Friday, June 03, 2022

Louisiana free fishing days June 11-12

This coming weekend kicks off the 20th anniversary of National Fishing and Boating Week (June 4th-12th), an annual celebration of the importance of recreational boating and fishing in America. Most states, including Louisiana, have designated "free fishing days" either the first weekend or second weekend in June.

Free fishing days are a perfect opportunity to try out fishing for the first time. Or, if you're willing to travel, to partake of fishing in another state without having to purchase a license. Some states may have certain restrictions. For example, you might be able to fish freshwater for free, but still have to buy a saltwater permit or trout permit. So please check before making plans. 

For 2022, Louisiana's free fishing days are Saturday-Sunday, June 11-12.  Here are the free fishing days for neighboring states:
Alabama - June 11
Arkansas - June 11-13
Florida - June 11-12 (freshwater only)
Mississippi - June 4-5, July 4th
Texas - June 4

For a complete list of free fishing days in all states, go to www.takemefishing.org.

Wednesday, June 01, 2022

Welcome to SweatFest 2022

SweatFest.... a celebration of heat, humidity, hurricanes, and horseflies. As well as lots of mosquitos. Conversely, it's also a fun time for those who love the beach, snowballs, and cutting grass.  

Memorial Day weekend is usually the kickoff for 90 degree days and 70 degree nights, and high humidity.  Enjoy the June breezes now because come July they go away and the sweating kicks up a notch. By early September, the nights are long enough for radiative cooling to take effect, even if the days are still a bit balmy.

As for tropical weather activity, the National Weather Service predicts yet another above-average year. Hard to imagine they won't be right - we're on the first day of hurricane season and already we've got a system in the Yucatan worth watching.  The remnants of Pacific hurricane Agatha are reforming into what could be Tropical Storm Alex.  Current projections show it hitting southwest Florida by the weekend.

The summer sun and heat of SweatFest bring dangers to anglers. Heat stroke is the number one threat. Bring an ice chest or cooler tote bag with water and/or sports drinks to stay hydrated. Skin exposed to high UV radiation leads to sunburn, and over time to skin cancer. Protect your skin by putting on a high-SPF waterproof sunscreen before you get on the water. Wear long sleeve breathable shirts, a rim cap or a bill cap in conjunction with a gaitor (buff). Always wear some type of cover for your feet.

Also be aware that thunderstorms can be a daily occurence in summer. At the first sign of towering  cumulus clouds, start making your way back to the launch (especially if you're in a kayak). Lightning can strike from eight miles away, so waiting for lightning to approach is not a smart option!

Saturday, May 28, 2022

Fishing license changes effective June 1st

In last year's legislative session, House Bill 691 proposed much-needed changes in Louisiana's fishing and hunting licenses and fees.  With strong bipartisan support, the bill passed and was signed into law.  In a few days - on June 1st - this new licensing structure will take effect. Here's a summary of the changes that will affect recreational anglers:

  • All licenses now will be valid for 365 days from the date of purchase.
  • Basic freshwater license (now includes crawfish nets):  $17 annual resident, $68 annual non-resident, $17 non-resident native 10-day, $30 non-resident 5-day.
  • Saltwater license (now includes crab traps and shrimp trawls to 25 feet):  $15 annual resident, $60 annual non-resident, $15 non-resident native 10-day, $30 non-resident 5-day
  • Hook & Line license (includes roadside crabbing): $5 annual resident, $5 non-resident native 10-day
  • Senior licenses (includes hunting): born before 6/1/1940 - not required, born between 6/1/1940 and 5/31/1962 - $5, otherwise anyone 65+ after 6/1/2027 - fee will then be $20.
  • Disabled (includes hunting): $4. If disabled native-born military, free.
  • Retired military: either resident or native-born - $20.
  • Lifetime fishing/hunting: resident or native-born - $500, non-resident $4,000.
  • Senior lifetime fishing/hunting: resident or native-born - $100, non-resident - $4,000.
  • Youth: the maximum age has been raised from 15 to 17. Does not require a fishing license.

For a complete list of changes, or more details, go to the LDWF Licenses & Permits webpage.


Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Great Gobbules! Bream are on the beds

With so many family matters going on, I've been negligent in checking in on statewide fishing reports.  But I did get one last evening that the gobbules are on the beds at Lake Concordia.  If that's the case, then it's certainly happening elsewhere.

Some of our newer readers might ask: "What is a gobbule?". It's a bream.  I refuse to use the word 'sunfish'. That's a hippie word.  What does a sunfish do? Lie in the sun, getting a tan?

Bluegills, redears and longears are true fighting machines. They deserve a name that sounds like one of Freddie Mercury's concert shoutouts to energize his crowd.  So gobbule (pronounced gobb-bool) it is!

Tackle:  I recommend a five-weight outfit because it's somewhat common for a bass or catfish to hit a bream fly. If you fish ponds, then a 3-weight is fun to have as you won't have to worry as much about those predatory species taking you into heavy cover.

Flies:  Surface flies like popping bugs and Triangle Bugs are a must.  Not only do bluegills like to hit on top, but it's super cool to watch them slurp a fly!  Redears mostly feed subsurface, so sinking flies like Cap Spiders, Rosborough-style Hares Ears, Fluff Butts, Slow Sinking Spiders, Black (or Purple or Blue) Boudreauxs, and many others will work on them.  And of course, work on the bluegills as well.

Strike indicators:  anytime I can use a small football type strike indicator, I do.  Keeping the fly in the strike zone longer is one reason.  But it's also so much fun to see the indicator plunge down when the big gobbules hit the fly underneath.  It's important to use one as small as possible but that still floats (fly not too heavy).  Some ask me if you can use a "half a perch float" like a Vertically Oriented Strike Indicator (VOSI).  The answer is "yes", but I suggest pointing the narrow end of the VOSI towards the fly line.  Otherwise the fat end will make a pop when stripped and the VOSI will attract the fish more than the fly underneath.  Of course, if that happens, simply tie on a popping bug!

Good luck!  And if you catch a big one (or colorful one), and you're on Facebook, please post it to the Louisiana Fly Fishing Community Page.


Thursday, April 28, 2022

Menhaden legislative update - 4/28

The saga to protect one of the ocean’s most valuable forage species continues this Spring in the Louisiana Legislature. CCA Louisiana, The Bonefish and Tarpon Trust, the FFI Gulf Coast Council and many other conservation groups are working in support of House Bill 1033 by Rep. Joe Orgeron. This bill would require weekly reporting of menhaden catches as well as establish limits on menhaden harvesting on a tiered distance from shore.

To understand where we are, a quick overview on this issue:

  • Menhaden (pogies) are the most important food source for redfish, speckled trout, spanish mackerel and many other predatory fish. This nutrient-rich species is also harvested commercially for a variety of uses, from dietary supplements to pet food.
  • Overharvesting of menhaden has been linked to poor condition of fish and decreased biomass of species, as well as displacement of sea birds and mammals.
  • Of equal concern is the bycatch. The methods used to harvest pogies has been documented to result in the demise of thousands of bull reds (spawning stock) as well as large numbers of spotted seatrout.
  • For these reasons, most coastal states have long banned commercial harvest within their waters, while the few states that allow it have established buffer zones (distance from shore) of at least one mile. Louisiana is the lone exception in allowing unlimited nearshore harvest.

… and a history of how we got here…

  • In 2019, video and photos surfaced in social media of menhaden vessels working just yards off the Louisiana shoreline, with dead redfish (and other sport fish) floating by the hundreds. These sparked magazine articles and outrage among anglers and other conservationists.
  • In June 2020, the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission heard from biologists and conservationists on a proposal for a one-mile buffer zone. LWFC rejected the proposal.
  • In March 2021, conservationists took their case to the Louisiana Legislature. HB535 would have established a 1/2 mile buffer zone. While it had overwhelming support in both the House and Senate, the Senate Natural Resources Committee Chair, Bob Hengens of Abbeville – an ally of Omega Protein – did a masterful job of stalling the bill, leading to its failure to pass before the session ended.
  • In January 2021, the LWFC voted on a Notice of Intent to establish a 1/4 mile buffer zone. Apparently the LWFC came to realize that if it did not act, the legislature would again take up the issue. However, the NOI was amended to not include Breton Sound, infuriating legislative members.

So now the legislature takes up HB1033. It’s different than HB535 in that it still allows harvesting within a half-mile, but places a very restrictive quota.  HB1033 sets the following limits:

– statewide a total limit of 573 million pounds
– 150 million pounds within one mile of shore
– 229 million pounds within two miles of shore
– daily set locations for each vessel, and weekly reporting of harvests
– harvest zones will be closed once limit is reached

Meanwhile, Senator Hengens has filed a bill favoring his harvester allies. SB447 would only require weekly reporting of harvest with no other restrictions.

As of this writing, HB1033 by Rep. Orgeron has passed the House Natural Resources Committee by a 9-3 vote and has passed the House Floor by a 75-22. It now goes to the Senate Natural Resources Committee where it faces a tough fight, thanks to Sen. Hengens.

We ask all fly anglers and conservationists to contact their state representatives and senators and ask them to SUPPORT HOUSE BILL 1033.


Thursday, April 14, 2022

Learn fly fishing basics at these upcoming clinics

We all love to fly fish, but the learning curve can be quite steep if you don't have someone to help guide through the tackle, terminology, and most important, the casting basics. For those looking to get into this wonderful sport, we have several opportunities coming up where personalized hands-on instruction is available... in most cases at no cost!

Cenla Fly Fishing 101 - April 23

The Kisatchie Fly Fishers will host their 8th annual "Fly Fishing 101" on Saturday, April 23rd at Booker-Fowler Hatchery on Joan Stokes Rd in Forest Hill. Time is 8:30am to 12:30pm. There is no cost, but registration is required.

The agenda includes fly fishing overview and terminology, hands-on casting led by FFI-Certified Instructors, hands-on knots and leaders, discussion of equipment and accessories needed for fresh and inshore saltwater fishing, and different types of flies for various fish.  For complete details or to register, go to www.kisatchiefly.org and click on "FF101".

Orvis Fly Fishing 101 - April 23, May 21, May 28, June 11, June 18

The Orvis store in Baton Rouge conducts introductory fly fishing clinics throughout the year at their store at 7601 Bluebonnet. Time is 8:00am to 10:30am. Orvis FF101 is a one day, 2.5 hour clinic designed to introduce the basics of fly fishing and fly casting.  It includes hands-on rigging and casting instruction. There is NO cost, but pre-registration required as class size limited. For more info, call (225) 757-7286.  Or to register online, CLICK HERE.

Acadiana Fly Fishing 101 - Date TBA

The Acadiana Fly Rodders of Lafayette are planning to hold a "Fly Fishing 101" clinic later this year (early September appears likely). The format will be very similiar to the one conducted by the Kisatchie club as described above.  Keep checking their website at www.acadianaflyrodders.org for 

Monday, April 04, 2022

F3T coming to Lafayette this Saturday

2022 Fly Fishing Film Tour & Hangout
Saturday, April 9, 2022

Pack & Paddle
601 E. Pinhook Rd, Lafayette, LA

3:00pm - hangout starts
5:00pm - films showing
Tickets $20

Pack & Paddle in Lafayette will again host their annual showing of the Fly Fishing Film Tour (F3T) along with their popular "Fly Fishing Hangout" prior to starting the films. Tickets are $20 in advance and at the door (if not sold out already).

The Hangout will feature fly tying demos, casting games, snacks and beer, and more. Many of the top fly anglers from across south and central Louisiana will be on hand for those looking for a little advise.

The films will kick off between 5 and 5:30. These collection of short films run the gamut from coldwater steelhead to jungle streams of aggressive fish, to personal stories of inspiration, to conservation issues and victories. If you've not been to an F3T event in recent years, it's a far better production than the early days of primitive filmmaking and anglers yelling "boo-yah" into the camera after every catch (there's an occasional boo-yah left, but you can count on one finger).

For tickets, go to www.packpaddle.com  or call 337.232.5854.

Monday, March 14, 2022

LWFC proposes closed season for flounder

At the March meeting of the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission meeting, the body adopted a Notice of Intent (NOI) to set an annual closed season for the recreational and commercial harvest of Southern Flounder from October 15th through November 30th of each year. The purpose of the NOI is aid in the recovery of stocks which have seriously declined in state waters over the past decade.

The problem is not unique to Louisiana. Throughout their range - from North Carolina to south Texas - Southern Flounder have declined steeply in numbers. As a result, almost every state has adopted a closed season in late fall. This is the period in which flounder migrate to the sea to spawn. In doing so, they often congregate making them easy targets for harvest.

It's not a problem of overfishing as much as low spawning recruitment. According to various studies, flounder born with XY chromosomes can determine their sex after they're born and when they're between 30 and 65 millimeters in length. These juveniles are becoming increasingly more masculine, with very few females left for future recruitment.

A study by researchers at LSU reported that the cause may be related to warmer water temperatures. There is a certain critical water temperature, that above that temperature, these tiny flounder are much more likely to become males. That's because - under environmental stress - males function better than females. They use less energy during their lifespan for growth and reproduction.  Males seldom grow over 14 inches in length, while females can get up to 28 inches.

Some states are attacking the problem from two sides. For example, Alabama not only has a closed season but they are stocking juvenile flounder raised in hatcheries where the water temperature is ideal for 50/50 sexual orientation. This will lead to a much faster recovery than closed season alone. 

The public can submit comments relative to the proposed rule to Jason Adriance, Fisheries Division, Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, P.O. Box 98000, Baton Rouge, LA 70898-9000 or via email to jadriance@wlf.la.gov prior to noon on May 2, 2022.