A public hearing on the management of speckled trout in Mississippi’s coastal waters has been scheduled for Nov. 17 in Biloxi, the Department of Marine Resources (DMR) has announced.
It will be held in the first floor auditorium of the Bolton Building, 1141 Bayview Avenue.
The agenda includes recent regulation changes by the Mississippi Commission on Marine Resources announced at the panel’s October meeting.
The Commission passed a notice of intent for a change in the recreational size limit for speckled trout from 13 inches to 15 inches, which is scheduled to be up for final adoption at the CMR’s Dec. 20 meeting. This change also excludes a for-hire captain or crew from contributing to a client’s catch.
The commissioners also passed a three-month recreational season closure for speckled trout from Jan. 1 to March 31 of 2017. According to a DMR spokesman, the closure requires no final action.
Already, the Coastal Conservation Association of Mississippi has announced support of the increased minimum length limit, but is on record as opposing the season closure until the impact of the length change can be assessed.
Mississippi fishermen and fisheries management officials are gravely concerned by the failing status of the speckled trout fishery, especially a falling spawning potential ratio (SPR) percent. Most Gulf Coast states use an SPR of 18 percent as a benchmark for a healthy fishery. DMR has established 20 percent as its target.
The SPR fell to 9.3 percent in 2016, leading to the recent announced actions.
“I like the CCA’s stance on the issue, in that, yes, we do need to change the minimum length limit, but also that we need to see if that one change will work,” said Tom Turner of Gautier, an avid speck angler who is not a current CCA member. “We all want better speck fishing, but I don’t think you will find many of us who would favor a season closure, especially not in the winter months like that.
“That will really hurt the pier fishermen, the small boat fishermen and even bank fishermen whose best and only real access to trout comes in those cool months when the trout have moved up the bays and coastal rivers. Take that away from us, and you basically take away our trout catch for the year.”
DMR has established a phone information line and an email address dedicated to speckled trout. Comments can be made by phone by dialing 1-844-SPECK 16 (844-773-2516) or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.