SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - If you fish for speckled trout in Mississippi, get ready for some stricter regulations. The Commission on Marine Resources is looking at raising the minimum length and lowering bag limits for that most popular game fish.
"Overall, gulf wide, there's a decline in all the states, and there's actively aggressive management toward spotted seatrout in Mississippi," said Dr. Paul Mickle as he presented the CMR with a stock assessment report on the seatrout population.
Marine biologists say speckled trout numbers are on the decline. The most popular game fish in the state is being overfished.
"We can change our fishing mortality. Fish that are being removed from fishing. As managers, we can control this, and this is what we should discuss today," Mickle told the commission.
The changes required to help the species rebound are rather dramatic and would put Mississippi in a rebuilding stage.
"It would then be considered a population that is overfished and is continuing to go overfishing. To stop that, we would basically have to cut the harvest in half. That's as simple as I can put it," said Matt Hill, who works for DMR's fisheries division.
"Is bag limit on the table? Yes. Is minimum size on the table? Yes. Is slot limit on the table? Yes," said DMR Executive Director Jamie Miller.
"Everything is on the table," said CMR chairman Richard Gollott. "We need to rebuild our speckled trout fisheries. So, you know, we're going to look at everything."
In years past, it was concerns about commercial fishermen hurting the speckled trout population. Now, the focus is on recreational fishermen and the increasing fishing pressure for this popular species.
"The pressure, that effort is continuing to increase. We just have to look into the future and make sure that the measures we put in place now will still protect our resource in the future." said CMR commissioner Steve Bosarge.
"If we can put the correct management options in place, we feel like we can rebuild this fishery and we can rebuild it quickly," said Hill.
The commission will consider proposed regulations for speckled trout fishing at its September meeting. The proposed changes include increasing the minimum size from 13 to 14 inches and lowering the bag limit from 15 fish to 12, or even 10.