Mississippi Commercial Speckled Trout Fishery Shut Down Due to Underreporting

Jun 04 • Lindsey Lemmons

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.

One Lake Community Forum – Gulfport

May 16 • Lindsey Lemmons

Join the ONE RIVER ~ NO LAKE Coalition
May 22nd
to learn more and get involved!

The One Lake project proposes to dam the Pearl River in an attempt for flood control in the Greater Jackson area. Impounding more water in Hinds and Rankin Counties will threaten the interests of the Mississippi Wildlife Federation and other stakeholders, including industry along the Pearl River and on the Coast. Please join us to learn more about the project, potential impacts, and how you can help.

Date:  May 22, 2018
Time:  5:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Location:  Westside Community Center, 4008 8th Street (and 41st Avenue), Gulfport, MS

Mississippi Anglers Can Fish Red Snapper All Summer

Apr 27 • Melanie Starnes

The Mississippi Department of Marine Resources announced that Mississippi’s Recreational Red Snapper Season will open Friday, May 25th and could potentially last 102 days until Labor Day if the catch does not exceed Mississippi’s pre-determined quota of 137,949 pounds. This is great news for Mississippi’s anglers as it will also allow for some overlap with Amberjack season during the last week of May and the month of August.

After a Federal season of only 3 short days in 2017, the Secretary of Commerce authorized a summer long season that allowed recreational anglers to fish for much of the summer last year. The increased effort across the Gulf resulted in a harvest that exceeded the recreational quota and set up a scenario wherein recreational anglers could be forced to pay back that overharvest through a reduction in the 2018 quota. The potential for a payback and no recreational season in 2018 opened the door for each of the Gulf States to apply to NOAA for and Exempted Fishing Permit (“EFP”). The EFP allows for the harvest of certain requested species that otherwise would not be allowed under federal regulations. These permits will allow each state to participate in a two-year pilot program for recreational Red Snapper harvest that is modeled on that states particular quota, management mechanism, and season structure and will allow them to gather data for state management.

The state-managed Red Snapper season only applies to recreational anglers fishing in state or federal waters out 200 nautical miles and state charter operators who operate solely in state waters out to 9 nautical miles. Federal charter for-hire operators will remain under the federal system so they will have the same 51 day season throughout the Gulf.

Each state is allowed to create its own program and season for recreational harvest under the EFP to harvest the specific quota allocated to that state. The season dates and requirements for reporting catch vary in each state so anglers are advised to review the requirements in the state from where they are fishing.  Mississippi’s season will start on May 25th, the Friday before Memorial Day and will be open every day through Monday, September 3rd with a couple of caveats. The Department of Marine Resources has made it very clear that they intend to monitor the quota closely through the use of Mississippi’s Tails n’ Scales App. If the reported catch by July 4, 2018 provides evidence that fishing pressure could lead to exceeding the quota, the season will shut down from July 9-22 to ensure that Mississippi’s harvest remains under the quota. There is also a possibility that the season could still be shut down again prior to September 3rd if Mississippi reaches its quota or if the quota for the entire Gulf has been met.

The program will provide flexibility to state managers for each state’s recreational fishery and will be an excellent opportunity to gather data through a trial run of state management. Mississippi’s Tails N’ Scales App is a mandatory reporting program that the Department will use to regulate fishing and gather data. Anglers must create a profile and start a trip before going fishing for Red Snapper. The captain of the vessel is responsible for each trip and must have a trip number when they are out on the water. The captain must report their catch (even no catch) within 24 hours and close out one trip before creating a new one. Anglers caught without an authorization number will be fined, and their fish confiscated.

Tails n’ Scales is available through a smartphone app on iTunes and Google Play, a website (tailsnscales.org) and a call center. Fishermen also can call 1-844-MSSNAPP (677-6277) to speak to a representative if they don’t have access to a smartphone or computer. For other questions regarding the Tails N’ Scales system or to report any issues, fishermen should call the DMR at 228-697-5762.

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