Are Major Change Coming to Louisiana Redfish Limits?

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Amber Borel caught this nice redfish while fishing on Sabine Lake. Redfish are doing great from Sabine to Lower Laguna Madre.
(Photo: Amber Borel)

Louisiana is considering reducing redfish limits.

Yes, you read that right.

After decades of very liberal bag and size limits, Louisiana is considering a change due to recent stock surveys.

The following is directly from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries.

Although the state’s latest stock assessment shows that the red drum stock is currently above the SPR (spawning potential ratio) limit, that stock is decreasing at a rate that requires management changes.

Stock Assessment Summary

  • Red Drum stock is not overfished (depleted), but overfishing (depletion) is occurring.
  • Overfishing has occurred frequently in the most recent decade (80%).
  • The spawning potential ratio (SPR; defined below) began trending downward in 2005.
  • Recent recreational landings are at the lowest level observed since the 1980s.
  • Red Drum has been a recreational-only fishery since 1988.  No commercial harvest exists.
  • The current recruitment estimate (defined below) is at the lowest level ever observed and has been declining since 1994

 What’s Next?

LDWF recommends a minimum 35% reduction in yield (total harvested weight) which corresponds to a possibility of rebuilding above target SPR by 2050. However, there are more drastic reductions in yield that could rebuild the stock faster (shortest rebuild occurs at 65% reduction by 2031). See the graphs below.

In the near future, LDWF will request public input through email and online surveys regarding preferred management options.  The results will be presented to the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission (LWFC) for consideration and potential action.  We encourage you to review the information on this page to better understand the current status of the red drum fishery and the potential management options.  Once the survey is available, you will have the information necessary to make the best recommendation based on your angling habits.


Commercial harvest ceased in 1988.  The 1982-2013 recreational landings values are MRIP data back calculated to LA Creel.  The 2014-2021 landings values are from LA Creel surveys.

Red Drum Management

LDWF monitors two portions of the red drum stock, the juvenile stock (up to age 5 and generally under 27 inches in length) that resides in inshore waters and the adult spawning population (greater than age 5) in nearshore coastal waters. Red drum is unique in that the vast majority (97%) of harvest is on the juvenile stock when it is between 16 and 27 inches in length or about 1.5 to 4 years old. Given this type of harvest strategy, the amount of red drum that moves through the fishery and into the offshore spawning population is critical to the future status of the stock.


The juvenile portion of the red drum stock is measured through an “escapement” rate. Escapement is the percentage of red drum that pass through the recreational fishery (there is no commercial fishery allowed for red drum in Louisiana) from inshore waters as juveniles and make it into the spawning stock offshore. The established escapement rate limit for management is 30%; Louisiana’s escapement rate is currently 20%, indicating too few red drum are surviving to make it offshore to spawn.

Spawning Stock

The spawning stock of red drum is measured with a spawning potential ratio (SPR), simply put, the number of red drum available to spawn relative to the population if they were not fished. While the current red drum SPR is above the limit of 20%, it has been declining since 2005 as fewer red drum “escape” to the offshore population. Since red drum are a long-lived species (39 years in Louisiana), recovery times will be long even if escapement rates rebound quickly as there is a lag between juvenile fish leaving the estuary between ages 4 and 5 and those fish living out their lifespan to 39 years old.

What Can be Done?

Escapement rates will need to be increased through management measures  to rebuild the red drum population and prevent it from declining below the SPR limit in nearshore and offshore waters. While escapement rates can recover to management targets relatively quickly with action (3 to 5 years), recovery of the spawning stock to above management targets could take until the year 2050 given the life span of red drum.



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