The following is a news release from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) is accepting applications for "Special Bait Dealer" permits through April 30, 2010.
These permits allow commercial establishments to harvest and sell live shrimp and live croaker to the fishing public in that period between the end of the spring inshore shrimp season (generally in mid June to early July) and beginning of the fall inshore shrimp (generally in early to mid August).
However, changes to provisions in the current rule would allow the taking of live bait by qualified permit holders beginning May 1 of each year. This change would become effective no earlier than Jan. 20, 2010 when it is anticipated that the final rule would be published in the Louisiana State Register.
Louisiana saltwater anglers have shown increasing interest in and demand for live bait and the live bait fishery has grown to become an important industry in Louisiana.
"This rule change is not only important to the bait industry, but to many saltwater anglers who have experienced problems with live bait availabilities during early May. Allowing permitted bait dealers to operate in May before the inshore shrimp season opens will improve angler's access to live bait without adverse impacts to developing shrimp populations," said Assistant Secretary Randy Pausina, LDWF Office of Fisheries.
During the 2009 permit period, bait dealers reported sales of approximately 322,000 live croaker and two million live shrimp with an estimated retail value of approximately $479,000. Bait dealers in Jefferson Parish led all others in sales of live croaker and the number of bait trips reported while those in St. Bernard Parish sold the most live shrimp.
Special Bait Dealer Permits are not for the direct use of recreational fishermen, charter boats, commercial fishermen who sell food shrimp or croaker or for any others that would like to harvest shrimp or croaker for their own use during closed shrimp season. In addition to a $110 permit fee, applicants must post a $1,000 cash bond, provide copies of all required LDWF commercial licenses, undergo a background check for previous wildlife and fisheries violations, inspections of their live bait holding facilities and display proper signage notifying the public that live shrimp and croaker are available for sale.
Permitted bait dealers are also required to comply with additional regulations which restrict gear size and times of operation, display signs visible from the air which identify the vessel as working under the permit and submit logs detailing trip and catch information.