BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Speckled trout fishermen may soon be looking at an increase in minimum length. That is among the recommendations being considered by the Commission on Marine Resources to help rebuild the fishery.
Faced with a fishery in trouble, the CMR is looking to cut the speckled trout harvest in half, while increasing the SPR or spawning potential ratio, the numbers of reproductive age fish. DMR scientists say the best recommendation is raising the minimum length to 15 inches, from the current 13 inches.
"This is the only management option that is indicative of a stock that is rebuilding and will rebuild in the time frame of three to five years," DMR Finfish Bureau Director Matt Hill told the CMR board.
"We have a great opportunity to protect these fish and get SPR up very quickly. If we don't do anything, we're going to fish 'em out, we're going to have a yield increase and then it's going to be gone. And the reproductive potential is removed," said DMR scientist Dr. Paul Mickle.
"We're dancing all around the fact that basically we're modeling and trying to manage a quota. The only system that truly works. A quota," said Commissioner Steve Bosarge.
"If you raise it to 15 inches, you might as well close the season. You're not going to catch any fifteen. The good fishermen might catch a few fish, but the average person is not going to catch any fish," said Chairman Richard Gollott.
"We need to do whatever measures it's going to take to allow us to get to that goal. And the science says a 15 inch fish is the route we need to take," added board member Mark Havard.
As Commission Chairman Richard Gollott said after last month's meeting, everything is on the table when it comes to changing these speckled trout regulations. The fishery is in trouble, and the CMR will ultimately decide how best to fix that.
"Right now, I'm leaning toward 15 inches. And the bag limit, maybe leave it the same if I had to do it today. But let's see what happens before the next commission meeting," said Chairman Gollott.
The chairman said it's likely the issue will be voted on next month. The next meeting of the CMR is Tuesday, October 18.