Monday, July 31, 2023

LWFC to take up speckled trout (again) this Thursday

Speckled trout are back on the agenda for the August meeting of the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission (LWFC) meeting. The meeting will be held this Thursday, August 3rd, 9:00am, at the LA Department of Wildlife and Fisheries headquarters at 2000 Quail Drive in Baton Rouge.  The public is welcome to attend and provide input. A live video of the meeting is also available via Zoom.  See the registration link below.

To recap, here's where we stand...

Spotted seatrout spawning recruitment is below the conservation standard and has been for several years. There are a variety of reasons why, from decline in habitat to decline in forage to a doubling in the number of saltwater anglers since current regulations were set 35 years ago. The only immediate solution is a reduction from the current regulation of 12-inch minimum size, 25 fish per day (Calcasieu/Sabine has a 15 daily limit).

In November 2022, the LWFC passed a proposal or "Notice of Intent" for a 13.5 inch, 15 daily creel. After a 90 day comment period, the NOI was rejected by the Legislative Natural Resources Oversight Committee.  This original NOI must be amended by the August meeting or the entire process has to be restarted in 2024.

We've been kicking the can down the road since 2019, when speckled trout recruitment failure was first brought up in the annual stock assessment report. Everyone realizes that if we don't get changes done soon, we're looking at hard times to come.

At their July meeting, the Commission was given an amended proposal for a 12-inch minimum, 15 creel, with only 2 over 19 inches allowed.  No one seems to have a problem with a 15 fish creel.  It's the minimum size that everyone has issues with.  At 12 inches, there's almost no room for error while at 13 or 14 inches we'd be safely above the Conservation Standard.  In addition, guides and many anglers on the eastern and western areas of the state would like to see a minimum size larger than 12 inches.

After hearing from over two dozen speakers, the Commission then decided to table the proposed amendment while LDWF looks into the feasibility of zone management for speckled trout.

The zones that would be proposed are as follows:
- Eastern Zone. Mississippi/Louisiana border to Main Pass of the Mississippi River, and including Lake Pontchartrain
- Central Zone. Main Pass of the Mississippi River to Mermantau River.
- Western Zone. Mermantau River to Sabine Pass.

As mentioned, we already have a defacto zone management in Louisiana, in that a Western Zone already exists, where the daily limit for trout is 15 fish compared to 25 elsewhere.

The Gulf Coast Council of Fly Fishers International strongly supports zone management. The GCC feels that given the very distinct differences in water quality and habitat diversity in each of the three watersheds, that each should be managed to their maximum productivity.

We strongly encourage everyone to submit comments to the Commission members in support of Zone Management. The commissioners are listed on this page (scroll to middle of page).

Or attend the meeting Thursday morning in Baton Rouge. If you can't make the meeting, you can watch via Zoom webinar. Register in advance at:

Saturday, July 15, 2023

2023 RBFF Report: fly fishing growth is back on!

As is tradition, last week the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation - along with the Outdoor Foundation - released its annual survey of fishing participation in the United States in conjunction with the ICAST fishing trade show.  The 2023 Special Report on Fishing details participation trends in overall fishing, saltwater fishing, fly fishing and other areas of our sport based on licenses, surveys, tackle sales and many other metrics from the previous year (2022).  

The survey counts anyone ages 6 and over who fished at least one time during the calendar year.  After a slight decline in 2021, overall number of anglers increased by 2.1 million, or a 2% increase, to 54.5 million.  Of those, roughly 44 million were conventional anglers.  After nearly a dozen years of "youth movement", the largest age group of conventional fishing was age 65 and over.  

Fly fishing also grew after a slight decline in 2021, meaning that our sport has increased in participation for 11 of the last 12 years, from 5.5 million in 2010 to 7.6 million last year.  What is equally impressive is that more young people are contributing to this growth than other fishing segments, with ages 25-34 and 35-44 making up the bulk of our numbers.

Diversity.  While our sport remains the most male-dominated fishing category, its now only by a slight margin.  In the past 15 years, female participation has increased from 20 percent to 31 percent as of last year.  In fact, more women took up fly fishing last year than men - for the third year in a row.  The number of Hispanics and Black Americans fly fishing continues to grow, now making up 10 percent and 8 percent overall.

Demographics.  Once again, the South Atlantic region (Virginia to Florida) had the highest number of fly anglers, representing 20 percent of the total.  This was followed by the Pacific and Mid-Atlantic regions at 17% and 16%.  Our region - Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma - saw an increase from 10 to 12 percent.  That equates to 912,000 persons who live in these four states, and who fly fished at least once in 2022.

Saturday, July 08, 2023

Conservationists win key battle for redfish!

Something strange and wonderful happened this Thursday at the July meeting of the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission meeting.  Over two dozen fly anglers - many of them guides - along with a good number of kayak anglers, and other allies, showed up to fight to save our beloved "poisson rouge".

The meeting room was packed as Commissioners considered not only a Notice of Intent (NOI) for reducing redfish harvest, but also a Notice of Intent (NOI) for speckled trout.  The trout enthusiasts also included a number of prominent guides, most who felt it was time to make changes to insure recovery of their species.

Both seatrout and redfish are experiencing overfishing (depletion) due to a number of factors:

  • loss of habitat due to coastal erosion
  • decline in habitat diversity and water quality
  • decline in forage (mostly menhaden)
  • vast increase in angler numbers since current regs set in 1988
  • increase in angler efficiency

While the first three factors are certainly a huge part of the problem, the last two factors  are significant and would’ve alone required reductions in harvest.  Since the speckled trout NOI was tabled (we'll delve into that later), let's focus on the redfish NOI.

First, some background on redfish.  Many of us who fished the 90s and 2000s remember many great days on the water where spotting upwards of 20 fish and sometimes as many as 50 fish or more were not uncommon.  Many of us also know such days are now extremely rare, and spotting more than a dozen fish is considered an excellent trip.

So what's happened?  The problems above is what's happened.   As a result, the Spawning Potential Ratio (SPR) and Escapement Rate (ECR) for red drum have been trending downward since 2005. Recent recreational landings for redfish are the lowest since the 1980s. 

For this reason, LDWF stated the need for a MINIMUM of 35% reduction in harvest.  Unfortunately, some took this 35% as a recommendation and went forward with it.

The FFI Gulf Coast Council has been involved since the latest redfish assessment was first announced. They felt a 35 percent reduction was insufficient due to the incredibly long time for recovery. Therefore they proposed to commissioners three options that would lead to a 40% or higher reduction in harvest – and recovery in much less time than LDWF’s proposal.

Prior to the meeting, LDWF released their proposal.  Here are details of that proposal and the estimated time it would take to reach the ECR Conservation Standard (30%) and the SPR Conservation Standard (30%) if that NOI had been adopted.

NOI as put forward by LDWF:

  • 18″-27″ slot, 4 daily creel, no overslot
  • 36.9% harvest reduction
  • ECR target: 3 years
  • SPR target: 26 years

Prior to any motions for adopting this NOI, speakers were allowed to comment on the subject. With the exception of two bowfishing guides, every speaker pointed out the folly of a proposal that would require 26 years to recovery. They also gave anecdotal evidence that the fishery is in serious decline and that jobs are in jeopardy unless drastic measures are taken.

After the comment period was over, Commissioner Joe McPherson shocked the audience by motioning for an NOI even more conservative than the FFI-GCC or other groups had suggested.

NOI as put forward by Commissioner McPherson:

  • 18″-24″ slot, 3 daily creel, no overslot
  • 55.1% harvest reduction
  • ECR target: 1 years
  • SPR target: 9 years

As you can see, there is significantly less time to recovery for both ECR and SPR under this proposal. A vote was then taken, and much to everyone’s surprise, the motion carried 4-2. The moment the vote was announced, the audience (the vast majority at least) erupted with applause!  And while this a great victory for conservation of red drum in Louisiana, it’s only the first step before it becomes rule.

Steps in the process:

  • The Commission adopts an NOI (done).
  • The NOI is published in the State Register and public comment begins (this has begun).
  • The Commission then considers all public comments received and may make amendments to the original NOI.
  • Absent any amendments, the proposed Rule is sent to the Legislative Oversight Committee for review.
  • If reviewed favorably by the LOC, the Rule is published as final in the State Register.

The biggest opposition will come from the bowfishing guides and their allies.  They’ve already made it clear they plan to fight this all the way. 

So now the process continues… to get this NOI into rule, its incumbent upon all fly anglers and other conservationists to send their comments to Jason Adriance at 

Once the Commission receives comments and establishes a final NOI,  the Legislative Oversight Committee will determine whether to approve or decline the NOI.  Those in opposition will lobby the legislators hard to get this blocked... we have to make sure our voice is louder!   We'll post when its time to notify them.

One last note… nearly EVERY speaker during the comment period mentioned the unregulated menhaden harvest that plagues Louisiana.  The Bayou State is the only one that doesn’t have a commercial quota, and until earlier this year, the only Gulf state without a shoreline buffer zone. Even then, the buffer zone is a mere 1/4 mile… far less than any other state.  Some suggested adding language to the NOI to restrict menhaden. But as the commissioners rightly pointed out, this by law requires a notice in advance of the meeting.