Senator Thad Cochran announced an amendment to his Bipartisan Sportsmen's Act to extend state waters. The bill addresses hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreational policies, but this amendment would extend Mississippi waters six additional miles.
Mississippi anglers may soon be able to wet their lines a few miles further out to sea. Senator Cochran's amendment to his Sportsman's Act would mean six more nautical miles available to fishermen. Jay Trochesset, a charter boat captain, says, "This would be one of the best things that could happen to us. It would allow us to fish six more miles out, allow us to catch red snapper."
Trochesset owns Silver Dollar Charter Boats and was hit hard by the shortened red snapper season this year. He says expanding state waters would mean the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources (M.D.M.R.) would be able to better regulate and research fish populations, since the agency is most familiar with waters close to shore. Melissa Scallan of M.D.M.R. says, "We're probably a little better able to take care of that and to look at the number of fish in different areas and see what that would mean for us in different areas."
Not only could fishing seasons be expanded, but the variety of fish species would also increase in the deeper waters. The six extra miles are much deeper than the three miles encompassed in state waters now. Scallan also says, "Fish don't know boundaries, they don't know state boundaries and federal boundaries, so it’s hard to say, but there would be more fish, particularly something like red snapper that you could catch in deeper waters. Charter boat companies like Silver Dollar Charters say expanded waters mean more charter trips and more business for the Gulf Coast.
Trochesset closes, "If it’s more business for me, it’s more business for the restaurants, for the hotels, for everybody. It’s more tax money for the State of Mississippi."
Meanwhile, Captain Trochesset and other charter boat captains are keeping a close eye out, hoping the state boundaries will be expanded soon so they can try to reel in some of the money they've lost, and anglers would have more time to hook the big one. The Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act is now being debated on the floor of the Senate.