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Saltwater Fishing

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Saltwater Fishing in Louisiana

State and Federal Licenses and Permit Requirements

State License Requirements

  1. Basic Fishing License
  2. Saltwater Fishing License
  3. A Recreational Offshore Landing Permit (ROLP), free of charge, is required of all anglers to possess tunas, billfish, swordfish, amberjacks, groupers, hinds, snappers, dolphinfish, wahoo and cobia, EXCEPT those anglers on a paid for-hire trip where the captain possesses a valid Recreational Offshore Landing Permit, or those anglers that are under the age of 16, not normally required to have a fishing license.
    • The Recreational Offshore Landing Permit can be found on the LDWF website at https://rolp.wlf.la.gov or through smartphone applications. The iPhone app can be downloaded free of charge from the App Store by searching for the “Louisiana Recreational Offshore Landing Permits App.” The Android app can also be downloaded free of charge from the Google Play Store by searching for “LDWF Rec. Offshore Landing App.”

      All applicable licenses must be in possession of the fisherman.

      Federal License Requirements

      The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) manages the Atlantic Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Division in the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea.

    1. An Atlantic HMS Angling Permit is required for vessels fishing for tunas, billfishes, swordfish and sharks. You may apply for an initial or renewal permit in one of several ways. The permit fee is $20.
      • To apply for an initial or renewal permit online visit the NMFS Permit Shop at https://hmspermits.noaa.gov.
      • An initial or renewal application package can be downloaded from the NMFS Permit Shop or mailed by calling the NMFS at 888-872-8862.
      • Renew permits by calling the automated voice response system at 888-872-8862. Permits will be valid from the date of issuance through Dec. 31, 2018
      • Beginning Jan. 1, 2018 there will be additional requirements when targeting or possessing sharks under this permit. See https://hmspermits.noaa.gov for more details.
    2. An Atlantic HMS Charter/Headboat Permit is required for all charter or headboat fishing for and/or retaining regulated Atlantic HMS in federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico The permit fee is $20. HMS Charter/Headboat Permit will be valid from the date of issuance through Dec. 31, 2018.
    3. A Federal Shrimp Vessel Permit is required for all vessels fishing shrimp in the Gulf of Mexico EEZ.

      Information about obtaining HMS permits and regulations are available at https://hmspermits.noaa.gov or by calling 888-872-8862.

Know Before you go

The National Marine Fisheries Service has a Memorandum of Agreement with the National Weather Service to broadcast unanticipated and time-critical fishery regulatory actions where there is minimal opportunity for advance public notice. These broadcasts are issued for four or five days, 24 hours a day, by selected NWR coastal stations. (VHF frequencies in MHz)

  • 162.400
  • 162.525
  • 162.550
  • 162.425
  • 162.450
  • 162.475

Saltwater Species you Cannot Harvest

Threatened or Endangered and Prohibited Species

The federally listed threatened and endangered, or prohibited species listed below are off limits for fishing or recreational take. Civil and criminal penalties may apply for taking the following aquatic species. If any of these protected species are incidentally caught, they must be released immediately unharmed.

  • All Whales
  • Dolphin (mammal)
  • Goliath Grouper
  • Gulf Sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus desotoi)
  • Largetooth Sawfish
  • Nassau Grouper
  • Sea Turtles
  • Smalltooth Sawfish
  • West Indian Manatee

Sharks

  • Atlantic Angel Shark
  • Basking Shark
  • Bigeye Sand Tiger Shark
  • Bigeye Sixgill Shark
  • Bigeye Thresher Shark
  • Bignose Shark
  • Caribbean Reef Shark
  • Caribbean Sharpnose Shark
  • Dusky Shark
  • Galapagos Shark
  • Longfin Mako Shark
  • Narrowtooth Shark
  • Night Shark
  • Sand Tiger Shark
  • Sevengill Shark
  • Sixgill Shark
  • Smalltail Shark
  • Whale Shark
  • White Shark

Recreational Saltwater Tournament Operators

Federal regulations require any person conducting a fishing tournament in the federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico involving the catch and/or landing of any HMS regulated species to register with the HMS Management Division of the National Marine Fisheries Service at least four weeks prior to start of the tournament. A Tournament Registration Form is available on the NMFS website at www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/hms/compliance/tournaments/registration.html.

To register a tournament, an Atlantic HMS Tournament Registration Form must be completed, signed, and sent to the Atlantic HMS Management Division by mail or fax.

Fax: 727-824-5398

Mailing Address:

HMS Tournament Registration

National Marine Fisheries Service

263 13th Avenue S.

St. Petersburg, FL 33701

Once the registration form has been processed an Atlantic HMS Tournament Confirmation Number will be produced and provided to the tournament operator.

NOTE: Registration is not complete unless the tournament operator has received a confirmation number from the HMS Management Division of NMFS. For more information call 727-824-5399; https://hmspermits.noaa.gov.

Important Information about Fishing in Gulf of Mexico Federal Waters

The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council manages federal waters from where the Louisiana gulfward boundary ends and extends 200 miles seaward into the Gulf of Mexico. Louisiana recreational and commercial anglers fishing beyond the 3 nautical-mile Louisiana gulfward boundary are in federal waters.

*NOTE: The Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission passed a resolution to clarify the effects of the extension of the state water boundary from three to nine nautical miles for reef fish management purposes, as established by the 2016 Consolidated Appropriations Act. The resolution clearly states that fishing gear used by the reef fish fishermen in the commercial and recreational sectors will not change within these new boundary waters. The fishermen of Louisiana will have the benefit of Louisiana’s reef fish management to 9 nautical miles, but there will be no change to the method of take or gear restrictions. Please also note that red drum are not considered reef fish; therefore, there is no change to regulations impacting this species.

LDWF reminds charter fishermen with federal reef fish permits that they are only allowed to fish these new boundary waters when the federal recreational reef fish season is open. Federal reef fish permit regulations restrict the permit holder to the most restrictive season.

These waters are also known as the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Federal fishing regulations are not always the same as state fishing regulations. To make sure that you are in complete compliance with federal regulations call the Gulf Council at 888-833-1844, or e-mail gulfcouncil@gulfcouncil.org. Visit www.gulfcouncil.org for information about federal fishing regulations, measurement guidelines, sanctuaries & closures and fish identification charts.

Methods for Fishing or Taking Saltwater Fish

There are many ways to catch fish and other aquatic species in Louisiana’s beautiful coastal waters. The headings below define the legal methods and illegal methods of take, plus certain exceptions that are allowed by species, methods and locations.

Always check with an LDWF Enforcement Office if you have questions.

Legal Methods

Some species of gamefish may not be taken with the gear listed below.

  • Hook and Line
  • Trolling Line
  • Handline
  • Bait Casting
  • Recreational Crawfish Traps (must be marked with a waterproof tag, provided by the fisherman, with the name and recreational gear license number of the fisherman legibly printed on the tag, and must have a minimum mesh size of a hexagon of 3/4 by 11/16 of 1 inch from wire to wire not including any coating on the wire)
  • Standard Spearing Equipment (used by a skin diver sport fishing in saltwater or freshwater when submerged in the water)
  • Barbless Spear or Multi-pronged Barbed Gig (may be used in saltwater for taking flounder ONLY)
  • Yo-yos or Trigger Devices
  • Bow and Arrow
  • Dip Nets
  • Fly Casting Apparatus

Exceptions to Methods of Take by Species

An alternative method is allowed for taking the aquatic species listed below. Harvest of any other saltwater species by this method is prohibited.

Red Drum

Legal

  • Bow and Arrows
  • Standard Spearing Equipment used by a skin divers submerged in water when sport fishing

Saltwater Restrictions and Exceptions by Method

Skin Divers

With the exception of game fish, the only legal method for a skin diver to take fish is when submerged in water using standard spearing equipment.

Mobility Impaired Individuals

As defined in R.S. 47:463.4(E), mobility impaired persons who are bona fide residents of Louisiana, in possession of valid identification, and over 60 years of age may use one legal slat trap and/or one hoop net not greater than 18 feet by 8 feet, where those gear are legal, without a license, only for the purpose of catching catfish and only for home consumption.

Illegal Methods for Fishing or taking all Fish

It is unlawful to possess any of the prohibited instruments, weapons, substances or devices described below with the intent to take fish.

  • Crossbows
  • Gill Nets (freshwater and saltwater)
  • Spears
  • Poisons
  • Stupefying Substances or Devices
  • Explosives
  • Guns
  • Tree-topping Devices
  • Any instrument or device capable of producing electric current to shock fish
  • Snagging Devices

Legal Bait Species

Including minnows, crawfish and shrimp (not including game fish)

LEGAL

  • Cast nets
  • Minnow traps
  • Dip Nets(net must be on a fixed frame no larger than 3 feet in diameter worked exclusively by hand, by no more than one person, without any mechanical assistance)
  • Bait Seines (a maximum mesh size not exceeding 1/4-inch bar, 1/2 inch stretched and 30 feet in length; must be operated solely on foot and by hand, without any pulley, mechanical device or assistance whatsoever)
  • Recreational Trawls, only allowed in state waters when and where shrimp season is open.

Important Information About Bringing Your Saltwater Catch to Shore

All saltwater finfish in the possession of a recreational angler must have the head and caudal fin intact until set on shore. Garfish may have the head and caudal fin removed prior to the fish being on shore as long as a sufficient patch of skin that clearly identifies the fish remains on the fish.

Exception: Tuna, swordfish and shark possessed by a recreational angler must not be skinned or scaled until set or put on shore. Tuna that meet minimum size requirements may have the head removed if the carcass length is in excess of the minimum total length.

Fillets may not be possessed on the water, except for the purpose of consumption at sea aboard the harvesting vessel. An individual must not have more than 2 pounds of finfish parts per person in state waters, or more than 1.5 pounds of finfish parts per person in federal waters, on board the vessel, provided that the vessel is equipped to cook finfish and that the finfish does not exceed applicable bag limits. These provisions do not apply to bait species.

Saltwater finfish caught or transported by a recreational fisherman are presumed to have been caught in Louisiana waters, for license requirements.

All regulations regarding these species apply whether caught in freshwater or saltwater areas.

Required Onboard Gear for Fishing in Gulf of Mexico Federal Waters

Louisiana state waters extend 9 nautical miles (10.357 statute miles or 3 marine leagues) seaward from the nearest land, but in some cases extend further. The EEZ is described as waters that extend seaward from that point out to 200 miles from the coast.

Recreational anglers onboard a vessel to fish for or possess Gulf reef fish in the Gulf of Mexico EEZ must possess onboard and use the required gear as specified below. These devices are required because they reduce mortality on released fish.

Non-stainless Steel Circle Hooks

Non-stainless steel circle hooks are required when fishing with natural baits for reef fish.

Dehooking Device

At least one dehooking device is required on board and must be used to remove hooks embedded in Gulf reef fish with minimum damage. The device must be constructed to allow the hook to be secured and the barb shielded without reengaging during the removal process. The dehooking end must be blunt and all edges rounded. The device must be of a size appropriate to secure the range of hook sizes and styles used in the Gulf reef fishery.

Saltwater State Creel and Size Limits

Unless otherwise established, there are no size limits on species not listed and unless otherwise noted, possession limits for saltwater fish are the same as the daily bag limit.

Common Coastal Species

Size Limit Bag & Possession Limit

Cobia (Ling or Lemonfish)

33” min fork length

2 daily per person

Drum

16” min total length

27” max total length

Black Drum:

5 daily per person – bag and

possession

No more than one over 27” max total length

Red Drum (Redfish)1:

5 daily per person – bag2

No more than one over 27” max total length

Southern Flounder

No Size Limit

10 daily per person

Mackerel

King Mackerel3:

24” min fork length

3 daily per person

Spanish Mackerel3:

12” min fork length

15 daily per person

Striped Mullet

No Size Limit

100 lbs. daily

Spotted Seatrout (Speckled Trout)4

12” min total length

25 daily per person – bag2; 15 daily per person with no more than two over 25” (in specified areas)

Highly Migratory Species 5

Size Limit Bag & Possession Limit

Marlin6

Blue Marlin:

99” min lower jaw fork length

No Bag or Possession Limit

White Marlin:

66” min lower jaw fork length

Sailfish6

63” min lower jaw fork length

No Bag or Possession Limit

Shark7

Atlantic Sharpnose & Bonnethead Shark7:

None

1 daily per person –

possession. All shark harvest prohibited from April 1 – June 30

Other Sharks (EXCEPT Prohibited silky and sandbar)7:

54” min fork length

1 in aggregate per vessel per trip – possession. No silky or sandbar sharks. No prohibited species. All shark harvest prohibited from April 1 – June 30.

Swordfish8

29” min carcass length or

33 lbs. min dressed weight

Not more than 5 per vessel per trip

Tuna8

Bluefin Tuna9:

73” min curved fork length

1 per vessel per year with appropriate federal permit as incidental catch during the open season

Bigeye Tuna9:

27” min curved fork length

No Bag or Possession Limit

Yellowfin Tuna9:

27” min curved fork length

3 daily per person

*NOTE:

  • Species within the 20 fish aggregate bag limit are Vermilion Snapper, Lane Snapper, Almaco Jack, Gray Triggerfish, Tilefish, Goldface Tilefish, and Blueline Tilefish.
  • Species within the 10 fish aggregate bag limit are all snappers (Gray, Mutton, Yellowtail, Cubera, Queen, Blackfin, Silk and Wenchman) except Red, Vermilion and Lane.

Reef Fish3

Size Limit Bag & Possession Limit

Grouper 10,11

Black & Gag 10:

24” min total length

4 daily in aggregate

No more than 1 speckled hind and 1 Warsaw grouper per vessel, not more than 4 red grouper per person, and not more than 2 gag per person included in the bag limit

Red & Yellowfin10:

20” min total length

Scamp 10:

16” min total length

Goliath & Nassau:

Take Prohibited

Take/Possession Prohibited

Snapper 12

Red 11,13:

16” min total length

2 daily per person2

Mutton:

16” min total length

10 daily per person in aggregate3*

Queen, Blackfin, Silk & Wenchman: None

Cubera, Gray (mangrove) & Yellowtail:

12” min total length

Lane: 8” min total length

20 daily per person in aggregate, with no more than 2 gray triggerfish and not more than 10 vermilion snapper per person included in the bag limit3*

Vermilion: 10” min total length

Almaco Jack

No Size Limit

20 daily per person in aggregate*

Gray Triggerfish 14

14” min fork length

2 daily per person in aggregate3*

Reef Fish and Other 3

Size Limit Bag & Possession Limit

Tilefish (Goldface & Blueline)

No Size Limit

20 daily per person in

aggregate*

Amberjack

Greater11,15:

34” min fork length

1 daily per person3

Lesser & Banded Rudderfish15:

14-22” fork length slot limit

5 daily per person in

aggregate

Hogfish

12” min fork length

5 daily per person

Tripletail

18” min total length

5 daily per person

Images by Duane Raver

Explanation of Saltwater Creel & Size Limits

1Red Drum (Redfish) and Spotted Seatrout (Speckled Trout)

Recreational saltwater anglers may possess a two days’ bag limit on land; however, no person shall be in possession of fish over the daily bag limit in any one day or while fishing or while on the water, unless that recreational saltwater angler is aboard a trawler engaged in commercial fishing for a consecutive period of longer than 25 hours. Take or possession of red drum in federal waters is prohibited.

2Off-water Bag Limit

Two days’ bag limit allowed in possession off of the water, not while fishing or in a boat.

3Charter Vessels & Headboats

Two-day limit allowed in possession only on charter vessels and headboats on multi day trips, if the vessels have two licensed operators, as required by the U.S. Coast Guard for trips more than 12 hours, and if each angler has in possession a receipt issued on behalf of the vessel verifying the length of the trip.

4Spotted Seatrout (Speckled Trout)

12” minimum total length, 25 fish per person daily bag limit. EXCEPT: 15 fish daily bag and possession limit, with no more than two spotted seatrout exceeding 25” total length, regardless of where taken in a defined area of Cameron and Calcasieu parishes located in southwestern Louisiana. The defined area, including coastal territorial waters, is as follows: south of Interstate 10 from its junction at the Texas-Louisiana boundary eastward to its junction with Louisiana Highway 171, south to Highway 14, south to Holmwood, and then south on Highway 27 through Gibbstown, south to Louisiana Highway 82 at Creole and south on Highway 82 to Oak Grove, then due south to the western shore of the Mermentau River, following this shoreline south to the junction with the Gulf of Mexico, and then due south to the limit of the state territorial sea. Under the authority of the provisions of R. S. 56:325.1(A), the daily bag and possession limit shall be 15 fish, regardless of where taken, with no more than two spotted seatrout exceeding 25 inches total length. Those spotted seatrout exceeding 25” in length shall be considered as part of the daily recreational bag and possession limit.

5Highly Migratory Species

An HMS Permit is required for all owners/operator of vessels in the Gulf of Mexico fishing for and/or retaining the HMS regulated species of tunas, billfishes, swordfish and sharks. The Atlantic HMS Permits will be valid from the date of issuance through Dec. 31, 2018. The permit fee is $20. NOTE: This permit requires the reporting of all recreationally caught swordfish, billfish, and bluefin tuna within 24 hours of landing that species, please see https://hmspermits.noaa.gov/catchReports for more details.

An Atlantic HMS Charter/Headboat Permit is required for all charter or headboat fishing for and/or retaining regulated Atlantic HMS in federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The HMS Charter/Headboat Permit will be valid from the date of issuance through Dec. 31, 2018. The permit fee is $20.

For information about contact the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Permitting Office at 1-888-872-8862 or 727-824-5399 or visit the NMFS Permit Shop at https://hmspermits.noaa.gov. For complete HMS regulations, contact the HMS Management Division at 301-713-2347 or visit the website at www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/hms/.

6Marlin and Sailfish

All recreational anglers, including those not normally required to have a fishing license (except anglers 15 years of age or under), and charter captains must obtain a Recreational Offshore Landing Permit to possess billfish.

7Sharks

CLOSED SEASON

All Louisiana state waters seaward to the gulfward boundary of the Louisiana Territorial Sea shall be closed to the recreational and commercial harvest and possession of all sharks between April 1 and June 30 of each year.

Small Coastal Sharks

Atlantic sharpnose shark; bonnethead shark; blacknose shark; finetooth shark

Large Coastal Sharks

Blacktip shark; nurse shark; smooth hammerhead; bull shark; sandbar shark*; spinner shark; great hammerhead; scalloped hammerhead; tiger shark; lemon shark; silky shark*

*NOTE: Recreational harvest of sandbar and silky sharks (ridgeback sharks) is not allowed.

Pelagic Sharks

Blue shark; porbeagle shark; thresher shark; oceanic whitetip shark; shortfin mako

NOTE: A person subject to a bag limit shall not possess at any time, regardless of the number of trips or the duration of a trip, any shark in excess of the bag limits listed under Highly Migratory Species on illustrated chart. The practice of “finning,” that is, removing only the fins and returning the remainder of the shark to the sea, is prohibited within and without Louisiana waters. Notwithstanding other provisions of this part, a person may fish for, but not retain, white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) with rod and reel only under a catch-and-release program, provided the person releases and returns such fish to the sea immediately with a minimum of injury.

Prohibited Sharks

The following is a list of shark species that are prohibited: Atlantic angel shark, sand tiger shark, dusky shark, bigeye sand tiger shark, sixgill shark, largetooth sawfish, bigeye thresher shark, smalltooth sawfish, narrowtooth shark, Caribbean reef shark, white shark, Caribbean sharpnose shark, basking shark, sevengill shark, Galapagos shark, bigeye sixgill shark, smalltail shark, longfin mako, bignose shark, whale shark and night shark. No sandbar or silky sharks may be retained under a recreational bag limit.

8Swordfish

All recreational anglers, including those not normally required to have a fishing license, and charter captains must obtain a Recreational Offshore Landing Permit to possess swordfish. Anglers on a paid for-hire trip and anglers 15 years of age or younger are not required to have the permit.

Recreational fishing vessels shall not possess more than five swordfish per vessel per trip. Swordfish taken under a recreational bag limit shall not be sold, purchased, exchanged, bartered, or attempted to be sold, purchased, exchanged or bartered. No person aboard any vessel shall transfer or cause the transfer of swordfish between vessels on state or federal waters. All recreationally harvested swordfish must be reported, see https://hmspermits.noaa.gov/catchReports or call (800) 894-5528.

9Tuna

All recreational anglers, including those not normally required to have a fishing license, and charter captains must obtain a Recreational Offshore Landing Permit to possess tuna. Anglers on a paid for-hire trip and anglers 15 years of age or younger are not required to have the permit.

Anglers fishing for tunas within or outside Louisiana state waters are subject to both state and federal laws, rules and regulations. Federal regulations regarding the recreational harvest of tunas change often, especially for bluefin tuna. Prior to angling for or harvest of tuna, be aware of the most current federal regulations for fishing or harvest, including sizes, bag limits and closed seasons. For updates on tuna quota monitoring and tuna retention limit adjustments, anglers may call the Atlantic Tunas Information Line at 888-872-8862. The “Atlantic Tunas Regulations Brochure” is available at www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/hms/species/tunas/index.html and announcements of changes may be accessed via the web at www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/hms/news/federalregister/index.html.

Permanent Louisiana regulations on tuna harvest may be superseded by seasonal changes within the federal regulatory system. See websites referenced above for current federal regulations. State requirements regarding tuna regulations may also be subject to change, please refer to the LDWF website for current information:

www.wlf.la.gov/fishing/saltwater-seasons-limits and

www.wlf.la.gov/regulations

Bluefin Tuna

All bluefin tuna must be reported within 24 hours of landing to NMFS by calling 888-872-8862 or visiting https://hmspermits.noaa.gov. For further information about angling category permits call the NMFS HMS Division at 888-872-8862 or 301-713-2347.

10Grouper

All recreational anglers, including those not normally required to have a fishing license, and charter captains must obtain a Recreational Offshore Landing Permit to possess grouper. Anglers on a paid for-hire trip and anglers 15 years of age or younger are not required to have the permit.

There is a closed season for the recreational harvest of gag from Jan. 1 through May 31 of each year. A closed season for the recreational harvest of black, red, yellowfin and yellowmouth groupers as well as scamp has also been established from Feb. 1 – March 31 of each year sea- ward of the 20 fathom (120 feet) curve.

Other seasons and rules are currently in place in Federal waters off of Louisiana. Please check those rules at www.gulfcouncil.org under “Fishing Regulations.”

11Charter Captain & Crew

No harvest of red snapper, greater amberjack or grouper of any species is allowed for the captain and crew of vessel under charter (their creel limit/bag limit is zero).

Charter captains must have a Recreational Offshore Landing Permit when conducting a for-hire trip that is In possession of any of the folowing species or species groups: snappers, groupers, amberjacks, hinds, tunas, swordfish, billfish, cobia, wahoo, or dolphinfish.

12Snapper

All recreational anglers, including those not normally required to have a fishing license, and charter captains must obtain a Recreational Offshore Landing Permit to possess snapper. Anglers on a paid for-hire trip and anglers 15 years of age or younger are not required to have the permit.

13Red Snapper

Regulations for the recreational harvest of red snapper in Louisiana state waters may change frequently. For current red snapper seasons, bag limits, and possession information check the LDWF website at: www.wlf.la.gov/fishing/recreational-fishing.

14Gray Triggerfish

There is a closed season for the recreational harvest of gray triggerfish from June 1 through June 30 annually.

15Amberjack

All recreational anglers, including those not normally required to have a fishing license, and charter captains must obtain a Recreational Offshore Landing Permit to possess grouper. Anglers on a paid for-hire trip and anglers 15 years of age or younger are not required to have the permit.

The recreational greater amberjack season is open May 1-31, 2018. There is a fixed closed season from June 1 – July 31, 2018. The season reopens Aug. 1 – Oct. 31, 2018, or until the annual quota is met or projected to be met. For more information, go to www.wlf.louisiana.gov/news/41987 OR sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/fishery_bulletins/2018/021/index.html.