Bull Redfish Generate Big Dollars for Louisiana

Louisiana fishing guide community partners with ASGA to conduct an economic impact survey to assess the value of redfish-driven tourism for the state.

Everyone knows that redfish are synonymous with Louisiana. When anglers think of the species, they almost always think of the idyllic angling environments in the “Sportsman’s Paradise”. Many of you are aware that a huge decision is on the horizon for the future of redfish in Louisiana. If you would like to learn more about the situation and support ASGA’s official letter to the State of Louisiana, please click here. We need anglers, guides and business owners from around the country to get behind this campaign and show the state how many eyes are watching and care about this movement. 

As Louisiana sits atop many bucket lists as a premiere destination for anglers from around the world, redfish bring in a tremendous amount of economy for the state. This remains undisputed – but how much economy do these drum really generate? For the last few months, our guides in Louisiana have been asking their clients to participate in a survey that details redfish expenditures. In simple terms: what are anglers spending to pursue redfish? What are the goals of these anglers? Why are these anglers going to this location rather than the countless other options around the globe?  

A fishing scene unlike many others. Giant redfish in skinny marsh ponds. Photo: Carter Abramson

ASGA was able to answer many of these questions through the Louisiana Red Drum Angler Expenditure Survey. The following provides a brief summary of this pioneering effort:

To quantify angler expenditures associated with Louisiana’s for-hire light-tackle recreational fishery for red drum (Sciaenops ocellatus), the American Saltwater Guides Association (ASGA) recently collaborated with members of Louisiana’s guide community to develop a survey for distribution to clients. The motivating factor for this study was ongoing concern about the status of the state’s red drum resource, which has led to discussions concerning future management strategies for this iconic species. While the fishery attracts and sustains a significant following whose primary motivation is light-tackle catch-and-release fishing, there have to date been no efforts to estimate the relative expenditures of this specialized group compared to Louisiana’s broader recreational community. Instead, the only available expenditure estimates are for Louisiana’s recreational fishery as a whole (Lovell et al. 2020).   Click the following link to view the full Louisiana Red Drum Angler Expenditure Survey.

The survey found that anglers were almost completely from out of state and “catch and release” focused. They traveled for the experience. More specifically, to spend time with friends and family, catch (not harvest) trophy redfish, and just catch fish in general. Most notably, the economic impacts of these anglers is nothing short of staggering:

The mean expenditures per angler trip totaled $1075.32. Our guides take two anglers per day and average over 200 trips per season. This is a twelve-month fishery. In total, these numbers translate to about $430,000 in expenditures per guide per year. Essentially, each light tackle and fly guide brings in more than your average state park without the cost of repairing roads, rangers on duty, or general maintenance. 

In the midst of a struggling statewide economy, it is very notable that the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission recognized the value redfish at the latest meeting and made the difficult choice to challenge traditional fisheries trends. The Notice of Intent issued by the commission on that important day asked for a 55% reduction in harvest, which would ensure abundant populations of redfish for generations to come. While this is heartwarming to hear, there is a long way to go.

The deadline for comment on the NOI is October 5th. From there, it must be approved by state legislators. Redfish regulations have not been changed since 1988. We don’t expect this to be an easy lift. This survey should prove to elected officials and decision-makers that redfish drive the economy of Southern Louisiana. Parishes in rural areas can’t afford to lose these dollars. The state is blessed to have an incredible natural resource. It is up to them to recognize this gift and nourish it accordingly. It is up to all of us to remind them that the Louisiana redfish is a dream trip for countless anglers from around the world. If the resource is depleted, those anglers will fish elsewhere – and take their dollars with them.  

The teal tail hues of a future bull red. Photo: Carter Abramson

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