On November 20th, 2023 the new Louisiana speckled trout creel limit went into effect. Now we can legally keep a substantially less amount of speckled trout compared to before.
Is this good or bad?
In this article I’d like to share some thoughts on this, and they’re probably different than what you’d assume.
And that’s because I have devoted a good deal of time to thinking deeply on this subject, rather than doom scrolling thought-garbage inside Zuckerberg’s Attention Factory.
What you and I are going to do first is recap what got us here in the first place.
How did Louisiana’s coast get to a point where the powers that be felt it was necessary to restrict the amount of speckled trout we can legally keep?
We'll explore that question first, then I’ll share with you why I think doing this was necessary, but also maybe unnecessary.
After that, I have additional thoughts and ideas on what the new creel limit means for inshore anglers like yourself and – most important – what you can do to make the most of it.
Where It All Began In The First Place
Where we begin is back when the fishing was significantly better, and the 2000s is a good place to start.
Anyone who was regularly fishing back then can tell you how much better the speckled trout fishing was. Just look at this report posted by Captain Frank Moore on RodnReel in 2005:
They limited out catching one hundred (100) speckled trout in the one to three pound range, with "a few over three with lots of two pound fish".
Now, that could easily be a fluke or a one-off trip, but if you look through the Internet Archive (or you were just alive and reading reports in 2006) then you know that Frank Moore and others regularly posted reports like the one you see above.
Not sure? Just check out this one reporting a limit of 75 speckled trout in Lake Robin by 9:30am in November 2005.
Well, here and now eighteen years later what do we not see? We don't see guides reporting limiting out on speckled trout in the Lake Robin area, which is straddled by Hopedale and Delacroix.
Notable guides in the area like Captain Jack Payne are struggling to locate speckled trout, like in this report from November 17th, 2023 on their Facebook page.
Well, maybe that was just a fluke. Stuff happens, ya know? So let us look a little more:
Yikes, this doesn't look very good, either:
This isn't because he is not good at fishing. In fact, Captain Jack is one of the best in the area (if not the best). So, there are two reasons you see the tough speckled trout reports above:
- because the speckled trout are not as numerous as they were in the 2000s and....
- Sweetwater Marina posts valuable and honest reports
This is one reason I follow Sweetwater Marina on Facebook, and you should, too. I can check with them to see what's going on in the area.
In fact, I bet that if you called Captain Jack and asked him how the fishing was back then compared to now, he would agree with my observations!
Okay, getting back on track...
If you thumb through Sweetwater's reports, you will see that they did enjoy some speckled trout action. It cranked up at times, but it was spotty and not consistent.
Now, if those reports were posted in August and September, that would make sense. But they're not. They're posted in October and November, the best months of the year to catch speckled trout in Louisiana.
This pales in comparison to the fishing reports from the 2000s. Here's another one from Myrtle Grove that borders on the realm of fantasy and fiction:
We all know that people love bragging and may even embellish a little bit to show off to everyone, but I 100% believe this guy.
To catch 100+ speckled trout in November was not uncommon back then. It didn't happen every outing, but it certainly happened more than it does today, which is pretty much never.
And People Caught These Fish With Outmoded Equipment
The fishing tackle and equipment back then was adequate, but nothing like what you see today. So it should come as no surprise that we did not need or use the following to catch limits of speckled trout:
Simply put: it was easier to catch fish back then because there were more of them.
Yes, there was more land, but not so much more land that would be proportionate to the amount of fish we had then compared to now.
In 2009 I fished the Biloxi Marsh in a flat boat with a twenty year-old two-stroke, a trolling motor that didn’t work, no GPS and no sonar.
Somehow I was able to easily catch limits of speckled trout in November.
Yet the boat I roll in today is the polar opposite. It has all the bells and whistles, not to mention the guy operating it is far more knowledgeable and skilled than the guy from 2009.
2023 Devin would absolutely skull-drag 2009 Devin. It would be like watching Mike Tyson beat up Steve Urkel.
But yet today I find myself having to run farther and try harder to catch limits of speckled trout. I still catch fish, no problem there.
I’m just being honest with you when I say that it’s more difficult to do that here and now in 2023.
So, right about now you may be thinking of this very relevant question:
If the fishing was so good, then what happened to make it so bad?
How The Speckled Trout Fishing Declined In Louisiana
I would say that there is a more impactful fishing effort put forth by inshore anglers today than inshore anglers of yester-year.
But I don’t believe that’s what caused the speckled trout fishing to take a nosedive.
I think that what happened was a rapid and sudden change on Louisiana’s coast, one that began in 2011 and lasted until 2020.
For ten years, Louisiana’s inshore waters were inundated with a record amount of river water from the Mighty Mississippi and local rivers.
Yes, what makes Louisiana’s fishing so good is that we have river water mixing with sea water. That’s how it works. But it has to be balanced. It cannot be too much of one or the other.
It’s not unlike making a mixed drink. If the ingredients aren’t balanced, the drink isn’t going to taste very good.
This record flooding event is called The Freshening and I already wrote this article detailing how it came to be.
How Did The Freshening Affect Speckled Trout?
In a nutshell, The Freshening kept speckled trout from being able to replenish their numbers.
You must understand that speckled trout are not a saltwater species. Instead, speckled trout are an inshore species.
You’re not going to find speckled trout in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico. They are a coastal fish that thrive in salinity lower than what we see out in blue water.
But they’re not freshwater fish, either. While they do overwinter in lower-salinity water as low as 2-4 ppt, they need saltier water, at least 15-17 ppt, in order to spawn.
And I feel that, during The Freshening, their spawning locations were blown out by the record amount of river water. They were not able to make new speckled trout.
The new speckled trout they did successfully spawn were not able to make use of habitat they usually would. You guessed right. That habitat was blown out by record flooding from our coastal rivers.
In addition to this, I feel that the reduced habitat available to speckled trout caused them to be concentrated in areas where unscrupulous fishermen could take advantage of them.
This further reduced the population.
So Where Does The Speckled Trout Population Stand Today?
Look, there were plenty of other things that were going on during The Freshening.
The BP Oil Spill, coastal erosion, more effective fishing effort, menhaden reduction fishing and more all contributed to reducing the trout population.
But, I feel that the main culprit was The Freshening.
And where that leaves the speckled trout today is the worst they have ever been.
Just going off observations from my time on the water, doing this for a living, there is no doubt in my mind that the speckled trout fishing has taken a serious downturn.
This is backed up by hard numbers from the people who are paid to do it.
This is why inshore anglers have sounded the alarm. We know something is wrong, and has been wrong for some time.
But can the speckled trout even make a comeback to begin with?
This is the million dollar question for which I have a million dollar answer: Yes.
And I say “yes” because speckled trout are an incredibly fecund species that can quickly make up for lost time, if only given clean and salty water. That is, of course, assuming a few things happen and don’t happen.
First off, we cannot have any of the following:
Secondly, the Mississippi River needs to behave itself. We need the water to clear up and for things to salt up. This can only happen if the river goes down and stays down.
I have great news. It has. It has gone down the soonest it has since 1988.
I’ve documented this phenomenon in this article and – just like The Freshening – christened it with a name we can all use to refer to it more easily: The Saltening
What is a Saltening, and how does it help speckled trout?
Well, the name somewhat implies its character.
A “saltening” is the exact opposite of a freshening. Instead of flooding there is drought. Instead of dirty water, there is clean and green water. Instead of less usable habitat, there is more usable habitat.
Because of The Saltening, the speckled trout have their spawning grounds back. They can finally get some good spawns in and now there’s more places for them to feed and grow.
I’m pretty sure the speckled trout population is going to come back in a big way.
Because when you look at the last time we had a saltening – in the late 90s and early 2000s – the speckled trout fishing was off the charts.
That’s when seven of the top ten state record speckled trout were caught. Just look for yourself.
Even in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina the fishing was phenomenal. Just check out this RodnReel report from Captain Jody Donewar in the months after Katrina hit.
He elaborates that his first fishing spots only produced "small trout" in the 14" - 15" range, so he made a move to put his clients on bigger trout in the two to three pound range before limiting out with seventy-five of them!
But, what I'm getting at there is the morsel he included in the last paragraph: "The river is at a 10 year low right now. As long as it stays down the fishing will be out of this world."So, the fishing was pretty dang good, and this leads us to our next question:
Is it even necessary to have lowered the speckled trout limit?
Most likely “yes” and maybe “no”.
Given how low the speckled trout population has dwindled, it’s better to err on the side of caution and do what we can as inshore anglers.
It makes sense that leaving more fish in the water results in having more fish in the water. Right?
So, “yes”, it makes sense to help the speckled trout recover their numbers by leaving them in the water to make more speckled trout.
I think this could have an exponential effect and we will see a return on this investment.
Or, I could be dead wrong.
Maybe this whole thing is completely out of our power. Maybe whatever changes we make are insignificant compared to the grand scale of Mother Nature.
I think what we need here is an old-timer who remembers the last time we went from a Freshening to a Saltening, probably the 1980s going into the 90s. We need accurate accounts free of bias or denial, and I hope such a person comments below.
Either way, I am certain that the fishing can only get better with the current conditions and it definitely helps if we aren’t throwing as many speckled trout on ice.
This leads us to two important conclusions you really ought to consider:
Two Important Conclusions About The New Speckled Trout Creel Limit
First off, I feel that it’s better to have fish to catch & release than no fish to catch and eat.
Things are better for Louisiana’s inshore fishing when we have fish to catch. Nobody goes to the store to buy more fishing tackle after a day of grinding and not catching anything.
Kids aren’t pumped to sit on a boat all day and not catch anything.
Nobody wants to pump $4 gas and launch the boat if they don’t think they’re going to catch.
Go to any marina or tackle store and ask what business is like when the fishing sucks. They’ll tell you that things are slow.
Memories are made by going out there and having fun easily catching fish, not grinding for a few to eat.
And, of course, you still get to keep speckled trout to eat. You can still load the box down. Nobody is taking that away.
I feel strongly that the new creel limit will help the trout bounce back in a big way, which leads me to my second point:
The fishing is going to become a lot better, and there will be two kinds of anglers in the near future:
Why The Speckled Trout Fishing Is Going To Become Really Good
That’s because there will be new areas speckled trout show up in. Places they haven’t been in a long time.
There’s a very real possibility that the best fishing of your life is in the years to come. That wall hanger of a lifetime is growing right now.
You can be one of the first anglers there, or you can hear about it on Facebook after it’s come and gone. The ball is in your court.
Case in point: I’ve never smashed the trout off the Mandeville Lakefront, but I did this year. That wouldn’t have happened during the Freshening and is a sign that things are heating up.
So speckled trout will go to new places to be caught in new ways. You’ll want to be able to identify these locations and figure out how to safely navigate to them and back to the dock.
This is the bread and butter of my flagship course, Inshore Fishing 101.
Then, you’ll want to learn advanced fishing techniques to gain an edge over the rest of the fishermen who are just using basic spinning tackle and corks.
That is what’s taught inside Inshore Fishing 201. Gain instant access to both of these courses and more when you join my membership, LAFB Elite.
Above all, you will want to connect with like-minded anglers, and you can do that inside the LAFB Elite Community. No BS spam posts, no useless bragging reports, just enthusiastic inshore anglers helping each other find and catch fish.
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Thanks for reading, and tight lines!