Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Fly fishing featured in Louisiana Conservationist magazine

The featured article in the Fall 2021 issue of Louisiana Conservationist magazine is on fly fishing, with emphasis on the sport within the state. Writer Sherry Morton interviewed Alex Beane, manager of the Orvis store in Baton Rouge, John Williams, owner of Pack and Paddle in Lafayette, expert fly angler Ben Roussel of Baton Rouge and renown fly tier Kyle Moppert, also of Baton Rouge.  The article also featured flies tied by nationally recognized popping bug guru Ron Braud of Prarieville.

The article details the fly fishing opportunities here in Louisiana, from freshwater to the coastal marshes for sightcasting to redfish. Alex and John also discuss the several avenues for learning and growing knowledge in the sport - from the beginner classes their stores offer to the various clubs around the state. As Roussel points out, "Clubs build a community of like minded people" all interested in the sport, and offer monthly fly tying, events, trips, sharing reports and more. Some of the annual events in the state were also mentioned, including the annual "Rendezvous" held the first full weekend of November at North Toledo Bend State Park.

For anyone interested in a brief summary of what fly fishing opportunities in Louisiana exist, this article hits the nail on the head.  The magazine is available online (at no cost) by CLICKING HERE.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Johnson's chain pickerel recognized as FFOY

At their annual convention last night, the Louisiana Outdoor Writers Association recognized the "Fish of the Year" in both conventional and fly fishing categories.  This year's recipient in the fly fishing category was Jim Johnson for his 1.64 lb Chain Pickerel caught in Cocodrie Lake out of Forest Hill.  Bradley Cole Thurman of Meadow Lakes, TX, received the "Rod and Reel" honor with a 106.20 lb Black Grouper caught out of Port Fourchon.  Both fish are new state records.

Jim is a board member of the Kisatchie Fly Fishers of Alexandria, and a member of their Fly Tying Committee. He loves tying streamers which are effective for bass as well as other predatory species such as pickerel.

Jim says he's caught bigger "grass pike" but decided to enter this one to familiarize himself with the new LOWA record registration process. His fish eclipsed the previous 1.27 lb record held by Ardes Johnson since 2002. The overall state record for chain pickerel is 5.75 lbs taken by Chris Marien on Kincaid Lake in 1977.

Since the 1940s, LOWA has curated the state fish records, maintaining the top 10 catches by weight of each species, fresh and saltwater. In the 1980s, under the guidance of Pete Cooper, Jr. and Bob Dennie, the Fly Fish Division was added.

Fly anglers who believe they've landed a trophy-sized fish (or for some species, even a decent sized fish) should check the LOWA Fish Records website.  Registration can be printed and mailed, or filled in online. Registration fee is $25.

Monday, October 11, 2021

LWFC adopts (weak) menhaden harvest buffer zone

Last Thursday at their monthly meeting, the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission adopted a Notice of Intent (NOI) to add coastal buffer zones to Gulf menhaden harvest regulations.  The proposed changes would implement a coastwide buffer for commercial harvest of one quarter-mile (¼) mile offshore, with 1 mile buffers off Elmers to Fourchon and off Grand Terre, and a 3 mile buffer off Grand Isle.

Days before the meeting - shortly after this item was added to the agenda - a coalition of conservation groups led by CCA Louisiana, Louisiana Charter Boat Association, American Sportfishing Association, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and others issued a response in opposition to the proposal.  In a letter to the LWFC Chairperson, they stated, “Our coalition believes that a quarter-mile buffer zone is insufficient to adequately protect Louisiana’s wildlife and other fish resources from the substantial damage inflicted to the local ecosystem by industrial menhaden or pogie harvesting.”.  Later, the Fly Fishers International Gulf Coast Council announced it's opposition to the NOI, stating that "such a ridiculously small buffer zone desecrates the intent of marine conservation".

Last summer, videos and photos of hundreds of dead bull redfish (spawners) resulting from menhaden bycatch made social media and were later featured in outdoor magazines, drawing national attention and outrage from anglers and other conservationists. Nearly all this bycatch occurred within a mile – sometimes just yards – off beaches. Louisiana is the only state that does not have a buffer zone for menhaden harvest.

This past Spring, conservation groups attempted to pass a bill that would create a buffer zone. Although all groups (including the FFI Gulf Coast Council) supported a one-mile zone,, House Bill 535 ended up being a compromise with a 1/2 mile zone, with wider exclusions for Grand Isle and Grand Terre.  The bill sailed through the House, but some political maneuvering by the Senate Natural Resources Committee Chairman forced the bill to go into reconciliation just hours before the end of the session. The bill died in limbo. Conservation groups vowed to bring a similar bill back in 2022, but without the compromise.

Concerned anglers and other conservationists are being asked to 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  before Thursday, December  2, 2021.