Mississippi sportsmen and sportswomen face some big changes next week, whether they chase fish in the Gulf of Mexico or white-tailed deer in the woods and fields.

* The state’s Department of Marine Resources has announced that the new 15-inch minimum length limit on speckled trout will take effect on Monday (Jan. 16), replacing the current 13-inch limit.

* Also, Mississippi’s regular gun season on deer ends on Wednesday (Jan. 18) statewide, and hunters will then enter the extended primitive weapons and archery season — unless, of course, they hunt on private land. They can continue using weapon of choice on those properties.


About trout

The speckled trout change was proposed by the Commission on Marine Resources in November, finalized in December and then posted this month by the Secretary of State’s office.

Extending the minimum length came after biologists with the DMR completed a peer-reviewed stock assessment of speckled trout in 2016 and determined that the agency needed to take action to increase the stock of this popular fish.

“We have seen an increase in recreational fishing over the past 10 years, and because of that, we’re taking more speckled trout out of the population,” said Jamie Miller, executive director of DMR. “Our scientists ran several different models to determine the best way to increase the spawning potential ratio, and they found that increasing the size limit from 13 inches to 15 inches would produce the best results. We believe that this will help us get to a sustainable stock of speckled trout in the next three to five years.”

Another change that takes effect on Monday will be that charter captains can no longer contribute to the speckled trout take of their parties.


Deer season

Time is running out for deer hunters seeking to put some more venison in the freezers for the long spring and summer, but there is plenty of opportunity remaining.

The extended season will continue through Jan. 31 in the Hill and Delta Zones. It is open to either-sex deer and on private lands, hunters can continue to use their regular firearms.

It’s a bit trickier in the Southeast Zone, which includes the area south U.S. Highway 84 and east of Mississippi Highway 35.

From Thursday through Jan. 31, hunters on private lands can take deer of either sex and can continue to use regular firearms. On public lands, it’s legal bucks only, and hunters are restricted to approved primitive firearms or archery equipment.

From Feb. 1 to Feb. 15, it’s legal bucks only on both private and public lands. Regular firearms are still allowed on private lands.

For hunters aged 15 and under in the Southeast Zone, regular firearms are allowed, and either-sex deer is allowed on both private and public lands (unless otherwise posted).