Finfish Regulations

GENERAL

  • To take or possess finfish in Louisiana waters for commercial purposes, you must have the appropriate fishing licenses and permits, commercial gear licenses and vessel permits.
  • You must return undersized fish back to the water unharmed; 5% (by number) of each species of commercial fish you harvest may be smaller than the legal limit, except channel catfish of which 10% (by number) may be smaller. You may harvest commercial species with no specified size limit in any size and quantity. No one may sell, purchase, barter, trade, or exchange undersized fish (or attempt to do any of these activities).
  • Make sure that all saltwater finfish, except garfish, tuna, swordfish, and sharks, have their head and caudal fins intact until you put them on shore or sell them. Garfish must retain a strip of skin sufficient to clearly identify the fish until you put them on shore or sell them. All sharks aboard your vessel must have their fins naturally attached by at least some portion of uncut skin.
  • For the purpose of consumption at sea onboard the harvesting vessel, a person shall have no more than 2 pounds of finfish parts per person on board the vessel, provided that the vessel is equipped to cook such finfish.
  • When on a commercial finfish fishing trip all finfish in possession are deemed to be used for commercial purposes. This means finfish possessed must comply with commercial sizes, limits, seasons and other commercial requirements. All finfish shall be measured in accordance with applicable law.

LEGAL GEAR IN STATE WATERS

  • Bow and arrow
  • Cans, buckets, pipes, drums
  • Cast net: any cast net used for commercial purposes or cast nets exceeding 8-1/2 feet in radius
  • Dip net
  • Eel pot:
    • You may only use eel pots to harvest eel. If you catch any other fish with this gear, you must immediately return it unharmed to the water.
    • Must be no longer than 48 inches and mesh must be at least 1/2 inch.
    • Throats or flues must be smaller than 3 inches in diameter at the narrowest point and no larger than 5 inches in diameter at the widest point.
    • You may not connect lead or wings or use them in conjunction with an eel pot.
  • Flounder or garfish gig
  • Gill net:
    • Prohibited in saltwater (unless you have a special permit to use strike nets to harvest mullet or pompano).
    • For use in freshwater, net must not exceed 1,200 feet in length and mesh must be at least 3 inches square or 6 inches stretched after treating with tar or copper. You must attach waterproof tags with your name and license number to the cork line at the end of each net, no more than 3 feet from the webbing edge.
  • Hoop net:
    • Mesh must be at least 1 inch square or 2 inches stretched after treating with tar or copper
    • In saltwater, you may leave hoop nets unattended if they’re attached to a wharf at an inhabitable camp and tagged with an LDWF-issued tag. You may leave hoop nets without leads unattended only if you’re harvesting catfish. You may not have red drum or spotted seatrout on board any vessel that’s carrying a hoop net.
    • In freshwater, you may only use wings and leads in overflow regions (where the water is out of the bed of the natural stream or lake). You must set them at least 500 feet from the bed. Wings or leads must be at least 100 feet apart. Leads must not exceed 25 feet in length. You may not use a hoop net with leads to harvest mullet.
  • Minnow trap:
    • Throats or flues must not exceed 1 inch in width.
    • You may only use minnow traps to harvest minnows for bait.
  • Mullet strike net:
    • You must have a Mullet Permit to use a strike net to harvest mullet. You may only use strike nets to harvest striped mullet; you may not harvest any other fish while harvesting mullet with a strike net (or cast net). You may not have red drum or spotted seatrout on board any vessel that’s carrying a strike net.
    • Mesh must be at least 1-3/4 inches square or 3-1/2 inches stretched, and net must not exceed 1,200 feet in length.
    • You may only use one strike net from a vessel at any time. You must attach an LDWF-issued tag to the net.
    • You may not anchor or secure a strike net to the water bottom or shore. You must actively work the net and may not leave it unattended.
  • Pompano strike net:
    • You must have a Pompano Permit (captain only; no fee) to use a strike net to harvest pompano.
    • You may only use pompano strike nets from August 1 to October 31 of each year in waters more than 7 feet deep and beyond 2,500 feet from land within Breton and Chandeleur Sounds. You may not use them between sunset and sunrise nor on weekends or Labor Day.
    • You may not harvest any other fish while harvesting pompano with a strike net, and you may not have any other gear on board. You may not have red drum or spotted seatrout on board any vessel that’s carrying a strike net.
    • Mesh must be at least 2-1/2 inches square or 5 inches stretched, and net may be no longer than 2,400 feet.
    • You must attach an LDWF-issued tag to the net, and your vessel must display your permit number in 8-inch high letters.
    • You may not anchor or secure a strike net to the bottom. You must actively work the net and may not leave it unattended.
    • You must notify LDWF before you leave port to fish under the conditions of your Pompano Permit and immediately when you return.
  • Purse seine: You may only use purse seines in state waters to harvest menhaden and/or herring-like species.
  • Rod and reel: You must have a permit to use a rod and reel for commercial purposes. To qualify, you must have had a valid Saltwater Gill Net License during any two years from 1993 to 1995 and provide state and federal income tax returns (including Schedule C of the federal 1040 form) demonstrating more than 50% of your earned income came from the capture and sale of seafood in at least two years from 1993 to 1995.
  • Seine:
    • Prohibited in saltwater.
    • For use in freshwater, net may be no longer than 1,200 feet; mesh must be at least 2 inches square or 4 inches stretched after treating with tar or copper.
  • Set lines (trot, bush, yo-yos, triggers, etc.): Trotline hooks must be at least 24 inches apart.
  • Shad gill net:
    • You must hold a special Shad Gill Net License to use this gear (one shad gill net per licensee per vessel). This license allows you to harvest shad and skipjack herring in Lac Des Allemands, Lakes Palourde and Verret, any Iberville Parish waterway, and those portions of Iberia, St. Martin, and St. Mary Parishes located between the guide levees of the Atchafalaya Basin. You may not harvest shad or skipjack in streams, bayous, canals, and other water bodies connected with these lakes. You may only use gill nets to take shad or skipjack; however, you may keep up to 25 other commercial fish. Heads and caudal fins of all fish on board the vessel must be intact. You may not harvest shad or skipjack on Saturday or  Sunday. The season is closed from July through October.
    • Net may be no longer than 1,200 feet; mesh must be at least 1 inch bar or 2 inches stretched but no more than 2 inch bar or 4 inches stretched.
    • A 1-gallon jug painted international orange and marked, in black letters, with the words “Shad Gill Net” must be attached to each end of the net.
    • You must attach waterproof tags with your full name and license number to your net.
    • You must place nets at least 50 feet from the tree line.
    • Never leave your net unattended.
    • Only strike fishing is allowed. Once you deploy the net, it must remain stationary until you remove the fish or retrieve the net from the water.
  • Shad seine:
    • May be used for shad, skipjack herring, and any other legal-sized freshwater commercial fish. Heads and caudal fins of all fish on board the vessel must be intact.
    • Net must not exceed 1,200 feet in length and mesh must be at least 1 inch bar and 2 inches stretched but no more than 2 inch bar and 4 inches stretched. No monofilament mesh.
    • Never leave your net unattended.
    • A 1-gallon jug painted international orange and marked, in black letters, with the words “Shad Seine” must be attached to each end of the net.
    • You must attach waterproof tags with your full name and license number to your net.
    • May only be used in freshwater areas of the state, except where seines are prohibited; also prohibited in the Pearl River and Pearl River navigational canal.
  • Slat trap:
    • May only be used to capture catfish.
    • At least one pair of slats must be at least 1 inch apart from each other on at least three sides of the trap.
    • Trap must be less than 6 feet in length, 2 feet in diameter or width.
    • Trap must have one or more cone-shaped throats, flues, or entrances.
  • Spear gun
  • Trammel net:
    • Prohibited in saltwater.
    • For use in freshwater, net must not exceed 1,200 feet and mesh must be at least 3 inches square or 6 inches stretched after treating with tar or copper. You must attach waterproof tags with your name and license number to the cork line at the end of each net, no more than 3 feet from the webbing edge.
  • Trawl: You may only use trawls in waters where and when shrimp season is open.
  • Trotline:
    • Line must not be longer than 440 yards.
    • Hooks must be at least 24 inches apart. 
  • Wire net: Net mesh must be at least 1 inch square or 2 inches stretched; wire mesh must be 5 inches or larger to support the webbing

ILLEGAL METHODS FOR TAKING FISH

  • Spears (except for taking flounder and garfish)
  • Stupefying substances or devices
  • Guns
  • Poisons
  • Explosives
  • Tree-topping devices
  • Electric shocking instruments or devices 
  • Snagging devices (not including bow and arrow; exceptions: catfish, garfish taken by spears)
  • Elevated trotlines (except in exempt areas)

You may not use any aircraft including fixed-wing aircraft, dirigibles, balloons, helicopters, or any other form of aerial surveillance to assist in harvesting finfish, except menhaden and herring-like fish.

Saltwater:

  • Seines (unless you are harvesting menhaden and/or herring-like species)
  • Longlines (not the same as trotlines; longlines are longer than 440 yards and are allowed in federal waters)
  • Gill nets (unless you have a special permit to use strike nets to harvest mullet or pompano)
  • Bandit gear (allowed in federal waters)
  • Trammel nets

Freshwater:

  • Lead nets (exception: leads on hoop nets set at least 500 feet from a stream bed in overflow regions)

GEAR LIMITED TO FEDERAL WATERS

  • Bandit gear:
    • Defined as vertical hook-and-line gear with rods attached to a vessel. Lines are retrieved by manual, electric or hydraulic reels.
    • You may not use bandit gear in state saltwater areas.
  • Longlines:
    • Defined as lines more than 440-yards long to which gangions and hooks are attached. Lines are deployed horizontally and may be retrieved by an electric or hydraulic hauler. Longlines are not the same as trotlines.
    • You may not use longilines in state saltwater areas.
  • Saltwater gill nets, seines, strike nets, and trammel nets:
    • You must have an LDWF-issued Traversing Permit (no fee) to transport gill nets, seines, strike nets, and trammel nets across state waters to use in federal waters. You may not use these gears in state saltwater areas (unless you have a special permit to use strike nets).
    • You may not possess red drum or spotted seatrout on vessels carrying these gears.
    • You must notify LDWF at 800.442.2511 or 225.765.2441 four hours before you leave port to traverse or fish under the conditions of the Traversing Permit and immediately upon returning from the permitted trip. 

PROHIBITED COMMERCIAL SPECIES

Saltwater:

You may not harvest the following federally-listed threatened, endangered, or prohibited species:

  • All whales
  • Dolphin (mammal)
  • West Indian manatees
  • Sea turtles.

You may not harvest the following gamefish:

  • Red drum
  • Black marlin
  • Blue marlin
  • Hatchet marlin
  • Striped marlin
  • White marlin
  • Sailfish

You may only purchase or sell the gamefish listed above if you import them. You must notify LDWF at 800.442.2511 before you import any of these fish. When you import any of these fish, you must attach an official metal self-locking tag to one gill cover of each fish. These tags must be issued by the official conservation agency of the state from which the fish was taken and must show the originating water body and identity of the issuing agency. However, imported wild-caught red drum must only be accompanied by a bill of lading. Farm-raised red drum is exempt from these requirements if certified by LDWF as having been raised and harvested in accordance with a certified aquaculture program or a valid mariculture program.

You may not harvest goliath grouper (jewfish) or Nassau grouper.

You may not harvest, possess, purchase, sell, barter, exchange or attempt any of these activities for the following shark species:

  • Atlantic angel
  • Basking
  • Bigeye sand tiger
  • Bigeye sixgill
  • Bigeye thresher
  • Bignose
  • Caribbean reef
  • Caribbean sharpnose
  • Dusky
  • Galapagos
  • Largetooth sawfish
  • Longfin mako
  • Narrowtooth
  • Night
  • Sand tiger
  • Sevengill
  • Sixgill
  • Smalltail
  • Smalltooth
  • Whale
  • White

Freshwater: You may not commercially harvest the following freshwater species:

  • Largemouth bass
  • Hybrid striped bass
  • Shadow bass
  • Spotted bass
  • Striped bass
  • White bass
  • Yellow bass
  • Black crappie
  • Bream (any species)
  • Paddlefish (spoonbill catfish)
  • White crappie
  • All species of piranha
  • Atlantic, pallid, and shovelnose sturgeons (whole or any body parts, including roe)
  • Rio Grand cichlid
  • All species of tilapia
  • Rudd
  • Freshwater electric eel
  • Channidae (snakeheads)
  • All members of the family Synbranchida (Asian swamp eels)
  • Trichomycteridae (pencil catfishes)
  • Clariidae (walking catfishes)

Area Restrictions

Free fish passage: Do not set gear, such as trawls, nets, or seines, within 500 feet of the mouth of any inlet or pass or within 500 feet of any water control structures, dams, or weirs. This ensures fish can pass freely through these areas.

WMAs and refuges: 

Saltwater:

  • Commercial fishing is permitted in:
    • Atchafalaya Delta, except in the Limited Access Areas from September to January each year
    • Pass-a-Loutre, except in the Limited Access Areas from September to January each year. Commercial mullet fishing is only permitted in: South Pass, Pass-a-Loutre, North Pass, Southeast Pass, Northeast Pass, Dennis Pass, Johnson Pass, Loomis Pass, Cadro Pass, Wright Pass, Viveats Pass, Cognevich Pass, Blind Bay, Redfish Bay, Garden Island Bay, Northshore Bay, East Bay (west of Barrier Islands), and oil and gas canals as described on LDWF’s Pass-a-Loutre WMA map
    • Pointe-aux-Chenes (in the Cut Off Canal and Wonder Lake); nighttime fishing is prohibited.
  • Commercial fishing is prohibited in:
    • Elmer’s Island
    • Isle Derniers Barrier Island
    • Rockefeller, State, and Marsh Island
    • Salvador.

Freshwater:

  • Commercial fishing is permitted in:
    • Grassy Lake*, except in Smith Bay, Red River Bay, and Grassy Lake on Saturday and Sunday and during waterfowl season
    • Pomme de Terre*, except on the weekends and during duck season
    • Richard K. Yancey, except during regular waterfowl seasons in Grand Bay, Silver Lake, and Lower Sunk Lake
    • Spring Bayou* (Monday through Friday and after 2 pm during waterfowl season). However, you may use slat traps and hoop nets any day, you may never use gill or trammel nets, and you may not harvest grass carp.

*You must have a permit to fish Grassy Lake, Pomme de Terre, and Spring Bayou WMAs. Permits are available from Spring Bayou Headquarters or the Opelousas Field Office at 337.948.0255.

  • Commercial fishing is prohibited in Ouachita WMA.

Additional freshwater fishing area restrictions:

Louisiana/Mississippi Border: When fishing in border waters, you must attach waterproof tags with your full name and license number to trotlines, snag lines, hoop nets, gill nets, and trammel nets, in lieu of tags required by Mississippi regulations. You must place the tag within 5 feet of one end on trot and snag lines, on the first hoop on hoop nets, and on the float line within 5 feet of one end on gill and trammel nets. Louisiana fishermen using slat traps or baskets in border waters must obtain tags from the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks.

Impoundments: You may not use nets to harvest fish in freshwater impoundments during water drawdown periods, unless LDWF specifies otherwise. Closures begin on the date the drawdown control structure opens and continues until the lake is full again.