It is a rare chance when something won’t make anybody happy, but mix politics and fishing and look out, brother. Today we talk about the topic of Lake D’Arbonne crappie limits. See, I bet some of you are already getting fired up . . .
Lake D’Arbonne is 50 years old and remains one of the best crappie lakes in the south and the daily limit for crappie on Lake D’Arbonne has always been 50 per day with a possession limit of 100. That means you can legally keep 50 of these fine game fish a day. You can fish two days and keep 100 total in your ice chest or freezer.
Last year, the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission lowered those limits to 25 and 50 respectively. It all started when Lake D’Arbonne regulations somehow got tied in with Toledo Bend regulations. But before you could say “let’s have a fish fry”, the Louisiana Legislature stepped in and passed legislation to raise those limits back to 50 and 100, effective last spring. Today, those limits are still in force.
Here’s the catch in that action. That legislation also took the authority away from the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission to ever change the limit again. Of course, until the Legislature decides it can. To me, that’s the worst part of this whole thing.
Not even a year later, there is another bill in front of the legislature ( http://www.legis.la.gov/legis/ViewDocument.aspx?d=883847&n=SB369 ) that could bring the limits back down to 25 and 50 — or not. But more importantly, it puts the management of fisheries, including setting limits, back in the hands of the Louisiana W&F Commission. Here’s another catch. The Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission are political appointees that oversee the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, the paid professionals in all of this. As far as I’m concerned, that’s where the bottom line is. The Commission should do what the professionals recommend in situations like this unless there are extreme, extreme reasons not to. And the professionals must make sure they do their job in making recommendations based on fact.
That being said, here’s my short take on it, followed by what Paul Harvey would call the “rest of the story”…
1. There is currently no proven biological (fish population) reason to lower the crappie limit on Lake D’Arbonne to 25 per day.
That being said, I also don’t think a 25 crappie per day limit would hurt anything either. The positive of that would be that it seems like a reasonable limit and gives the perception we are managing the lake for the future, especially with the tremendous fishing pressure that D’Arbonne is seeing these days.
2. Here’s an interesting fact: according to actual field surveys of fishermen, less than 5% of fishermen EVER catch even 25 fish a day.
3. Crappie are a cyclical fish. This year may have been the most productive season the 50-year-old lake has ever seen. It was probably the result of a super spawn 2 or 3 years ago. Three years from now, the fishing may be tough, which would probably be the result of a not so good spawn this year or next. However, fishermen would swear on their grandma’s banana pudding that it was “all the fish those folks caught back in 2014…”
4. Politics has played a bigger part in this whole scenario than fish or fisheries biology has. In south Louisiana, they like to call crappie “sac-a-lait” – French for “sack of milk“. This year in BR, you might want to call them “sac-a-contraverse” — sack of controversy. Politicians don’t need to set crappie limits. Some will not like this, but neither do fishermen (note: registered feedback from anglers was 10-1 against lowering the limits last year). Neither do people in politically appointed positions. Limits need to be set through the proven system we have in place based on what’s best for the resource using the best available science. Too many cooks spoil the broth.
You want more? This year’s current Senate Bill 369, introduced by our area Senator Mike Walsworth, appears to have been designed to do two things — first, restore authority for management of D’Arbonne Lake crappie to the Louisiana W&F Commission and second, return the limit to those supported by biological data.
Insiders report that last year’s action was in response to LW&F Commission reducing the daily creel for D’Arbonne Lake crappie without biological justification and despite overwhelming public opposition. Senator Gerald Long amended that bill intended to make changes on Toledo Bend to also include Lake D’Arbonne and, apparently, to slap the wrist of the LW&F Commission for over-ruling biologists recommendations. This year, the first stop in the legislative process for SB369 was the Senate Natural Resource Committee, which Senator Long chairs. When this year’s SB369 came back before the committee just a few days ago, it was effectively neutered with amendments. Unless something changes, and a compromise is worked out, it will stay that way. That will mean the limits stay at 50 and 100. And the legislature will maintain control, not the wildlife folks.
There are two ways I see this could go. Right now, with the amendments added, the bill would do nothing. But look for it to come up in the House and offer some sort of reasonable compromise. That could include going back to historical daily limits of 50 and possession limit of 100. And it could also put authority back with the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission to set the limits, based on current biological data from the LDWF. Don’t be surprised if some sort of mandate is included that the commission does need to follow recommendations provided by biological data. If that doesn’t happen, the other alternative is that things may just stay as they are. And there are probably alternatives I am not aware of. Nothing will be final until the session ends in June.
Most of you are probably too young to remember, but years ago, all limits and seasons for state fish and game were set locally in EACH PARISH by the Police Jury. I can remember a neighbor who was on the Police Jury where I lived saying “I’d rather die than let people shoot does”. We all know what that mentality did to the deer herds in Louisiana. Overpopulation became rampant. Now that they are consistently managed by the professionals with good data, see what we’ve got? Great hunting with plenty of trophy bucks and does.
My final suggestion in all this? Let your elected officials know how you feel. Be nice about it. And let the process work itself out. And go fishing and enjoy it. That’s what fishing is about. I think the only real reason that we are having this issue is that we have a fantastic fishery in Lake D’Arbonne and everyone is interested in protecting it. That’s a great thing. There are no real bad guys here. Just people concerned with the lake today and in its future. There are just a lot of differing opinions as to how best to do that. I say let the professionals figure it out, set the rules and let’s be happy and go fishing. With that, I leave you with one final thought.
With the current movie-making madness in Louisiana, there may be the makings of a new reality show here somewhere. Crappie Boo Boo ? The Crappie’s Wife ? Crappie Limit Dynasty ? As we speak, crappie populations and legislation continue to wax and wane like a full moon. Meanwhile, trying to keep up with all this, I feel like I’m back in the small community of Kelly as a kid with Grandma watching “As the World Turns” on her 12-inch black and white TV.
And I ask: “What do you think will happen next, Grandma?”
YOU CAN FOLLOW THE BILL’S PROGRESS ON LINE AT: http://legiscan.com/LA/bill/SB369/2014