CRUSTACEAN CRAZE ON ROCKEFELLER WILDLIFE REFUGE

Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge Is The Perfect Spot To Catch Crabs, Shrimp, Fish From The Side Of The Road

story by Ashley Wethey, LDWF Public Information

photos by Gabe Giffin, LDWF Public Information

Looking to host a shrimp or crab boil for your next football viewing party, but a hefty bill at your local seafood market isn’t in the cards? Ever considered landing your own seafood to satisfy the appetites of hungry friends and family?

If you are wet behind the ears, the process may sound intimidating at first, but minimal equipment is required, and with the perfect location, your chances of success are probable. Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge in Cameron Parish is host to hundreds of prime spots to fish, crab and shrimp.

Because of its unique location, Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge is one of the most biologically diverse locations in the country and is a major wetland research facility. Established in 1920, Rockefeller Refuge originally encompassed 86,000 acres of wilderness. Unfortunately, beach erosion has taken a significant toll, and recent surveys indicate that less than 71,000 acres remain. Most commonly associated with alligator research, the refuge has also gained popularity for its recreational crabbing and shrimping opportunities.

Recreational crabbing and shrimping aren’t limited to the master angler, and on any given weekend you can expect to see young and old, families, friends, lining the waterways of the refuge. Approximately 4 miles of the refuge is accessible by vehicle, including the hotspots Price Lake Road, Joseph’s Harbor Boat Launch and East End Locks Road. The remaining areas are only accessible by boat. The refuge is open from sunrise to sunset, so the public is welcome to spend their entire day in attempts to limit out on the crustaceans. But it’s likely you won’t need that much time if they’re “running.”

The time-honored tradition of crabbing is most popular from May to September but tends to be good throughout the year. All that’s needed to crab is some thick string, turkey or chicken necks, cut fish or chunks of meat; a dip net for scooping; and a pail to hold the crabs. Tie a piece of meat to the string and lower it into the water until you reach the bottom. Have a dip net handy to scoop once the crab has started eating the meat. Lift gently, scoop, throw them into a bucket, and you’re well on your way to a delicious meal. Trosclair has worked at the refuge for over 18 years and has seen firsthand the excitement the experience brings. “Baited drop nets seem to be just as successful as dip nets, and we’ve seen an increasing number of visitors using them,” said Trosclair. “You’ll find a lot of activity taking place at many small bridges crossing the roadside canals.”

“Roadside crabbing is one of the best ways to introduce a young child to the fishing ways of Louisianians,” said Trosclair. “We see kids as young as three and four working a long-handled dip net with their siblings. We are fortunate the resources of Rockefeller can provide this experience nearly year round.”

Cast netting for shrimp is another common hobby for Louisianians, and while a bit of technique is involved, it’s a skill easily mastered after a bit of practice. If you aim too high, you are likely to catch a tree, however at Rockefeller you won’t have to worry about that. Aim too low, and your weighted net lands like a bomb in the water scaring off your catch. Twirl too much, and you could injure your companions, or worse, your back.

When is the best time to go? LDWF Public Information Officer Gabe Giffin finds your odds are best when there is tidal movement. “The refuge is a system of water impoundments. We allow visitors to crab on or near the pipes that regulate water in and out of certain areas,” he explained. “For example, during certain times of the day tidal waters rise and the pipes leading into a marsh area move large volumes of water into the unit. The force of the water brings shrimp and crabs with it through the pipes.”

The time of year also plays a role in whether or not you land the seafood jackpot. For good action, the brown shrimp run typically occurs during the early summer months, while the white shrimp run typically occurs during late summer and early fall. On a good day, particularly during the best falling tides during an autumn cold front, visitors can easily catch their limit in one or two good throws. But once the water cools off after a few of those fronts, shrimp run smaller, and less plentiful. Still useful for fish bait around the refuge, you’re not likely to be catching enough for a feast at that time of the year.

The limit of shrimp is dependent upon the commercial shrimping season. When commercial seasons are open the limit is 25 pounds of shrimp on the refuge. When the commercial shrimping season is closed, the limit is 10 pounds of shrimp on the refuge.

“Crabs are a little more difficult to pattern, but when you find the right location, visitors can catch their 12 dozen limit within the hour,” explained Trosclair.

Much of the refuge is closed from Dec. 1 - March 1 to provide resting area for migratory waterfowl. However, parts of the refuge do remain open. Other than those winter months, the road is open from sunrise to sunset each day and provides a great outdoor experience for the novice or beginner.

Additional Information

For additional information on the refuge, visit www.rwrefuge.com, or you can stop by the office for maps and brochures on weekdays.

Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge

5476 Grand Chenier Highway

Grand Chenier, LA 70643

Phone: (337) 491-2593

To crab or hunt on Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge, you must abide by the following regulations:

Crabbing

  • If harvesting crabs on Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge, you must possess a basic recreational fishing license or a Wild Louisiana Stamp.
  • Crabs may be harvested from the open portion of the refuge with a limit of 12 dozen crabs per boat or vehicle per day.
  • There is no minimum recreational size limit for blue crabs.

Shrimping

  • If harvesting shrimp with a cast net on Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge, you must possess a basic fishing license.
  • 25 pounds of shrimp (heads on) per boat or vehicle per day is allowed during the inside open shrimp season.
  • 10 pounds of shrimp (heads on) for bait purposes may be caught during the closed season.
  • Shrimp may only be harvested by cast net on the refuge and only for sport fishing or home consumption use. When harvesting shrimp with a cast net, contents should be dumped in a container and not on the ground.

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