The Nice List: Louisiana Redfish & Radio Flyers

Feature Photo Credit: Nick Jones

All fishermen are optimists, even if we refuse to admit it. After all, fishing is nothing more than a “perpetual series of occasions of hope.” It’s the reason we cast again after our last didn’t produce and why we return to that spot after confirming that no hungry fish deemed it worthy residence the day before. We’re optimistic that the next cast will be the one we’ve been waiting for – so we cast again.

It takes a very similar dosage of cautious optimism to play our role as resource advocates in the process of fisheries management. It may sometimes feel like “the fix is in”, but we still embark on these uphill battles for a few reasons. Most importantly, we should always be willing to do the right thing regardless of circumstances. It’s often difficult to take the first step down a path that requires so much courage, but the slightest glimmer of hope often illuminates that path – and maybe, just maybe – good will prevail. And so, we fight.

Within the last year, the Louisiana Guide community decided to unify their voices for the future of their businesses and fishery. What they have accomplished in such a short window is remarkable. Their fearless, relentless campaign to break through an archaic cultural paradigm and spark a new age of resource-forward thinking is admirable. They rallied support from every corner of their community. Their rally cry was heard, and State Capitol meeting rooms were packed with business owners, anglers, fishing guides, and brand representatives from around the country. This community provided hours of genuine, heartfelt, science-based testimony to the Joint Oversight Committee (you can watch herefast forward to the 1:03:00 mark). These courageous voices pleaded with lawmakers to enact a conversation-focused Notice of Intent (NOI) to set their iconic fishery on track to rebuild on a practical timeline. Their voices outnumbered those of the opposition. They executed the game plan to perfection. But they hit a roadblock.

The Joint Oversight Committee deemed their campaign to respect, value, and protect their most iconic natural resource unreasonable (we’ll get into that later…) But there were no pouting faces as they exited Meeting Room #5 on that fateful Tuesday morning. You could see the drive in their eyes. They weren’t done. They rallied a new campaign to the Governor to veto this Committee’s decision. After all, the Commissioners with whom they built these new regulations are appointees of the Governor. LDWF is one of the most impressive state fisheries teams in the country. Surely, the Governor would stand behind his appointees, the incredible fisheries science they execute daily, and the growing number of people calling for action to right the ship on redfish! But he chose not to. Now, we must head back to the drawing board to redevelop new redfish regulations for Louisiana and rebuild this legendary fishery.

This isn’t a story of failure. On the contrary, this is a story of hope, commitment, and bravery. We commend every single man and woman who sent emails, made posts online, entered those halls to comment and utilized their voice to stand up for something greater than themselves. You should be proud of yourselves. It may not feel like it when you don’t get the outcome you’re after, but this is the American dream.

The ASGA team works hard to engage and empower our community with the best available science and the best path to driving the changes we wish to see in the world. We generate all the resources we can to make this community effective, but as we have seen time and time again, nothing in fisheries management is ever a guarantee.

We’ve all had similar experiences as a child. You were on your best behavior all year: a model citizen with dreams of one day ripping around the neighborhood on a shiny red set of wheels. However, when you walked down your stairs on Christmas morning and peeked around the corner to the tree, there wasn’t a radio flyer anywhere in sight. Sometimes we don’t get what we want, and that’s okay. Like a classic Hallmark movie, if you step back, you realize the holidays are about the spirit of giving and the people around you. And that’s precisely what has happened in Louisiana.

On December 7th, our guides will once again head back to the Wildlife and Fisheries Commission to continue this fight.  You can’t do this work and not understand that adversity creates opportunity. A powerful community now stands united and refuses to accept a 29-year rebuilding timeline.

To all of our anglers, business owners, guides and advocates from Louisiana, don’t get discouraged. Look around you. Look at how many thousands of people and renowned brands share your values, commend your courage, support your efforts and stand beside you. In the last couple of months, you have laid the groundwork for a cultural shift that is decades overdue. You shook up the game and took the reigns away from hands that have gone unchallenged for far too long. Their influence is shrinking as difficult conversations are forced into the spotlight where honesty can prevail. Your fishery’s future is brighter because of it.

To all brands, customers, conservationists and aspiring traveling anglers who watched these campaigns play out from afar, stay diligent and stick with us. The faces in these elected and appointed positions will change in the coming months, but the mission remains the same. We must get Louisiana’s iconic redfish fishery back on track. And we will need every single courageous voice from around the country to do so.

We wish the entire Louisiana redfish community the warmest holiday season, and leave you with a tale to spread some cheer:

“As the boat leaves the trailer, and the sun hits the sky,
their expectations for their fishery have never been so high.
They are changing the culture, and for that, they are proud,
no longer afraid to speak out from the crowd.
And we heard them exclaim, as their boats ran out of sight:
Happy Holidays to all – and keep up good fight.”

Artwork courtesy of the incredible Oona Watkins (@OonaSeas).

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