Commercial Oystering

SEASONS

The Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission designates which public oyster beds are open for fishing by opening or closing the season as biological data indicate a need. The oyster harvest season for state public oyster beds (seed grounds and reservations) generally runs from the first Wednesday following Labor Day in September through April 30 of the following year; however, there are often exceptions to this for certain seed grounds. No public ground or reservation shall be fished for market sacks until the second Monday in October. Consult the LDWF web site for the most recent information regarding oyster seasons. The owner of an oyster lease or his designee with written permission, may fish oysters at any time of year on their lease, unless the lease is under a Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) closure order.

NOTE: Areas opened by the commission may, however, be closed by DHH for health reasons. Information on closed areas is available from LDWF or from DHH (1-800-256-2775).

The commission shall fix the open season for commercial taking of oysters from Calcasieu Lake and Sabine Lake, which for Calcasieu Lake shall begin on any date between Oct. 15 and Nov. 1 and shall end on April 30 or on a date set by commission.

SIZE/POSSESSION LIMITS

All oysters taken from public grounds must be three inches or greater in length from hinge to mouth. A lessee of private oyster grounds may be permitted to take undersized oysters from public grounds for bedding purposes only. Size restrictions do not apply to commercially harvested oysters taken from a private lease.

Not more than 25 sacks per boat per day may be taken from Sabine Lake. Harvest limits in Calcasieu Lake shall be set by the Wildlife and Fisheries Commission not to exceed 25 sacks of oysters per day per licensed vessel.

Harvest from private leases for commercial purposes is unlimited.

Recreational oyster fishermen may harvest oysters:

1. in leased areas only with the written permission of the lease holder;
2. in personally leased areas;
3. in areas open to the public for the harvesting of oysters, but shall be limited to two sacks per person (R.S. 56:424c) per day for personal consumption.

METHODS OF TAKING

Oysters may be taken from public grounds by dredges, scrapers and tongs. Dredges and scrapers shall be no longer than six feet in width measured along the tooth bar. The dredge teeth shall be no longer than five inches and there shall be no more than seven dredges in use on any one vessel. Dredges shall not be used in such a manner as to remove excessive non-living reef material with seed oyster loads or as to cause physical destruction to the natural reefs.

The use of dredges in Calcasieu and Sabine Lake is limited to a single hand dredge or a single scraper with mechanical assist that has a tooth or flat bar of no more that 36 inches in length.

Any oysters taken from the public natural reefs or the oyster seed grounds or reservations, except those in Calcasieu Lake or Sabine Lake, shall be placed only on a vessel which has an Oyster Seed Ground Vessel permit issued. Such permit shall be issued in the name of the vessel owner and shall identify the vessel permitted by including the state registration number or the United States Coast Guard documentation number. For more information, contact LDWF Marine Fisheries Division at 225-765-2370 or LDWF Licensing Section at 225-765-2898.

Each person in charge of an oyster cargo vessel shall purchase an Oyster Cargo Vessel permit. The permit shall be issued at a cost of $250 per year for residents and $1105 per year for non-residents.

LEASES

Any person who qualifies and who desires to lease a part of the bottom of any state waters shall present to the Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries a written application and cash deposit of such amount as determined by the department. Lessees, under the supervision of the department, shall stake off and mark the lease water bottoms in order to locate accurately and fix the limits of the water bottoms embraced by each lease. Areas shall also be prominently marked with signs which state the lease number and name or initials of the lessee.

Oysters shall not be harvested from any unmarked lease.

RESTRICTIONS

Culling oysters, which is the act of discarding undersized oysters or dead shell, shall be performed only on the open designated public grounds or on private leases on which the fisherman is authorized to take oysters. At no time will the act of culling oysters be permitted in areas closed to harvesting oysters.

The taking of oysters one-half hour after sunset until one-half hour before sunrise is prohibited.

Oysters taken from the reefs of this state either for sale or consumption shall be landed in Louisiana, except persons in possession of an out-of-state oyster landings permit may land oysters taken from private leases only in any state.

Sacks or any other types of containers used to hold oysters harvested in Louisiana and placed in commerce must be tagged with a tag issued by LDWF.

OYSTER HARVESTER LICENSE

Commercial fishermen harvesting or possessing oysters in state waters must purchase an oyster harvester license, in addition to any and all licenses otherwise required. Commercial fisherman harvesting oysters from the public oyster seed grounds or reservations, except those grounds of Calcasieu and Sabine Lakes, are required to possess a valid Public Oyster Seed Ground Vessel Permit.