Sunday, December 24, 2023

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year

Here's wishing everyone a merry and most blessed Christmas.  Hope Santa brings that one fly fishing gift you really need... a new rod, maybe some more flies, or perhaps a ruler to measure those 24-inch speckled trout you claim to catch!

While Christmas is a season of festivity, let's not forget the reason for the season: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us….” John 1:14. Please be giving to those in need, and pray for those who are less fortunate, for those in suffering, and for those away from their families this season.

We also wish everyone a prosperous and healthy New Year.  There are many great regional activities coming up in 2024, and we'll have more details on those after the holidays.   In the meantime, you can click on our Calendar page to discover what's happening.

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Now is the time for all good fly tiers...

To come to the aid of their favorite clubs and causes. With the new year comes "conclave" season, those fly fishing events, often sponsored by clubs, that feature programs, fly tying demos, casting, exhibitors and more. All are open to the public, and most are free. These events hold raffles as part of fundraising activites, and some of the most popular items in the raffles are boxes of flies.

The weather forecast for the next few weeks ahead in the Bayou State is colder and wetter than normal - and normal is usually quite cold and quite wet.  If you're a tier, here's your opportunity to flies for the season ahead. As you do, put a few aside for donation to one or more events.  A box of 8-12 freshwater or 6-10 saltwater flies makes a great raffle item. If your skill is unique, then that donation will likely go to a Gamblers Draw or silent auction.

Check the LFF Calendar out for upcoming events. Make plans to attend at least one this winter/spring, and if you tie flies, please donate at least a box or two of your flies.

Use this time to become a more efficient tier

A few years back, we had a group tying session in early January.  Seeing a couple of fellow tiers made me realize the importance of efficiency.  For example, one gentleman rumaged through his materials for about 10 minutes, then sat down and tied one fly. After that, he rumaged again through his materials and tied a different fly.

There was another gentleman who was tying some flies at the corner table. While he was more organized, he kept looking at his fly and wondering what he was doing wrong.  His flies didn't look very good, either... proportions were wrong, and his choice of color combinations didn't seem right.

Here's a list of things that might help:

1. Organize the materials for each fly into a ziplock bag

Having all your materials for a particular pattern - including hooks, beads, etc. - all in one bag eliminates many minutes of rumaging.  It's a great way to also manage your inventory.  I keep enough in each bag to tie two dozen flies. Any extra material is in a storage box, and is pulled out when inventory is low. 

Also in each bag, I keep a small printed list of materials for that pattern, and one sample of my best effort. If I tie one that's better than the sample, I replace the sample with that fly.   Or if someone tied one better than mine, I use theirs as the sample.  That way I always have the best of that pattern to use as a standard. 

Yet another advantage of "Pattern Bags"... whenever I make a fishing trip somewhere, I simply select the bags for the flies I will most likely use on that trip.  It usually takes 2 minutes at most to load my tying travel bag!

2. Watch a video of the fly before you tie.

Maybe because I'm getting old, but sometimes I forget one or two steps to tying a certain fly. Here, YouTube is my friend! But I've also discovered that certain tiers do a better job at tying certain flies than I do, so it's also a learning process. I'll say, "wow, that's something I didn't think of" and apply it to my next tie.

If you're looking for the best tying videos, try the FFI library (, Orvis fly tying, Tightline Productions (Tim Flager's site), and Son Tao's videos are some of the best. I also highly recommend my friend Bill Morrison's YouTube videos (and those under the Kisatchie Fly Fishers YT Channel) as these are more detailed - and in higher quality video - than most.

3. Never tie just one pattern at a time.

When I sit down to tie a Clouser Minnow (or other fly), I always tie 6 or more at a time. Often, that first Clouser is the worst one, so I'll keep it to fish and put the best looking ones aside for donations. Repetition also results in faster, more efficient tying of subsequent flies.

4. Have a good place and time to tie flies

If you're thinking "I've got the next 20 minutes free, maybe I'll go tie some flies" - then don't!  Tying should be a passive, relaxing endeavor where your skills and creativity have necessary time for your best effort. I never sit down to tie unless I have at least an hour free.

Likewise, choosing a place to tie is very important.  If you have a tying desk, it's probably the best place. Otherwise, select a quiet room with adequate lighting. This surprises a lot of people, but I occasionally tie outdoors under a shaded canopy, when the wind is low or calm. The natural lighting can't be beat. And being outdoors inspires the artist in each of us.

I hope these tips help. If you have any others to suggest, please post on our Facebook page.  

Saturday, December 09, 2023

LWFC amends proposed redfish regulations

At their monthly meeting on Thursday, the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission (LWFC) amended proposed regulations for red drum that they had passed in July.  The change in the Notice of Intent (NOI) was necessary after a legislative committee rejected it last month.

As our readers probably know by now, LDWF biologists have assessed that redfish numbers are in decline due to a number of causes. A change in regulations is necessary to restore both escapement rate and Spawning Potential Ratio (SPR) to above the conservation standard for the species.

Current regulations are 5 fish daily limit with a 16-27 inch slot, and one fish per day over the slot. The NOI passed in July called for a 3 fish daily limit, 18-24 inch slot, and no overslot fish allowed.  These changes would have resulted in a 2 year recovery for escapement rate and an 11 year recovery for SPR.

In November, the NOI was sent to a legislative committee for final approval. CCA Louisiana successfully argued for rejection of the NOI, much to the dismay of fly fishing and kayak fishing interests and other conservationists who supported the measure. CCA requested that the Commission pass a more liberal limit of 4 fish daily, 18-27 inch slot (no overslots). This proposal would result in a 29 year SPR recovery… unacceptable to everyone else!

Outside of CCA, the majority of opposition was for the restrictive slot limit.  After much discussion, and unanimous comments in support of, the Commission passed a compromise amendment which expanded the slot from 6 inches to 9 inches but kept the 3 fish per day limit. The amended NOI is now:

– 3 fish daily creel, 18″-27″ slot with no overslots

This new NOI will result in a 4 year recovery for escapement rate, and a 16 year recovery for SPR to the conservation standards.

Now the amended NOI goes back to the Legislative Natural Resources Oversight Committee. It’s expected that opponents to this NOI will again lobby against it. The FFI Gulf Coast Council and it’s allies will make every effort to insure that conservation wins out.

Tuesday, December 05, 2023

Time for Louisiana to protect our crappie fishery

This Thursday, the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission will hear an assessment from LDWF inland biologists about the current status of crappie (sacalait, white perch) and any consideration for regulation changes.  

Here are the current regulations for Louisiana and how they compare to neighboring states.

State creel minimum size
Louisiana 50 none
Texas 25 10"
Alabama 30 9"
Georgia 30 none
Florida 25 10"
Mississippi 30 / 15 none / 12"

Missisippi has a statewide limit of 30 fish, but a 15-fish limit on four popular reservoirs: Enid, Arklabutta, Sardis, Grenada.  These lakes are listed in the top 15 crappie lakes in the nation, and are being managed for trophy fish.  However, most of the state-managed lakes also have a lower creel limit of 15, for the purpose of sustaining an optimal yield fishery (not a trophy fishery).

As you can see, Louisiana is by far the most liberal limits of any state. Our management is based on maximum sustainable yield as opposed to optimum sustainable yield.  Maximum Yield allows a high number of harvest to the point where it doesn't result in recruitment failure.  Our state's argument for such a liberal limit has been based on growth and reproduction. Crappie grow fast, spawn after just one year, and live only about 5 years here in the deep South.  They also produce lots of eggs.  Here is a comparison of fecundity of similiar freshwater species.

Bluegill: 6-inch female, 80,000 eggs per year
Largemouth bass: 12-inch female, 16,000 eggs per year
Black crappie: 10-inch female, 90,000 eggs per year
White crappie: 10-inch female: 130,000 eggs per year

Based on these reproductive rates, it's long been stated - with some evidence in certain situations - that crappie can overtake a pond if not harvested to a significant number. In natural lakes, this is NOT the case.  They have more spawning failures than any other gamefish.  Crappie also have one of the highest natural mortality rates of any gamefish. Young crappie are a prime forage for bass and all species of catfish, gar, and pickerel.

However, if only large crappie are harvested, there is often potential for overpopulation of young fish.  This results in slow growth, and a poor quality fishery.  

While crappie have been very abundant in most lakes, that was due more to fishing patterns than reproduction. Historically, crappie were mostly targeted in early Spring, when they were most active and closer to shore for spawning. With the advancements in electronics, and the meteoric surge in crappie tournaments, crappie fishing has become a year-round enterprise with much higher angler success.

One of the guides I use on Toledo Bend, who also guides Sam Rayburn and other Texas lakes, pointed out the significance of electronics has had on the fishery. Prior to LiveScope, breeder fish could support the pressure by going deep, and you couldn't locate them or catch them. Now, you can locate them year-round... and take out significant numbers.

In a recent podcast, a Texas fisheries biologist explained why the state adopted more conservative regulations. Crappie populations are sustained by fish 10 to 13 inches, which have fewer eggs than older fish but spawn in much larger numbers. That presupposes that those fish are protected from substantial harvest from summer to winter. Such is no longer the case.

Establishing a minimum size limit has only a minimal effect on creating an optimal fishery, except than to create a trophy fishery.  Establishing a lower creel limit is a better option.  However, there's a third option which biologists have implemented on some lakes.  This sets a limit on the number of fish over a certain size. For example, 30 fish creel but with only 10 fish over 12 inches.  This results in a more balanced harvest, and also protects more of those prime spawners.

In the past 20 years, genetic diversity has become a critical factor  in fisheries management. Fish that school - such as crappie - often have similiar genetics. Each school may have different genetics from other schools. You may have one school of crappie that is much more likely to spawn in muddy water than other schools, and another school that is more likely to spawn in low water than other schools, and so on. When anglers use electronics to continously target a school, and with liberal limits, to the point of near decimation of that school, it can possibly create a "gap" in the next spawning cycle and lead to a poor year class.  In states with lower limits, on most lakes there has been less severe cycles in year-class populations.

It's time for Louisiana to take measures to protect our wonderful crappie fishery and implement new regulations to protect our prime spawners.  Please submit your comments to Inland Fisheries Biologist Robbie Maxwell at .