Trout Limit Proposal Raises Questions And Concern

A controversial proposal to rollback the minimum size for speckled trout is a hot topic of discussion around coast fishing piers and bait shops.

The DMR is hosting a series of public hearings on whether to reduce the minimum size limit from 14 inches to 12 inches.

"One hundred percent of 14 inch fish are capable of spawning," said senior fisheries biologist, James Warren, as he discussed the impact of the rollback proposal.

Warren is among the scientists at the Gulf Coast Research Lab who've studied speckled trout for more than a decade.

"These are the ovaries of the female trout here," said Warren, while pointing to a 12 inch fish.

Warren says 12 inch trout are also quite capable of spawning. He says 12 and 13 inch fish definitely add a considerable amount of eggs to the overall spawn each year.

"And by protecting that group of fish, we're helping to sustain the entire population," he explained.

Commissioner Richard Gollott presented the proposal to rollback the trout minimum to 12 inches. The commissioner told WLOX News he does have some questions about the data and the science involved. He said the idea behind the new minimum proposal is to increase the number of trout landings. He believes that can be accomplished with a 12 inch minimum, without having a negative impact on the long term trout population.

But the deputy director of the DMR disagrees and says the long term trout population would suffer.

"In the long run it could prove detrimental to the fishery and fewer fish being caught. And certainly less spawning potential in the population," said Dr. Fred Deegan.

Deegan also points to data which show improved catches of trout since the 14 inch limit was put in place eight years ago.

"With the 14 inch minimum size limit, we're catching larger fish on average and more of them," he said.

Fishermen are divided. Many support the existing limit, but thousands more have signed a petition requesting the DMR consider the rollback.

The DMR is holding public hearings on the issue.

Wednesday night's hearing begins at six o'clock at the Gautier Convention Center. The final hearing will be held Thursday evening at six, at the DMR Headquarters in Biloxi.

The Commission on Marine Resources is expected to vote on the proposal at its next meeting on September 21st.