, 2015

VMRC bans recreational
fishing for speckled trout

by Larry Chowning

NEWPORT NEWS—The Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) on February 25 voted unanimously to issue an emergency order closing recreational fishing for speckled trout, other than catch-and-release, effective March 1 to July 31, 2014.

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speckled trout

Plunging water temperatures have resulted in thousands of speckled trout dying or swimming lethargically just under the surface on the Piankatank and eastern and western branches of the Corrotoman rivers, Mobjack Bay, North and Ware rivers and inside Lynnhaven and Rudee inlets.

North Carolina also experienced massive cold-stun kills of speckled trout the first week in February and officials there closed the recreation and commercial fisheries to give surviving trout a chance to spawn in the spring before the warm weather trout season opens.

VMRC, however, opted not to close the commercial fishery because it is perhaps just weeks away from meeting its speckled trout quota for the season.

“By the time the fishery is closed to recreational interest, or within a week or two, commercial fishermen will have met their quota and the fishery will be closed to all,” said commissioner John Bull.

He said the recreational fishing community “has been talking about this for weeks and has appeared before the finfish committee and the board but the commercial fishery has not had the same opportunity.”

Bull also said 90% of Virginia’s speckled trout harvest (300,000 pounds) comes from recreational anglers. “The commercial impact overall isn’t great,” he said.

VMRC staff reported at the meeting the commercial quota is 51,104 pounds and commercial fishermen have caught 46,000 pounds, or 86% of the quota. There are approximately 6,000 pounds left on the quota.

Charter boat fisherman Bob Reed, who fishes out of Dividing Creek, said the December freeze was a shock from Mother Nature.

“We can’t do anything about it,” he said. “What concerns me is that there are reports of commercial fishermen setting nets in upper reaches of creeks and of recreational fishermen shooting dying fish with bows and arrows. This must be stopped now!

“My recommendation is to stop it to all user groups, regardless of whether or not they have met their quota. It bothers me that commercial and recreational fishermen are going out to get the last fish.”

The board also voted to hold a March 24 public hearing to consider additional action to protect the speckled trout stock. Closing fishing during spawning season, closer monitoring of commercial by-catch, and lowering daily catch limits for recreational anglers were discussed at the meeting.

John M. R. Bull is appointed
Virginia Marine Commissioner

RICHMOND—Gov.Terry McAuliffe on February 28 announced the appointment of John M.R. Bull as commissioner of the Virginia Marine Resources Commission. 

Bull has been with the VMRC since June 2007 and has been serving as acting commissioner since January 2014. He previously served as director of public relations and legislative liaison and has worked closely with the agency’s many and varied constituent groups, the news media and the General Assembly and has been involved in all aspects of agency operations.

Before joining the VMRC, he was an award-winning newspaper reporter at eight different newspapers over the span of 23 years, most recently as an investigative reporter and General Assembly reporter for the Newport News Daily Press. 

He is a journalism graduate of Penn State University.

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