January 1, 2017

Let’s not Drop the Trout Limit (but try this instead)


Let's not drop the trout limit! Before anyone slides down this slippery slope, let me offer some ideas.

Conservation is at the forefront of my mind whenever I think of Louisiana's waters. It took me years of growing as an angler to get the level of "angling maturity" I am at now.

Years of catching fish, keeping fish, throwing some back and eventually tagging a few for research got me there.

During those experiences I have seen marsh disappear and the landscape change.

If one thing is for sure, the marsh isn't getting bigger.

Of course, conservation is a hot topic in the world of inshore fishing. It can be just as bad, if not worse, than talking about religion or politics!

But anyone who knows me will tell you that I am not afraid to be unpopular if it means sticking to my guns.

We shouldn't lower the speckled trout limit.

Too often people jump to conclusions based on lack of information, not thinking something through or, worse of all, how they feel. I know these sorts of discussions can turn ugly, but that doesn't mean they should be avoided.

So let me go ahead and say it:

Let's not drop the trout limit in Louisiana. I believe we should keep it right where it is: 25 per person and 12" minimum length. 

I won't delve into spawning potential ratios or female vs male sizes.

Todd Masson already did an excellent job of that in his article at NOLA.com Outdoors, Is it time for Louisiana to lower its speckled trout limits? I strongly suggest you read it as its very informative and causes one to think critically on the issue.

Some marine biologists would even argue that there is nothing wrong with the speckled trout population.

Even in 2003, when Big Lake lowered their limit for speckled trout, LDWF Fin Fish Program Manager Randy Pausina had this to say:

"This is more of a social issue than a biological issue," Pausina said. "Statewide, trout stocks are healthy. The biomass for the last three years is the highest it has ever been, except for one year in the early 1980s."

Essentially a lower limit was enforced to give everyone warm and fuzzy feelings, rather than protect the trout.

Why do I believe we should not lower the limit?

For starters, there is no pressing need to.

We are still catching speckled trout, limits at that, without issue. Yes, some people are incredibly bad at fishing and only manage to put a few into the cooler, but that's not a measure of the trout population.

Secondly, it would be embarrassing to our state.

Perhaps I am being hubristic, but the appeal of fishing in Louisiana is the opportunity to catch generous limits. It's what makes Louisiana the Inshore Fishing Capital of the World.

I believe wholeheartedly that recreational fishing is key to our state's prosperity.

Our image to outsiders already suffers from Katrina and the BP Oil Spill. We need all the help we can get.

Lowering the limit would be signaling to the world our fishery is dying and cannot be recovered.

But I do believe there are methods to clean up our waterways and I certainly believe trout could benefit from a little less fishing pressure.

What can we do to relieve fishing pressure on speckled trout?

For starters, there are a few things:

Seaworthy Boats Only

Too many boats are running amok without the appropriate gear, lighting and safety equipment. Removing these boats from the water makes for safer waterways and less pressure on fish.

Check those Captains

Louisiana's wetlands are a prime destination for out-of-state fishing guides looking to make a buck. This is great and a huge boost for our economy. I welcome anyone who wants to fish in Louisiana, but there are ways to go about it.

I've heard boasting from out-of-state captains, boasting they're not chumps who'd pay for a license. After all, it is an expensive one, coming in at $1500.

It has happened an out-of-state guide was arrested for being unlicensed.

And just because a guide is native to Louisiana doesn't mean they are exempt from such behavior. Sadly, a few Louisianans have broken the law as well:

Boat Licensing

I've never needed to take the boater's safety course required to operate a boat in Louisiana because I have my Master's license (it trumps that course).

However, if one were to look at how boats are operated by sports anglers as any indication as to the quality of the course, one would guess that the course is entirely too easy to pass or isn't enforced at all.

A lot of anglers I see on the water operate their vessel responsibly, but for every three that do there is one that does so recklessly.

Rules of the Road aren't observed and the very basics of safety and courtesy are thrown out the window. I know you've seen the dreaded "slow to 2,000 RPMs and drag a huge wake past a boat of kids" maneuver.

If we enforced licensing to legally and responsibly drive a boat we'd ultimately make our waters a safer place with a little less fishing pressure.

Enforce the Law

I hardly see wildlife agents. I can count on one hand how many times in my life I have been stopped and/or boarded. As much as I like to be left alone that is alarming.

If law enforcement has a habit of never coming around, then how can poachers be busted?

I'm not talking about fish shrinking in the cooler. I am talking about deliberate actions.

Without pointing fingers, I can tell you I have had enough people brag to me about the illegal fish they kept, whether they were grossly over their limit or keeping fish too small to be considered legal.

If agents made a presence and checked boats then these law-breakers would be caught and made an example of.

And if you do see someone deliberately breaking the law, you can report them to Operation Game Thief by calling 1-800-442-2511.

In Summary

I know this post isn't going to be popular with everyone.

Fortunately popularity isn't my goal, introducing a new idea is. 

I want to see Louisiana keep her limits and her coast before we make any irreversible decisions. Besides, when it does come to conservation, I believe in being the change I want to see.

The bottom line is this: if you are doing what's right, you won't have anything to worry about.

Captain Devin

About the Author

Devin is a former fishing guide and lifelong inshore angler. He founded Louisiana Fishing Blog in 2012 to share his ideas as a charter captain and still writes in it today. Since then he's created a fishing university — LAFB Elite — where he teaches inshore anglers how to safely navigate Louisiana's coast and catch more fish.

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  • PERSONALLY: I agree that the limit SHOULD NOT BE LOWERED…BUT: we should be held to keep every size trout caught up to 25 total. THIS would prevent throwing back ‘now’ undersized trout that may be gut hooked, gills torn, eye balls damaged, etc, etc—thus eliminating waste due to short-mortality of ‘gut-hooked’ fish! JUST MY OPINION…John Castelluccio, Jr.

  • You’re right.

    However, it seems the state has a habit of taxing us to create revenue to benefit our fishery, but with time they always divert it to something else.

  • I couldn’t agree more. Great guides do exist out there. Bad apples exist in all professions. If your making money on state property you should pay your share. Which would result in a budget increase. Now here is the challenging part, Getting the legislative to allocate the money to wildlife and fisheries for more enforcement which would ultimately reduce the amount of violations that could be effecting our trout population.

  • Ben, thanks for commenting.

    I understand where you’re coming from, but it’s worth noting that Louisiana’s fishing guides only account for 16% of all speckled trout caught in Louisiana.

    Sure, there are some awful guides out there, but there are many awesome ones who are an invaluable asset to Louisiana.

    I’m not sure how they could be making money on someone else’s property when they are free to fish on navigable water.

  • $250 is way to cheap for a resident charter captain license in Louisiana. They charge $1000 a trip for 4 people and some ask for cash. Usually if the captain is any good, 100 trout will be kept each trip. Not to mention they think they own the water. We always hear their whining “ this is how I make a living“. Well if I made my living on someone’s else property, I wouldn’t be bitching all the time. I agree that our limit should decrease to 20 with one fish over 22 in our possession. The state can’t afford to put more game wardens out on the water and they are already stretched thin across the state. That will never be an option. Money and man power has always been an issue for Louisiana in law enforcement.

  • I respectfully disagree. It’s already been proven that the #1 taker of speckled trout from the water is not the charter captain and his clients, but inshore anglers like me and you.

    It’s up to US to make the difference, not anyone else.

    Fishing guides only make up 16% of all speckled trout that are caught. LDWF recently published this fact.

    Thanks for commenting.

  • I remember when the nets had to be stopped, now it’s time for the charter fisher men!! There time has come too!! No more charter fisher men!!

  • Hey Carl, thanks for commenting! I’m glad you spoke up, 100% respect your opinion and wish more people voiced their concerns.

    Tight lines!

  • There’s plenty enough law enforcement in Louisiana fishing waters,any more would not be cost effective,
    They’re will always be Idiots on the water,
    Wildlife agents can’t be everywhere,
    I would however, support a slight reduction in the total speckled trout limit, say 15 or 20, “no slots!”
    Size limit should stay 12” as is,
    I’d also be ok paying more for a license if I knew the money was going directly to Fish habitat and Coastal Restoration projects, Dedicate the money and add $5 per license, I think the extra money we’ll spent would help the fishery more than anything else
    No offense,
    just my 2 cents worth

  • Well Maybe You Would Like to Pay For that Better Enforcement all the While Enjoying that Higher Trout Limit You Gratefully Enjoy. The Recreational People are the Ones that Don’t Want a Liscense Fee Increase but at the same time Want to Say How all the Laws should be Made to Benefit Them . I Say Bullshit. Excuse All My Capitilization and French it was for You to Better See It.

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