Please forgive me, but you’re an outlaw

Our largemouth prey love these little mudbugs even more than we do.

Unfortunately, some Louisiana outdoorsman still wear the terms “poacher” and “outlaw” as badges of honor. Like kleptomaniacs who steal trinkets they don’t really want and will never use just for the thrill of the take, these poachers and outlaws don’t get a charge unless they shoot at least one duck over the limit, harvest a couple undersized redfish or shoot a doe on a bucks-only day. But other outdoorsmen are honorable and go out of their way to obey all state and federal fish and game laws. These guys would almost rather be called a child abuser than a poacher.

If you identify more with the latter group than the former, pull your pen out and get ready to write me a nasty letter to the editor, because there’s a good chance I’m about to dub you an outlaw.

But before I do, let me ask you a couple of questions:

1) Do you own a boat?

2) Do you fish anywhere in southern Louisiana, say, south of Interstate-10?

O.K., if you answered yes to both of these questions, you’re an outlaw. You’re no better than the guy who sneaks onto his neighbor’s property at night with a Q-beam and a 30.06 to shoot a prize buck.

How dare I call you an outlaw? What gives me the right? Well, actually it’s not me calling you an outlaw. I’m just the messenger. The state of Louisiana has called you an outlaw. Why? Because you have the audacity to use your boat to traverse or fish in privately dug canals.

Now, forget the fact that these canals are full of your water and your fish, and that you’re not actually touching anybody’s land. You’re just an outlaw.

And don’t try to claim you don’t ever go into any private canals. It’s virtually impossible to get anywhere in the South Louisiana marshes without running your boat in a canal, and it’s never expedient to do so.

“But wait a minute,” you say, “the canals I run through aren’t posted as being private.”

That doesn’t matter. As Louisiana Sportsman first reported in the November 2003 issue, landowners no longer have to post their land in order for an individual to be prosecuted for trespassing.

That means if you own a boat and use it in South Louisiana and ever go into a canal, even to get from one place to another, you’re a trespasser. Plain and simple.

The issue is disgusting. The very canals that have rapidly accelerated the rate of wetland loss, causing the evaporation of traditional hotspots that were open to the public, are themselves now off-limits to the public. Go in one, and you’re a law-breaker.

Let’s say someone dug a canal that ran perpendicular to a popular winter hotspot, say Delacroix’s Oak River. Now let’s imagine that the conditions in this canal were absolutely ideal for speckled trout. Scientists couldn’t have dreamed up anything better. So all the fish that traditionally overwintered in Oak River made a bee-line in November into this canal and didn’t emerge again until March.

Now, let’s also say that the individual who dug the canal pressed charges against anyone who dared venture into it. He didn’t gate or post it, but a sheriff’s deputy would slap the cuffs on you if the tip of your bow entered the canal.

The Oak River fishery is ruined, and the individual who dug the canal has access to all those fish for him and his cronies. He lets some of the public in, but only for a hefty fee.

Sounds absurd, right? But it’s happening on a slightly smaller scale all across the Louisiana coast.

Take that pen you were going to use to send me a nasty letter to the editor, and instead write Gov. Kathleen Blanco. Tell her Louisiana laws must be rewritten to give all Louisiana anglers access to all tidal waters. She campaigned as a friend of sportsmen, and this would be a great opportunity for her to show she meant what she said.

About Todd Masson 690 Articles
Todd Masson has covered outdoors in Louisiana for a quarter century, and is host of the Marsh Man Masson channel on YouTube.

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