NEW ORLEANS — In 2014, Louisiana allowed recreational anglers to harvest red snapper in state waters during a season that was non-compliant with federal regulations. According to the chairman of the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission, such a move is likely again this year.
Commissioner Billy Broussard, an avid red-snapper fisherman, said anglers should look for action soon out of the board responsible for managing fish and wildlife in the state.
"I think the state season will start sometime around Palm Sunday, and we'll go until the (data) tells us we've reached the quota," he said. "We're going to have to do something before the feds. We can't wait around for them to make a decision. They'll purposely withhold whatever they're doing for as long as they can."
Palm Sunday this year is on March 29.
In 2014, the state opened a weekend-only season in its territorial waters on Feb. 21, but changed it to a seven-day-a-week season on April 10 after NOAA Fisheries reduced the federal season to nine days. The state season remained open until Dec. 31.
Recreational-fishing industry leaders say the feds are grossly underestimating the population of red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico, and Broussard agrees with them.
"I do a lot of deep-dropping. We fish primarily off the Continental Shelf, and we've been having to go farther and farther south every year, just to get away from snapper," he said. "We're catching red snapper in 500 feet of water now. They've absolutely taken over the shelf. It's making it hard to catch anything else."
Still, the federal season will certainly be under a week and possibly as short as one or two days this year.
"It's a shame what's going on right now. It's an absolute travesty," Broussard said. "It's hurting businesses for no other reason than agendas driven by people who have the good of the citizens of Louisiana nowhere in their thoughts."
In 2014, anglers were limited to two red snapper measuring at least 16 inches per day per person during both the state and federal seasons.
Information from: The Times-Picayune, http://www.nola.com
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