Back-to-back cold winters have decimated spotted sea trout, and the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is calling for fishermen to voluntarily practice catch and release to protect the remaining spawners until September.
DNR sampling from nine South Carolina estuaries shows a consistent and dramatic decrease in the number of spotted sea trout, the lowest population recorded in 20 years. DNR continues monthly monitoring of sea trout and other recreationally important species to document status and trends abundance and size.
Most fish sampled were below the legal limit of 14 inches. Trout spawn from spring throughout summer in South Carolina. After a similar cold-related kill in 2001, it took trout five years to fully recover. Current legal minimum size limit and creel of 14 inches and 10 per person per day remain unchanged.