As the fresh water from the Bonnet Carré Spillway opening creeps closer to the Mississippi Sound, the radar of state marine officials is starting to beep louder each day.
The State Commission on Marine Resources has given Department of Marine Resources Executive Director Joe Spraggins authority to shut down both commercial and recreational fishing if necessary to protect speckled trout.
“Once before, the Bonnet Carré Spillway, when it was opened, it pushed all the speckled trout around in the western Mississippi Sound around Cat Island,” said Commissioner Richard Gollott.
That created a chaotic scene.
“Everybody was catching speckled trout,” he said. “It was a jubilee.”
Good for fishermen but bad for fish.
“We really want to protect the species,” Gollott said. “And not have all those trout pushed into Mississippi and lot of people just get in there and slaughter them.”
Shutting down the fishing is something Ryan Bradley with the Mississippi Commercial Fisheries United doesn’t like.
He thinks more fish, the better.
“We should be thankful that if we get an influx of fish into our waters, this is an opportunity for us to capitalize and enjoy those resources,” Bradley said.
He added that current limits for recreational and commercial fishermen are sustainable.
“Regardless of when the fish were caught, I think as long as we stay within our limits, I think we’ll be just fine,” Bradley said.
Spraggins said it’s not a panic situation because it’s going to take a lot of time for that fresh water from Bonnet Carré Spillway to get into the Mississippi Sound, wherever it goes. However, he wants to make sure they are prepared, and they want science to back them up.
“We’ve got to monitor it and just understand that what we’re doing is 100 percent the best thing for the fisheries and we’re not impacting the fishermen in anyway before that,” he said. “We don’t want to do it just because we think it’s going to happen. We want to do it because we have good scientific data to show that it’s going to happen.”
Spraggins said he would be ready to make a decision in about two weeks.