NJ Spotted Sea Trout Regulations To Change - The Fisherman

NJ Spotted Sea Trout Regulations To Change

The New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council (Council) is scheduled to meet at 5 p.m. on Thursday, July 11 at the Galloway Township Branch of the Atlantic County Library located at 306 East Jimmie Leeds Road in Galloway.  According to Bureau of Marine Fisheries chief Jeffrey Brust, the Council will be discussing recreational spotted sea trout regulations at their July 11 meeting.

“Once we split them out of the definition of weakfish, they will need their own regulations,” Brust said while adding “Council is looking for input on what they should be.”

Legally, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) defines weakfish and speckled trout as the same fish, even though they are in fact different species.  However, over the past few years following a bit of public prodding, NJDEP has gone through an extensive legal process to separate the two species so as to manage them independently, much like other Atlantic Coastal states do.

Brust said options to be discussed on July 11 include keeping the same size and bag as weakfish with one fish at a 13-inch minimum, what Brust calls “status quo, but separate from weaks;” the other possibility is to match Delaware’s spotted sea trout size and bag with a 12-inch minimum and no possession limit.

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Author/angler Frank Ruczynski with a speckled or spotted sea trout in a photo taken with his 2020 Fisherman article titled “Shhhhh! South Jersey Specks.”

“Council’s preferred option is to mirror Delaware regs, but there hasn’t been a lot of input from anglers, so we are offering this opportunity before a decision is made,” Brust said.

Spotted or speckled sea trout (cynoscion nebulosus) are similar to weakfish (cynoscion regalis); while they range from Massachusetts to the Florida Keys, specks are most abundant from the Chesapeake Bay southward.  That more southerly range puts the locus of the region’s annual sea trout bite squarely on Cape May County.

“A few sea trout will be quietly caught in the sounds over the late summer months, but the real action usually occurs in November,” noted author Frank Ruczynski in an October, 2020 article in The Fisherman (Shhhh!  South Jersey Specks), adding “The new or full moon phase closest to Election Day is prime time.”

If you have a preference on how the state of New Jersey should manages specks, plan to attend the July 11th meeting of the New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council in Galloway.  For more information call 609-292-7794.