Mississippi Commercial Speckled Trout Fishery Shut Down Due to Underreporting
Officials with the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources (DMR) issued a surprise announcement on May 29th that the commercial season for speckled trout will not reopen for the second season of the year on June 1st as planned due to underreporting of fishing numbers during the initial season.
The commercial fishing season is regulated by a 50,000 lb quota that is harvested in two 25,000 lb seasons from February 1st to May 31st and from June 1st to October 31st. The first season was closed on April 27th when the DMR determined that the 25,000 lb quota for the first season was nearly filled. The second season was set to reopen on June 1st; however, the DMR announced that it believes there has been significant underreporting of commercial catch and that the overall limit of 50,000 lbs has already been caught; therefore, the 2nd season will not open.
Tracking of commercial harvest is done through “trip tickets” filled out by fishermen when they sell their catch to a processor. In Mississippi, the processor must report the trip ticket sales to the DMR. However, fishermen are also allowed to bring their catch across state lines to sell to out of state dealers if they have a fresh product permit. In the case of these out of state sales, it is the responsibility of the fishermen to report the sale to the DMR pursuant to their fresh product permit.
Rumors of excess commercial harvest were swirling this spring after recreational fishermen and commercial fishermen using haul seins had multiple encounters at Cat Island. Recreational fishermen who witnessed the commercial net fishing alleged that large numbers of speckled trout were being harvested and that the trip ticket reporting numbers did not seem to equal the numbers of fish that they witnessed being harvested.
“We were alerted through the Alabama Department of Marine Resources that they were getting an excessive amount of fish,” stated DMR Executive Director Joe Spraggins, “So, we started looking into it and found out that several of the fishermen were not reporting what they had sold in other places. Some were in the state of Mississippi, but most were out of state.”
The DMR’s Office of Marine Patrol is continuing to investigate the under reporting and will release additional information at the conclusion of the investigation. The under reporting will undoubtedly lead to new regulatory requirements and restrictions on the commercial harvest and sale of speckled trout. The Mississippi Wildlife Federation will continue to work with DMR officials and others to protect our resources so that they are available for recreational sportsmen for generations to come.