launch your boat, you’re trespassing — unless, of course, you’ve lightened your wallet to gain a permit.
Accessing Catfish Lake and its springtime stocks of heavy, topwater-smacking speckled trout has now gotten a whole lot harder — unreasonably so for small-boat anglers.
Although Offshore Marine says it will allow anglers to run over “its” waters to reach the lake, anglers will still be subject to trespass laws if the company changes its mind on a whim. Is that a chance you’re willing to take?
Also, what about the anglers who paid the money to hunt and fish the area? Are they going to want an armada of boats running through “their” water when the specks are thick in the canals?
Anglers in Leeville, Lafitte, Cocodrie and Theriot have all gotten body blows by the stealing of the public’s resources.
But Golden Meadow anglers have just taken it on the chin.
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