Similarities between gill-net ban, trout reductions

Back in 1995, the fight to ban gill nets in Louisiana’s coastal waters was an ugly one. The threads of conservation were being sewn into the fisheries quilt for the previous two decades by recreational anglers who watched their success decline and were shaken from their slumber by the near decimation of redfish stocks in the late 1980s.

And it all came to the proverbial head in 1995.

Those who were opposed to the banning of entanglement nets repeatedly made the case that state fishery biologists said Louisiana’s trout stocks weren’t in danger of collapse, and banning gill nets wasn’t scientifically necessary.

That was true. If gill nets had not been banned in 1995, the science showed there would still be plenty of trout for recreational anglers to catch.

But what gill-net supporters failed to recognize a decade ago is that it wasn’t a scientific issue. It was an allocation issue.

The vast majority of users — in that case, recreational anglers — were annoyed that a small minority of users — in that case, commercial netters — were allocated such a large percentage of the overall haul.

As is usually the case, majority ruled, and gill nets were banned.

Fishing was good in Louisiana — better than any other state in the union, in fact — before the nets were banned, but does any credible scientist dispute the fact that it became so much better after the walls of monofilament were removed?

Critics of a recent proposal to reduce trout limits on Calcasieu and Sabine lakes are making the same mistake as the gill-net supporters. They’re trying to argue that science doesn’t say a reduction in creel limits is necessary.

Indeed that’s the case. There are fish to be caught on Calcasieu and Sabine today, and there will be for the foreseeable future, as long as spawning potential ratios stay high enough for spawning-aged fish to be able to replace themselves. That’s true whether the limit is 15, 25 or 200.

So far, scientists say that SPRs are above levels of concern.

But there can be no doubt that fishing pressure has skyrocketed on Calcasieu Lake, especially. The lake frequently delivers trout the size of a grown man’s leg, and that promise of trophies draws anglers like a TV camera does Jesse Jackson. Fishermen from as far away as Houston, Shreveport and Baton Rouge routinely hitch up their bay boats, and make the short jaunt to the reefs of Calcasieu.

Look at the lake during the spring and summer run, and you’ll wonder how a fish could swim from one side of a reef to another without getting snagged. It is easily the most heavily fished acreage in the Bayou State.

The SPRs in the Calcasieu estuary are fine today, at least according to the scientists, but should anglers really wait until there’s a problem before seeking a reduction in limits?

I applaud them for being proactive.

And really, who’s going to be harmed by a reduction from 25 fish to 15? Four anglers returning to the dock with 60 fish will be no less happy than if they had 100.

About Todd Masson 632 Articles
Todd Masson has covered outdoors in Louisiana for a quarter century, and is host of the Marsh Man Masson channel on YouTube.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply