How to Fish Responsibly for Spotted Seatrout
By Kelly Odom
Fish Eye News
Spring 2011 Archive
MOREHEAD CITY — Spotted seatrout season is set to reopen June 15, and as the day approaches and water temperatures warm, anglers are sure to get excited about catching a keeper.
While the season is closed, many anglers may be practicing catch-and-release, which makes it the perfect time to brush up on fishing techniques that will give released fish the greatest possibility of surviving.
“Of all the fish we deal with, speckled trout is one of the most important to take great care with when releasing,” said Louis Daniel, director of N. C. Division of Marine Fisheries.
There has been an increase in the recreational fishing effort in recent years, and the number of recreational discards has increased since 2003. Fisheries managers are concerned with these increases because the recreational fishery tends to harvest small, young fish and there is a 10 percent discard mortality rate for recreational fishing.
An increase in the minimum size limit from 12 inches to 14 inches and reduction in bag limit from 10 fish to 6 fish was designed to allow more of these fish to live to spawning age. But Daniel said he would still like to see that 10 percent release mortality rate reduced.
That’s where ethical angling comes in.
When fishing for spotted seatrout, and especially when sitting on a school of small fish, anglers need to be diligent in using proper precautions in an effort to release the fish alive and increase their chances for survival.
According to Daniel, the most devastating practice when fishing for speckled trout is to use live shrimp on small gold treble hooks because the fish tend to swallow these lures. When the angler tries to remove the hooks, the angler can cause internal damage to the fish and give the fish less chance for survival. Anglers should avoid using treble hooks on small fish and tailor the lure for the least amount of harm to the fish.
Captain Gary Dubiel, owner of Spec Fever Guide Service in Oriental, does quite a bit of speckled trout fishing in the spring, early summer and fall. A significant portion of his clients practice catch-and-release regardless of whether there is a keeper season or not.
“I do a fair amount of teaching trips where I instruct them on how to appropriately hold the fish, do hook removal and then release, as well,” Dubiel said. “I think that is very important.”
Dubiel does all the fish handling for folks who aren’t on a teaching trip. He encourages anglers that catch and release large fish to take photographs in a reasonable amount of time. Cameras need to be ready to go before the fish is dehooked. He instructs the angler on the appropriate way to hold the fish so the fish is not stressed. Large fish shouldn’t be held strictly by the head. One hand should be used to support the belly while placing two fingers underneath the jaw and one finger on the exterior lip. This will give the angler good control of the head so the fish can be supported, they can get a quick photograph, and then put the fish back in the water, make sure it rights itself and release it. It should take off.