Demand for live bait outpacing the supply

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You’re off work, the weather is perfect, the boat and truck are gassed up and the fish are biting.

Only one problem: no live shrimp or croaker left at the bait stand.


“Many anglers are spoiled to having live bait and won’t go fishing unless they have live bait,” said Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries marine fisheries biologist Marty Bourgeois, laughing. “The demand for live bait this spring was high because we had such a mild winter, and the need for live bait couldn’t be met. Bait dealers are ‘first come, first serve’ when it comes to live bait, and they were running out.”


LDWF is currently seeking public opinions for its notice of intent to amend the special bait dealer permit rule, and the latest change to the rule would allow special live bait dealer permit holders extra opportunities to add to their stock of live shrimp and croaker. Those who wish to comment must have their remarks sent in by Nov. 1, and statements must be mailed to Bourgeois at P.O. Box 189, Bourg, LA, 70343.

“Live bait is a fast-growing industry, and this change will increase live bait availability to bait dealers and help angler success,” Bourgeois said.


Currently, special permit bait dealers are only allowed to collect and sell live shrimp and live croaker starting May 1 and in between the spring and fall inshore shrimp seasons. Bait dealers are not required to have a permit to harvest and sell live bait during the open shrimp season.


“These proposed changes should enhance live bait availabilities by providing permitted dealers greater bait harvesting opportunities,” said Randy Pausina, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Assistant Secretary of Fisheries. “The rule will also boost fishing success for their long-standing favorite and Louisiana’s most targeted recreational saltwater species, speckled trout.”

Under the new rule, qualified businesses will be able to apply for and bait fish year-round and at night, so long as the business’ boat is equipped with a working vessel monitoring system. The new regulations will also allow the use of skimmer net frames up to the legal maximum size, 16 feet horizontally, 12 feet vertically and 20 feet diagonally. Bait dealers will also be able to transfer live bait from one boat provided that: both boats are permitted to the same wholesale or retail seafood dealer; the captain of the vessel catching the bait has a signed trip ticket for the catch; and the bait is bound directly for the business of the permitted wholesale or retail seafood dealer. Once the bait reaches the business, the dealer must also sign a trip ticket.


The new regulations will also prohibit those convicted of a Class Three or greater fisheries violation within the last three years from obtaining the permit or to be onboard any boat conducting bait catching. The change will bar the special live bait dealer permit holder boat from selling live shrimp or crabs to anyone other than the wholesale/retail seafood dealer listed on the permit during the closed shrimp season.


While the changes to the permit will assist bait dealers, the proposed allowances are not intended for recreational fishermen, charter boats or commercial fishermen who sell dead bait or for any other individual catching bait for their own use during the closed shrimp season.

“The greatest thing about the proposed changes is the availability to fish at night,” Bourgeois said. “With the heat of the summer days, bait is already stressed and catching the bait at night will increase the survival rate of the shrimp and croakers. Shrimp boats are large and slow, and there is usually a good distance between where they are shrimping and the bait house. Dealers will now be able to get the bait from the shrimp boat and take it back to their businesses in a faster boat, which will also increase bait mortality.”

Currently there are between 35 to 55 bait dealers in the state and about 11 or 12 in Lafourche and Terrebonne parishes. Bourgeois expects a boom in the bait business as well as an increase in the number of businesses applying for the permit.

“I think some businesses will jump all over it,” Bourgeois said. “The net revenue is going to be a great opportunity, and I expect bait dealers to prosper. The success live bait generates … sometimes speckled trout will only want live bait all year long.”

“It’s a positive thing, any way you look at it, and it’s a big step forward in assisting bait dealers,” Bourgeois said. “It will not be ratified until after the final ruling, but I really do expect it to pass. It has already received widespread support.”

Terry Serigny, owner of Terry’s Live Bait in Golden Meadow, is one bait dealer who is looking forward to the proposed changes.

“Right now, we can start catching bait at 6 a.m., but most people are already out on the water by then,” Serigny said. “If we could get out there at 3 a.m. to catch bait, we could be back at the shop by 4 a.m. with the bait. That would help us a lot because we open early.”

Seringy, who inherited the business from his parents, has been in the bait dealer industry since 1961.

“Back then, you were lucky if you had a handful of people a week looking to buy live bait,” Seringy said. “Now we move a lot of live bait, and it’s hard to say what I sell more of, croaker or shrimp. We may sell 6,000 to 7,000 live shrimp and minnows in a week during our peak season of early March through Labor Day. This change will also help out a lot of business in Grand Isle, too. We had a good summer, but finished up quick because of the oil washing up on the beach after the hurricane.”

Harenton Chavez, a clerk at Lighthouse Bait and Seafood Shack in Bourg loads up live bait. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is currently seeking public opinions for its notice of intent to amend the special bait dealer permit rule, and the latest change to the rule would allow special live bait dealer permit holders extra opportunities to add to their stock of live shrimp and croaker.

CLAUDETTE OLIVIER | TRI-PARISH TIMES