The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) announced on Dec. 8 that the commercial daily limit for large coastal sharks is increasing from 45 to 55 sharks per day beginning Jan. 1, 2023, with the opening of the shark season.
The LDWF says the increase is aimed at taking more great hammerhead, scalloped hammerhead, smooth hammerhead, nurse sharks, blacktip sharks, bull sharks, lemon sharks, sandbar sharks, silky sharks, spinner sharks and tiger sharks.
The increase was authorized by the state’s Wildlife and Fisheries Commission after it was informed by federal NOAA Fisheries of a similar adjustment in federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
The Louisiana Fisheries Commission also eliminated the closed commercial shark season, which had been in effect from April through June. Now it’s open to commercial shark harvest during those months.
“Over the past 10 years I’ve seen a tremendous increase in many shark species throughout Louisiana,” says Capt. Mike Frenette, owner of the Redfish Lodge of Louisiana in Venice. “They’re not only in deep water at the mouth of the Mississippi River, but throughout the shallow waters of the Mississippi Delta, especially in Plaquemines And St. Bernard parishes
Frenette says he’s seen bull sharks ravage redfish in water as shallow as two feet. Additionally, in deeper water when he’s catching larger redfish, bull sharks attack his hooked fish.
“Offshore the past five years during the autumn yellowfin tuna run there are places at the mouth of the Mississippi that giant dusky, bull, and possibly silky sharks attack maybe 80 percent of the large yellowfins we hook,” he says.
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Late last October three anglers 25-miles off Empire, La. had their 24-foot center-console boat sink without being able to summon help. They spent the night clinging to life jackets and boat debris until aid arrived the next day.
The Coast Guard witnessed two of the boaters fending off sharks, along with shark bite injuries to both boater’s hands. The two fishermen were pulled from the water by a Coast Guard boat crew. The third boater was “hoisted” from the water by helicopter. Two of the three anglers had shark bites to their hands. One angler’s life jacket was torn during the shark attack.
This harrowing incident exemplifies the trouble with sharks that fishermen are facing throughout Louisiana, the Gulf of Mexico and along the South Atlantic Coast of the U.S.
“I’ve never seen the number of sharks that we now have in coastal and offshore waters of Louisiana,” adds Frenette. “I am in total agreement with the decision to increase the commercial harvest of coastal sharks.”