BATON ROUGE, La. – Saltwater recreational fishing reopened in the vast majority of Louisiana’s state waters three weeks ago, and it’s time for anglers to return to the water with their families and friends, according to Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. The governor joined several representatives of the recreational fishing community on a fishing trip Wednesday, July 28 in the Gulf of Mexico south of Houma, Louisiana, catching a variety of popular sport fish.
Governor Jindal said, “One of the greatest traditions in the Sportsman’s Paradise is recreational fishing. That tradition was put on hold the first half of our summer because of closures arising out of the Deepwater Horizon incident, but now most of our state waters are reopened to recreational fishing. From what I saw firsthand and what we caught, fishing is back!”
In a national show of support for regional anglers, Jindal was joined on his fishing trip by Center for Coastal Conservation President Jeff Angers; International Game Fish Association President Rob Kramer; American Sportfishing Association President Mike Nussman; Sport Fishing magazine Editor-in-Chief Doug Olander, and Coastal Conservation Association Tide magazine Editor Ted Venker.
These recreational fishing-industry leaders thanked the governor for his leadership to help ensure that coastal anglers can once again get back out on the water with families and friends. “Sport fishermen are America’s first conservationists,” Angers said. “Re-opening safe waters and getting anglers back to the coast is the best thing for conservation and for recovery.”
With coastal businesses still reeling from fisheries closures at the height of their busiest season, Nussman noted the importance of making whole the thousands of local businesses dependent on recreational fishing. Jindal promised to seek a timely resolution on reopening federal waters that remain closed to all fishing.
“Countless bait shops and tackle stores have seen their inventories nearly frozen on their shelves for more than three months, and while there may be a light at the end of the tunnel now, the effect of the closures will continue to ripple up the supply chain,” said Nussman. “Getting anglers back on the water is the first step for those businesses to get back on their feet, but the long shadow cast by 100 days of little or no business activity must be addressed.”
Support for coastal resources was atop the agenda on the fishing trip. “If you look hard enough, every crisis presents an opportunity and though it is difficult to see a silver lining in this disaster, CCA is inspired by the governor’s vision and leadership as a true conservationist. He clearly sees the need for a long-term commitment to habitat and coastal restoration,” said Venker. “Proceeding with plans to build a hatchery and marine research center may be the key to safeguarding Louisiana’s amazing array of sportfishing opportunities now and in the future.”
Capt. Tommy Pellegrin of Houma, Louisiana, hosted the trip aboard his charter boat, Reel Life, a 39-foot custom boat built by Jeanerette, Louisiana boat-builder Gravois Boats. After a 50-mile trip into the Gulf of Mexico beyond the closed area on Wednesday, Pellegrin put his clients onto hungry fish swarming around oil rigs. With a request from his son to bring home fish for dinner, the Governor returned to Baton Rouge with an ice chest of mangrove snapper filets the Jindals grilled on Thursday and Saturday.
“We didn’t see a drop of oil on the two-hour boat ride across the closed area and passed several prime fishing areas that would certainly have been just as productive,” said Kramer. “You can tell by the nonstop action that these fish have been under no pressure. All the ingredients for spectacular fishing trips are here – all that’s missing are the anglers.”
While the state was able to act quickly to open inshore areas to recreational and some commercial fishing, Jindal expressed frustration that the federal process of testing fish samples for oil contamination has been so slow. While he stressed that ensuring public safety is paramount, Jindal said he has urged the federal government to expedite the testing so that federal closed areas can be reopened as soon as possible.
After enjoying the day’s calm seas and remarkably steady fishing, Olander said he was impressed by the resilience of Louisiana’s fisheries.
“The last few years have presented a tremendous set of challenges to Louisiana, but it remains one of the best places to fish anywhere,” he said. “I’ve fished all over and have long maintained that Louisiana’s sport fishery is truly one of the best in the world,” adding that the state’s residents, with a long and deep sporting heritage, appreciate what they have.