Marsh Island Wildlife Refuge
Marsh Island Wildlife Refuge is located between Vermilion Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. When originally deeded to the state in 1920 by Mrs. Margaret Sage, the island was 76,664 acres. Today, however, Marsh Island is closer to 71,000 acres, primarily due to erosion and past storm damage. Marsh Island currently measures approximately 20 miles east to west and 11 miles north to south. Habitat on this refuge is mainly brackish to intermediate marsh and flat, with very few remaining trees.
Marsh Island is an extremely important refuge as it supports a wide array of animal species throughout the year. The island serves as crucial wintering habitat to numerous waterfowl, wading and shorebirds, and birds of prey. This refuge also serves as essential habitat for commercially important fish species, as well as alligators and furbearers. In the Vermilion Bay area, much of the recreational and commercial harvests of shrimp and blue crab depend on the nursery habitats provided by Marsh Island.
LDWF has implemented habitat improvements through the years to facilitate wildlife use of the refuge. Through three water management units, encompassing approximately 11,000 acres, LDWF biologists manipulate water levels to manage for wintering waterfowl habitat. There are also multiple fixed-crest weirs, structures that cannot be manipulated, that assist in maintaining water levels to promote growth of submerged aquatic vegetation used by waterfowl. In the fall of 2013, LDWF rebuilt two bird nesting islands in Bayou Platte to increase nesting habitat for several types of colonial waterbirds, including black skimmers and multiple tern species.
More recently, LDWF has conducted habitat improvement projects to protect extremely vulnerable areas from severe land loss caused by erosion and storm damage. Such projects include marsh creation and nourishment, shoreline protection, terrace construction, and commercial nutria harvests. Approximately 15,000 nutria were harvested over several years to help reduce the serious impacts of nutria devouring vegetation across the refuge.
Marsh Island has hosted multiple research projects orchestrated by both LDWF staff and university students and professors. Major topics of interest include alligator harvest and population dynamics, fisheries, brackish marsh ecology, soil salinity, effects of water management techniques, and water quality monitoring.
Activities and Amenities
Fishing and boating: Marsh Island is an extremely popular recreational fishing, shrimping, and crabbing destination. See below regulations for details.
Commercial fishing is prohibited on Marsh Island.
Marsh Island Wildlife Refuge is located approximately 6 miles south of Cypremort Point and can only be accessed via watercraft.
- Use of the refuge will be allowed from official sunrise to official sunset. This includes access routes through the refuge.
- Overnight camping is prohibited.
- Hunting, pursuing, killing, molesting or intentionally disturbing any type of wildlife by the public is prohibited. This does not prohibit LDWF from carrying out harvest programs for certain types of wildlife as specified in the Deed of Donation and/or Memorandum of Agreement.
- Trawling on the refuge is prohibited. Trotlines, jug lines, trammel and gill nets and traps are prohibited. All commercial fishing and use of any commercial fishing gear on the refuge is prohibited. Twenty-five pounds of shrimp (heads on) per boat or vehicle per day is allowed during the inside open shrimp season as established by the Wildlife and Fisheries Commission. Ten pounds of shrimp (heads on) for bait purposes may be caught during the closed season. Shrimp may be harvested only by cast net on the refuge and only for sport fishing or home consumption use.
- Crawfish may be harvested from the open portion of the refuge and 100 pounds per boat or vehicle is allowed per day. Set nets may be used but must be attended and removed from the refuge daily. No commercial harvest is allowed.
- Crabs may be harvested from the open portion of the refuge and 12 dozen crabs are allowed per boat or vehicle per day. No commercial harvest is allowed.
- Oysters may be harvested by tonging (properly licensed) or by hand collection from the natural reefs. One gallon per boat or vehicle per day is allowed and oysters must be opened at the reef and the shells returned to the reef. Taking of oysters on the reef is dependent upon Department of Health and Hospitals' approval and may be closed at any time by LDWF.
- The burning of the marsh by the public is prohibited. Water control structures shall not be tampered with or altered by anyone other than employees of LDWF.
- Bringing firearms, bows and arrows, liquor and controlled dangerous substances (drugs) onto the refuge is prohibited. All boats and vehicles are subject to search by all authorized employees of LDWF at anytime.
- Speedboat racing and water skiing are prohibited. All boat traffic shall honor no wake zones and shall keep wave wash to a minimum. Pulling boats over or around levees, dams or water control structures is prohibited. LDWF may further restrict specified areas of the refuge from public access or use.
- No littering is allowed. Visitors must remove their litter or place litter in appropriate litter disposal sites. Damage to or removal of trees, shrubs and wild plants without prior approval is prohibited.
- Commercial fishing gear or trawls shall not be permitted in possession while participating in sport fishing on refuge. Commercial fishing gear may be in possession for nonstop access directly across refuge or for safe harbor only.
- Enforcement officials shall have the duty and the right to restrict access to the island, even for the purpose herein enumerated, whenever the circumstances exist that such access may impair the primary purpose of the island as a wildlife refuge and sanctuary.
- Airboats, aircraft, personal watercraft, “mud crawling vessels” (commonly referred to as crawfish combines which use paddle wheels for locomotion) and hovercraft are prohibited on all WMAs and refuges.