Louisiana anglers are in for a major change beginning today: Catch limits on speckled trout are changing for the first time since the 1980s.
The new rules are the result of an arduous four-year debate at the state’s Wildlife and Fisheries Commission. The controversy reflected the popularity of the species among Louisiana anglers as well as the number of charter captains who make a living by guiding clients to catch them.
Changes were needed because of a sharp decline in speckled trout numbers. Even though fishing has been outstanding this fall, due mainly to increased salinity in estuaries because of low rivers and drought, long-term trends have been concerning.
Speckled trout, officially spotted seatrout, have been overfished since 2016, state biologists say. Females aged 3 and older are at the lowest level ever recorded.
Nearly all speckled trout catch in Louisiana is by recreational anglers, with only a tiny commercial industry allowed, limited to rod-and-reel.
Louisiana has had looser limits than its Gulf Coast neighbors, but the changes remain controversial. Charter captains have strongly objected to the increase in minimum size as well as a new maximum size limit, saying both could threaten their businesses.
But biologists and conservationists — and many anglers as well — say action must be taken to preserve speckled trout stocks for future generations.
The old rules allowed for 25 trout per person/per day to be kept, with a minimum size of 12 inches. The new rules are the following:
- Minimum size of 13 inches
- Maximum size of 20 inches, with two fish above that limit allowed
- Total catch per angler per day is 15 fish
- Elimination of the “guide limit,” which allowed charter captains to also catch their limit on trips, though in practice it usually meant distributing those fish among clients
Violators face fines of up to $350 in addition to restitution costs of $28.97 per illegal trout. The new rules end automatically at the start of 2028 to allow for a reassessment.