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La. fish-limit issue needs more 'eco-study'

1/31/2006

BATON ROUGE, La. — Speckled trout fishing took an unusual
turn this month when Wildlife and Fisheries Commission members
called for a notice of intent to limit the daily creel in a large
area of southwestern Louisiana.

Proponents addressing the LWFC want to take the limit from 25 to
15 a day and keep the 12-inch minimum size. The reduced creel move
is for the Calcasieu-Sabine lakes area, a location with an
already-on-the-books daily limit of two trout measuring 25 or more
inches.

There was enough interest in the move to draw a unanimous vote
from the seven-man group to put the issue on the LWFC's meeting
agenda for the next three months. Come May 4, the LWFC will vote it
up or down.

Most times when folks speak up about reducing fish limits, it's
because a segment of the population can't catch enough fish to head
home bragging that they have a limit. Most times, and time has
proven this point, the complainers are new to the game.

Most anyone new to a sport — golf, racquetball, coastal fishing
or duck hunting — won't be successful right out of the chute.

Yet, activities like fishing and hunting are different from golf
and racquetball. If you have enough money, you can hire a guide,
someone with some degree of expertise who can take you to catch
fish or hunt ducks.

There is no delicate way to put this, but sometimes there are
folks who will not get better, who will not be able to catch fish
like others. Still, they try, and you can't blame them for that.

But just like the guy who trades his 15-year-old clubs for a new
$1,400 set of metal ``woods'' — and believes that alone will shave
three, four, five or six strokes off his golf score — there are
fishermen who believe spending $35,000 on a new boat and $300
apiece for new rod-and-reel combinations will make them better
fishermen.

Not so, but that doesn't stop them from believing they will be
able to catch fish, or catch more fish, because they've spent
thousands of dollars to do it.

Money does not buy expertise. Time does. Dedication does. The
ability to assimilate information and put it to good use does.

New equipment might get you there faster and safer, and new
tackle might mean fewer backlashes, but it certainly does not
guarantee anyone the ability to read water and weather conditions,
know the just-right lure and make the perfect cast.

That written, the reduced-limit proponents have a point when
they talk about the unique ecosystem in the Calcasieu-Sabine area,
the proximity of east Texas' fishing-hungry millions, the increased
number of guides and the much-less-than-expected catches from those
lakes.

What's bothersome here is that current Department of Wildlife
and Fisheries' numbers show no data that calls for a reduction.

True, those numbers are from a statewide survey (One that shows
the average daily, per-angler trout catch is four!) and don't
factor in the uniqueness of the Calcasieu-Sabine system.

Maybe that's the point in all this. Those two lakes aren't the
only unique ecosystems along our coast. You can include Vermilion
Bay, the Barataria-Terrebonne estuary, the mouth of the Mississippi
River and the Pontchartrain-Breton area on that list, too.

Maybe, before we jump into passing regulations that could have
far-reaching biological and economic effects, we should call for
the state Legislature to fund a study that could give us a
reasonably fair assessment of the speckled trout stocks in each
ecosystem and not create another headache for all fishermen.

Distributed by the Associated Press