Redfish have been in the news. They catch limits are helping to put them in decline and tighter limits are needed.

State biologists called for tighter catch limits on redfish on Thursday as they unveiled a new assessment showing worrying declines in their numbers, bearing out anglers’ mounting concerns over one of Louisiana’s most sought-after species. Recent recreational catch has been at its lowest since the 1980s, when Paul Prudhomme’s blackened redfish recipes sparked a nationwide craze and a ban on commercial redfishing was put in place, the assessment presented at the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries commission meeting showed. The state’s fisheries experts did not recommend how to change current regulations on redfish limits, but say a 35% reduction in catch is needed. Their next steps will be to accept public comments, then return to the commission. Further recommendations could follow, and the commission would ultimately decide how to move forward.

Those catching the fish have raised the alarm as they have noticed a drop in their catch.

Fishing guides and experienced anglers have long raised alarm over what they believed was a sharp decline in the numbers of redfish, officially known as red drum. Current limits allow each angler to keep five redfish per day of between 16 and 27 inches. One fish over 27 inches may be kept. Louisiana’s limits are looser than other Gulf Coast states. Jason Adriance, finfish program manager for the department, pointed to numbers showing the percentage of redfish making it from their inshore habitat to offshore, where they migrate as they reach spawning age, has dropped to around 20%, well below a 30% target limit. That number – referred to as escapement – has been in decline since 2006. The number of one-year-old redfish inshore – referred to as recruitment – has also been in decline for much of the past three decades, the assessment showed. The current estimate is around 1.5 million fish, compared to nearly 8 million around 1994. “That recruitment is the lowest we’ve ever seen,” Adriance told the commission. “It’s a disturbing trend.”

The guides and fishermen want the lower limits.

Venice fishing guide Eric Newman urged the state to act quickly to reduce limits, saying livelihoods are at risk if the fishery continues to decline. “We’re scared. We don’t know if we’re going to have a job in three, five, 10 years,” Newman, 46, told the commission. “And it’s a fact. You can poll the guides. The majority of them that think honestly about this resource ahead of their pocketbook will agree we’re in trouble. And we have to do something.” The state’s assessment did not analyze potential causes, but a combination of factors may be to blame, ranging from loss of habitat due to coastal subsidence and erosion and too many fish being caught. Recreational anglers also frequently raise concerns over the large commercial menhaden fishing operations off the coast, and whether they are netting too many redfish. Some also point to the popular bowfishing charters that take anglers out at night, using lights to search for redfish. But others say they remain a relatively small percentage of total anglers and there is no solid data on the subject. Still another concern has been the powerful hurricanes that have roared ashore in recent years, and whether they have disrupted the redfish population.

Redfish many be the first with lower limits but other catch limits are in the offing.

Redfish are not the only species likely set for tighter limits. The state is also proposing further restrictions on speckled trout, the most popular recreational fish in Louisiana. State biologists have recommended reducing the daily catch for speckled trout – officially known as spotted seatrout – from 25 to 15 fish per angler. The minimum size would also increase from 12 inches to 13.5 inches.

This is conservation that is understood – don’t conserve and we lose the opportunity to catch the fish.

Redfish in decline and tighter regs needed
Tagged on: