On October 6, the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission will likely vote on changes to recreational speckled trout regulations. CCA Louisiana believes that a reduction in the daily bag limit to 15 fish per angler is appropriate, and feels strongly that the minimum size of 12 inches should remain intact. This should be part of a comprehensive plan to address issues within the ecosystem associated with speckled trout.
In the time since this issue surfaced and changes were proposed a few years ago, speckled trout fishing has been very good for many in Louisiana, and the most recent data appears to be trending in a positive direction. But we must recognize that our fisheries and coast are changing in Louisiana. Recreational anglers have always been the primary stewards of our marine resources, through funding, advocacy and demanding better science and management. Based on our experience, changes in recreational regulations have rarely, if ever, resulted in a direct fishery recovery. However, we believe that recreational anglers should lead by example, in the spirit of marine stewardship.
Historically, fishery managers are quick to propose recreational creel and size limit adjustments, but recreational changes cannot be the only remedy. That will not fix the problem, as there are many other factors that impact speckled trout. Some of those factors are difficult to manage like water conditions, weather, and other environmental issues. However, some are able to be managed, and should absolutely be considered as part of the overall plan to the address the management of speckled trout, as well as other recreational stocks. Some of those include:
1) Coastwide and regional forage reduction
2) Marine habitat and reef degradation
4) Marine fisheries restocking programs
5) Stock evaluation protocols and programs
6) Ecosystem level management
Addressing these issues will take time, but Louisiana must take the initiative now. As conservationists, we can lead the way by supporting a creel limit of 15 fish while maintaining the 12-inch size limit. Although Louisiana anglers harvest less than 2 trout per trip on average (according to LDWF), we see a reduction from 25 fish to 15 fish as a reasonable move, in the spirit of conservation. That said, CCA Louisiana’s Science Committee and many others have concerns about the impact on female trout if a shift to a larger minimum size adjustment occurs. Moving to a 13 or 13.5-inch minimum size seems drastic and unnecessary. Such a change could damage the female population, and will certainly have tremendous negative impacts on many businesses who depend on recreational anglers, like charter operators, marinas, bait shops, lodges and others.
The Wildlife and Fisheries Commission should adopt a 15 fish daily bag limit and 12-inch minimum size limit, and should take steps to address the other factors that impact the fishery. While the fishery has shown signs of recovery, a reduction to a 15 fish creel limit could help speed up that recovery. But ignoring other factors or other management options is short-sighted and could result in the continued (and historically ineffective) practice of only looking to recreational anglers to solve ecosystem-wide issues.
Please let the Commission know what you think about this issue. You can plan to attend the commission meeting on October 6th at 9:30 at LDWF Headquarters (2000 Quail Dr, Baton Rouge, LA 70808) or email your comments at email@example.com
CCA will keep our members posted on this very important issue.