Do you want the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission to enact new speckled trout fishing regulations for recreational fishermen without your input?

You’ve got the chance to have a say. Don’t blow it.

The LWFC recently directed the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to conduct a second survey on speckled trout management options before its regular meeting in October.

It’s another effort to get public input on management options, one that follows an email survey sent to more than 10,000 randomly selected saltwater fishermen in June-July 2020. Eight public meetings, including one in Lafayette on Feb. 13, 2020, also were held statewide for the same purpose.

This current survey is online. Take advantage of the opportunity and check the boxes. Why?

The state agency says your opinion counts as the next critical step in the fishery management process. Several management options have been put on the table to give the speckled trout population a chance to recover.

“We will compile the information we receive from all public input forums and present a summary of angler preferences to the LWFC for its consideration,” the LWFC wrote in a prepared statement released Tuesday morning.

A 2019 assessment of spotted sea trout (speckled trout) along and off our coast revealed the stock is overfished, according to the prepared statement. In other words, the spawning population is below the minimum level established for the stock. When a stock is overfished, LDWF must take action to rebuild the population to (or above) the target level.

In September 2019, Jason Adriance, a marine fisheries biologist, presented findings of a preliminary assessment, findings that were leaked seven months earlier. He pointed out anglers have been overfishing speckled trout since 2014; the vast majority of the fish caught in 2018 barely were mature fish; recreational landings were at their lowest level in recorded history at the time; the spawning stock biomass also was at its lowest level then, and female spawning recruitment was at its lower level.

Adriance also predicted management options would be “significant and likely controversial.”

Hence several management options to reduce harvest levels are being considered to allow the species to recover.

I completed the survey in a few minutes Tuesday. Of course, I’m anything but a diehard speckled trout fisherman, of which there are many in the Teche Area and across Acadiana.

Just the same, I enjoy fishing for speckled trout in the fall and early winter as much or more than the next guy. Otherwise, I’ll chase bass any time of the year.

No matter your interest level in hooking and reeling in those fish, take a minute or two to fill out the survey. We are going down this road to new regulations and the regulators are giving us a chance to say what we prefer.

What happens after? Based on the commission’s review of the assessment and updated biological data, management options and public input, LDWF will provide a draft of proposed regulation changes to the commission as a Notice of Intent. The NOI will be presented at a regular meeting of the commission, which will take public input on the NOI, then vote whether to approve the NOI as is or with modifications based on discussion and public input, or take no action.

After the NOI’s approval, public comment will be taken for approximately 40-45 days, including public meetings. When the public comment period ends, the NOI and public comments will be reviewed by the Senate Committee and House Committee on Natural Resources and Environment. Following that process, the NOI is returned to the commission for their consideration as a Final Rule, which becomes effective when it is published in the Louisiana Register.

Anyone with questions or comments about the survey can call Adriance at (504) 284-2032.

DON SHOOPMAN is outdoors editor of The Daily Iberian.

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