Sunday, November 13, 2016

Weakfish? Sand Trout? White Trout? Yellow Mouth Trout?

Nassau County is home to a special management area for Weakfish. I've found that identifying them is difficult. Now I know why! I found this on line...

There is a difference between the weakfish and the "yellow mouth" trout but that difference may not be determined visually.

Researchers at FWC's Fish and Wildlife Reasearch Institute (formerly Florida Marine Research Institute - FMRI) have recently confirmed the presence of the sand seatrout on Florida's East coast from the St Mary's River through the Jacksonville area down to the Indian River Lagoon. Before this discovery it was thought that the sand seatrout was found only on Florida's west coast. The summary bullet points of an in-house report on a genetic study of the distribution of the weakfish and sand seatrout in Florida are listed below.

1. The geographic and reproductive ranges of weakfish and sand seatrout overlap along the Atlantic coast of north and central Florida.

2. Sand seatrout may be the predominant inshore species of the weakfish / sand seatrout duo in Florida Atlantic estuaries northward to the mouth of the St Johns River.

3. Individuals exhibiting the genetic characteristics of hybrids were identified.

4. Visual identification of these two trout species in the Florida Atlantic, even by experienced biologists, may be tenuous.

I learned from personal communication with the chief scientist on this project that the weakfish of the St Johns River may lose their typical striated color pattern, becoming plain silver colored like the sand seatrout. The hybrid species is also unmarked. Genetics is the only sure way to identify these fish accurately. This poses real potential enforcement problems with regards to bag limits. Please check with FWC Law Enforcement with regards to how they are handling enforcement of the weakfish regs.

Eric Sander
Recreational Fishing Surveys
Fisheries Dependent Monitoring
Fish and Wildlife Research Institute

And, from the FWC website...

Weakfish Management Zone:
The Weakfish Management Zone includes state waters from the Florida-Georgia line to the southernmost tip of Amelia Island, the inland waters of Nassau County and the St. Marys River and its tributaries east of Highway 17, north of State Highway 200A and north of the Shave Bridge on the Amelia River.
Daily bag limit is (1) per person and it can be no smaller than 12" in total length. This Includes weakfish-like fish including weakfish, sand seatrout and hybrids of the two.
We caught two today! The tide was extremely high so we had to postpone our start time until
9:30am.  Once we got out fishing, the winds were blowing at 15mph so we had some difficult fishing. But my two anglers, father and son team John and Jack Griffin, stuck it out and picked up a handful of Speckled Seatrout and two of these Weakfish.

No comments: