The state Commission on Marine Resources recently decided to change the recreational size limit for speckled trout.
At a meeting last week, the commission voted unanimously to increase the minimum size of speckled trout kept by recreational anglers from 13 inches to 15 inches. Commission members also voted to prevent charter captains and crew members from keeping fish.
The new minimum is expected to become effective the middle of next month. The state’s daily creel limit for speckled trout remains at 15 per angler.
The 15-inch minimum was recommended by Mississippi Department of Marine Resources biologists after a stock assessment of speckled trout in state waters indicated the spawning potential ratio (SPR), or percentage of fish that are of reproductive age, was at 10 percent.
The number is too low for a sustainable fishery, a reason why the commission set a target SPR of 20 within the next three to five years. According to models run by DMR biologists, the new minimum will achieve that goal.
“In 2016, our agency completed a peer-reviewed stock assessment of speckled trout, and the results were alarming,” DMR Executive Director Jamie Miller said. “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.
“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.”
Coastal Conservation Association Mississippi disagrees with the new minimum.
“In 2008, the commission decided, against the advice of just about every angler commenting on this change, and the advice of our scientific staff, to decrease the size to 13 inches,” CCA Mississippi Government Relations Committee Chairman F.J. Eicke said. “The inevitable followed: Fishing pressure increased and a decrease in our spawning stock followed.”