Saturday, August 05, 2023

LWC approves new speckled trout regulations

At their monthly meeting on Thursday, the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission voted on a final amendment to their speckled trout Notice of Intent (NOI) to change regulations to reduce the harvest of speckled trout - and thus bring the spawning recruitment back above the Conservation Standard .  
The NOI was first proposed in November of last year, and called for a 13.5 inch minimum size and 15 daily creel limit.  That NOI was rejected by the Legislative Natural Resources Oversight Committee.  The Commission had until the August meeting to amend that NOI or else the entire process would have to be restarted in 2024.
Prior to the meeting, we learned that a Zone Management Proposal would be presented:
- East Zone, 14"-20", 15 daily, 2 allowed over 20"
- Central Zone, 12"-19", 15 daily, 2 allowed over 19"
- West Zone, 14"-20", 15 daily, 2 allowed over 20"
The zones would be identical to those used to manage commercial shrimping.
During the public comment period, several attendees spoke in favor of this amendment, including the  Gulf Coast Council (GCC) of Fly Fishers International.  While making a case for zones, the GCC also pointed out that they supported this proposal because it reached or slightly exceeded the critical 20% reduction needed to get the SPR back above the Conservation Standard in 6 years or less.
After a couple hours of discussion, it became apparent that while the Commission liked the concept of zone management, the fact that LDWF only had one month to put the data and plan together left a few unanswered questions. So the Commission proposed a substitute motion that passed by a 4-2 vote.
New regulation (if approved by Oversight Committee):
  • 15 daily creel, 13"-20" slot size, with 2 over 20" allowed
  • statewide regulation
  • no guide catch allowed in a charter trip
According to Jason Adriance, LDWF Marine Finfish Manager, this new regulation would result in a 19.6% reduction in harvest and get the SPR back to the Standard in 6 years.

Next Steps:
  1. A public hearing on the proposed changes will be held by the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries on September 21, 2023 at 10:00 a.m. at LDWF headquarters in the Joe Herring Room at 2000 Quail Drive, Baton Rouge, LA 70898.
  2. Review by members of the Legislative Natural Resources Oversight Committee.
  3. Following the 30-day oversight period, the proposed rule could be published as a final rule as soon as December 2023.