Potential Seatrout Regs Need More Soak Time If Implemented

Brad Gill | October 1, 2014

Discussions on a potential increase in the minimum-size limit on spotted seatrout that will initially result in fewer fish for the fryer—but over time could greatly improve the quality of these inshore fish—will continue as Georgia’s Fin Fish Advisory Panel (FFAP) gets back together in the first quarter of 2015.

“When you compare and contrast us to other states…. we have the most liberal trout regulations on the Eastern seaboard. That’s not a bad thing, but it’s just a fact,” said Spud Woodward, director for DNR’s Coastal Resources Division.

Georgia’s current seatrout creel limit is 15 trout per angler per day, and trout must measure 13 inches to keep. Spud explained that once trout begin to measure longer than 13 inches, they start to add weight.

“A fish between 14 and 15 inches is roughly 25 percent heavier than a fish between 13 and 14 inches. They start putting on more girth after they put on length past 13 inches,” said Spud.

After looking at other states, the FFAP agreed to poll anglers to see how they felt about raising Georgia’s minimum length limit on seatrout. They used “Survey Monkey,” a very cost-effective online survey.

“We received over 3,700 responses with around 60 percent being in favor of keeping the current 13-inch minimum length limit for spotted seatrout,” said Spud. “But what was interesting was the fact that slightly over 40 percent of the respondents supported increasing the minimum length limit to 14 inches. Frankly, this is a larger percentage than I thought it would be and shows there is support in the fishing community for proactive management to increase the quality of trout fishing along the Georgia coast.”

After the survey, the FFAP discussed the survey results and took a poll amongst its members. Eight members voted in favor of a 14-inch minimum, but two members wanted to stay at 13 inches. Capt. David Newlin was one of the FFAP members who wanted to keep the seatrout size limit at 13 inches.

“I thought we were suppose to do what the people of Georgia wanted to do,” said David.

David, who is a full-time saltwater fishing guide, said his take-home catch would go way down if the seatrout minimum size limit increased to 14 inches.

“I am sitting out here right now (Sept. 15), and I have nine fish in the cooler, and eight of those fish are between 13 and 14 inches,” said David. “In the charter business, we have taken enough hits off the federal folks the last few years.”

David said Georgia’s liberal size and bag limits attracts non-residents to the coast. “I have carried 25 trips this year of Florida people, and one thing they told me when they came fishing is they wanted to keep some fish,” David said.

Spud said that a change to increase the minimum size limit for trout is not something that has to be done. However, the change would protect more younger trout and grow larger, more quality trout.

“Most of the time when we recommend a harvest-regulation change, it is because we have determined that something is going on—it’s been overfished or something—there’s a problem that needs a fix,” said Spud. “We don’t have that in trout. I think we have the potential to have a more abundant trout population and have better quality fishing, but what we’re talking about is proactive conservation, in other words taking something that a lot of people think is good and making it better. And when you want to do that, you really need good, strong public buy in.”

Spud added that if a more quality trout fishery does take affect in Georgia, it wouldn’t necessarily have to be done in one big swoop. At first, different harvest options could be looked at, like allowing a certain number of trout in the daily catch between 13 and 14 inches to be harvested.

“I think it’s (14-inch minimum) the right thing to do, and I think a lot of the FFAP members believe it’s the right thing to do,” said Spud. “We got a chance to make things better, but you have to get there. We need to build better support and knowledge and awareness of the benefit. You’re not going to get 100 percent support, you never do, but I think if you get in front of enough people and lay the facts out… then it will make people think about it a little more objectively and little less emotionally.”

David believes there’s just not enough folks out there who want the change.

“I have put a lot of heart and soul into this, and probably 90 percent of the fishermen you talk to living on coastal Georgia don’t want a change to go up to 14 inches,” said David. “This is just change for the sake of change. It’s just something that is unneeded.”

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