Knowing all what coastal fishermen went through during the spring and summer, it was good to hear state marine fisheries biologists declare that our speckled trout stocks are, in a word, “healthy.”
That news came in a presentation on specks during Thursday’s Wildlife and Fisheries Commission meeting, and from data compiled since 1985 and through 2013, the Marine Fisheries Section biologists’ opinion is that our number of small speckled trout that mature into the spawning stock “has not declined and has been consistent over time.”
A chart that used reporting numbers from all five Gulf states showed Louisiana fishermen’s catch more than doubled the entire catch of the other four states every year from 2003 through 2013. That same chart showed 2006, 2008 and 2011 to be the three highest landings years when recreational fishermen brought in at or slightly more than 12 million pounds.
Showing the vagaries of speckled trout fishing, there were lower catches in the three years following those peak years. And, yes, the lowest landings year was 2010, when weeks were cut from our fishing calendar by the BP-Deepwater Horizon oil disaster. And, no, there’s no catch data yet for 2014.
Maybe when there is, we’ll find out how low we dipped this spring and summer.
It’s no secret that this has not been a good year — so far — and fishermen are hoping the cooler fall months will spur specks to move into the marshes where they can feast on what appears to be a solid white shrimp season.
Without firm numbers and without having 2014’s gathered data processed, here’s what I believe happened this spring and summer, and it’s based on observations during the past three years
There’s good reason to believe the BP-Deepwater Horizon oil disaster affected the 2010 and 2011 trout spawns. Did you notice how few small specks we caught in 2011, 2012 and 2013? Don’t small trout grow into larger trout? And it was the 2-3 pound trout that seemed to be missing from this year’s catch, the trout that would have would have been spawned in 2010 and 2011.
Small, under 12-inch trout showed up this year, which could mean there was a solid spawn last year.
Still, the oil spill wasn’t the only factor. The constant procession of cold fronts (and rain) into the second week of May meant brown shrimp didn’t find the 10 parts-per-thousand saltwater nor the 70-degree water temperatures they need to live and provide optimum growth in our marshes.
From 50 years of fishing speckled trout, it sure looks like when the brown shrimp grow, then move into coastal bays and the barrier islands that speckled trout living in the marshes for several months follow the shrimp out and provide late spring and summer catches.
That didn’t happen this year.
Maybe next year. We can only hope.