What is Texas speckled trout status?

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Texas Parks & Wildlife Department officials are currently scoping for potential regulation changes for speckled trout and flounder on the Texas coast. What is the status of these fisheries?

Here is some interesting data on the trout fishery.

  • What bay systems are considered as Upper Coast, Middle Coast and Lower Coast?Upper includes Sabine Lake, Galveston Bay, and Cedar Lakes; Middle includes East Matagorda Bay, West Matagorda Bay, San Antonio Bay and Aransas Bay; Lower includes Corpus Christi Bay and the upper Laguna Madre.  For the purpose of this discussion, lower Laguna Madre (LLM) is treated separately because of the special spotted seatrout regulations implemented in 2007.
  • What is the status of spotted seatrout populations in these regions?In 2002, statewide spotted trout harvest regulations were changed to a 10-fish daily bag and 15-inch minimum size, with 1 fish over 25-inches allowed.  Since implementation of these regulations, fishery independent sampling surveys from each of these areas indicate stable or slight increase in relative abundance of spotted seatrout.  Recreational harvest from these areas has also showed increased landings with the exception of a drop in trout landings during the 2012-2013 season in the LLM.

    Recruitment of spotted seatrout from each of these areas has remained relatively stable.  The declines in relative abundance observed on the middle coast in 2009 were corrected with the high recruitment levels observed in 2010 and 2011.  Recruitment levels in 2012 are consistent with levels from previous years, with the exceptions noted above for 2010 and 2011.

    In 2007, special rules were adopted for the lower Laguna Madre (LLM) of which size limits were the same as the rest of the coast, but the bag limit was reduced to 5 fish.  Since implementation of these regulations in the LLM, gill net surveys show that relative abundance has remained relatively stable though considerable year-to-year fluctuations occur.  For example, the fall 2013 gill net catch rates are one of the lowest observed following one of the highest catch rates recorded from the spring 2013 sampling.

  • Are spotted seatrout overfished?No.  TPWD gill net, bag seine and harvest data indicate they are not overfished.  Fishing pressure and landings are different for each bay, with some bays higher than others.  Spotted seatrout are the most sought after species by anglers in Texas inshore waters, but the landings are currently at a sustainable level.  A reduction in landings would increase the number of older and larger fish in the population.

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Source: Texas Parks & Wildlife Department

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