In a surprise move, Mississippi’s Commission of Marine Resources announced it's intent to implement a three-month recreational closure of trout fishing at their monthly meeting today, according to a Gulfport angler who attended the meeting.
“The closure shocked the crap out of me,” Alex Smith told Mississippi Sportsman. “It came out of the blue; a commissioner just proposed it, and it was approved.
“There was no comment. I think people were just shocked.”
The closure will, if finally implemented, begin Jan. 1 and continues through March 31, the Department of Marine Resources confirmed said.
“As of now it's only for 2017,” Smith said. “If they feel it's needed in upcoming years, they can add or remove (closures) at their discretion.”
Commissioners also proposed bumping the minimum size limit to 15 inches from its current 13 inches, Smith said.
Both measures are open for public comment, with the final notice of intent being issued at November's meeting.
There was no discussion about changing the 15-fish daily limit, he said.
The commission's actions come after state fisheries managers said in August that speckled trout are overpressured and regulations needed to be addressed.
During the August commission meeting, the spawning potential ratio target was set at 20 percent. SPR is the comparison of spawning productivity compared to what would exist in an unfished fishery, and this tool is used by biologists to determine the health of a fish population.
At the time, Department of Marine Resources Executive Director Jamie Miller said changes to all regulations would be considered.
Smith said he believed the closure, while surprising, isn’t a bad move.
“I think it really needed to happen,” he said. “Closing (the season) really boosts (the trout population).
“You’re allowing the big trout up in those rivers that take a pounding to get out and spawn.”
Smith said he focuses on catching trophy trout and hasn’t noticed much of a problem with the numbers of large specks, but he has friends who have complained about the overall population.
“They’re struggling to fill their coolers,” he said.
Nothing in the commission’s action prohibits catch and release of speckled trout, but the hard-core angler said the closure is likely to have a huge impact along the coast.
“Bait shops are going to go broke because nobody is going to buy bait to go fish for white trout and drum,” Smith said.
And many anglers will either stay home or head to Louisiana waters to continue catching — and keeping — specks.
‘I’ll probably do a lot of running,” said Smith, adding that he will likely spend a lot of time in Delacroix southeast of New Orleans.