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TPWD Proposing To Drop Lower Laguna Madre Trout Bag to 5
Coastal Fisheries biologists have proposed reducing the daily bag limit of spotted seatrout from 10 to 5 in an area of the Lower Laguna Madre south of Marker 21.
The proposal, which was presented to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission’s Regulations Committee along with several other suggested changes to the 2007-08 Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation, would mark the first time the department has attempted a regional approach to managing a saltwater fishery.
The reduction in the daily bag limit addresses a downward trend in the spawning stock biomass of spotted seatrout in the Lower Laguna Madre — a trend that runs counter to steadily increasing populations elsewhere on the coast. Of particular concern, TPWD Coastal Fisheries Director Larry McKinney, Ph.D., told commissioners, is that spotted seatrout spawning stock biomass currently is about half what it was at the time of the 1983-1984 freeze.
A greater number of reproducing fish can help stocks recover faster after a catastrophic event such as a severe freeze or red tide algal bloom.
“We’ve had lots of comments in our scoping meetings,” McKinney said. “Of course there are concerns over biological need, but we think the data is very good and compelling. We’ve also had a lot of comments saying five fish is something we can live with.
McKinney said it should be obvious within the first two to three years whether the proposed bag limits are having the desired effect.
The proposal sets the bag limit for spotted seatrout at five for the area south of Marker 21 and the adjacent wellhead channel just inside the south end of the Landcut and includes the Arroyo Colorado, the Brownsville Ship Channel, South Bay and the two Gulf passes to the ends of the jetties at the Port Mansfield channel and Brazos Santiago Pass.
The Gulf beach on Padre Island National Seashore is not included in the area, but any boats fishing in Gulf waters and landing their catches within the boundaries would be subject to the lower bag limits.
In addition to the proposal to lower the bag limit on spotted seatrout in the Lower Laguna Madre, coastal fisheries biologists are seeking public input on several other recommendations, including:
- Increasing the minimum length limit for sheepshead from the current 12 inches to 15 inches, in increments of 1 inch per year. This would, by 2010, allow all retained fish to have reproduced at least once.
- Implementing a “no-take” rule for Diamondback terrapins. The rule would exempt permitted non-game dealers and collectors.
- Raising the minimum size limit on tarpon from 80 inches to 90. The 80-inch minimum was put in place in 2006 to allow for the possibility of a new state record fish to be landed. A 91-inch fish broke the old record in the fall of 2006. Based on the scoping comments, McKinney told commissioners there appears to be a significant amount of support for returning to a purely catch-and-release tarpon fishery. The proposal was modified by the commission to have a zero fish bag limit for tarpon.
- Requiring the use of circle hooks when fishing for red snapper and reducing the minimum size limit for red snapper from 15 to 13 inches.
- Enhancing the ability of Texas enforcement officials to prosecute cases in Texas courts by adding language in the Statewide Hunting and Fishing proclamation mirroring federal rules for the red snapper commercial fishery individual fishing quota (IFQ) program. This will allow state officials to make state cases when the case would otherwise not meet the profile/economic level to warrant federal prosecution. McKinney told commissioners that his staff also will be looking at creating a licensing system that allows party and charter vessels to more easily license fishery participants at the boat. Finally, McKinney said, his staff will continue to work within the federal process of the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council and the National Marine Fisheries Service to create the most flexible management options for Texas — such as separate season/bag limits (as compared to the rest of the Gulf) — that will optimize local benefits.
The proposed proclamation also includes minor changes to “clean-up” current rules, including broadening the definition of what types of boats are prohibited from harassing fish; including language that makes it clear that coastal and salt waters mean the same thing; and exempting offshore aquaculture operators from state bag and size limits as they land cultured fish.
TPWD Inland Fisheries biologists proposed increasing the possession limit for striped bass from 10 to 20 on Lake Texoma. The proposed change would reduce angler confusion with respect to fish landed in Texas.
Inland fisheries biologists also proposed extending by one year the current provision allowing the harvest of catfish by means of lawful archery equipment which includes crossbows. The department is still in the process of evaluating the impact of the regulation on catfish populations.
Public comment about these issues and others of interest may be made to TPWD, Regulatory Proposals Public Comment, 4200 Smith School Road, 78744, by phoning (800) 792-1112 or by visiting www.tpwd.state.tx.us/business/feedback/public_comment.
In addition, a series of public meetings is scheduled across the state during March to take public comment. Following is a calendar of upcoming public meetings. One or more additional hearings will be scheduled for the lower coast to address coastal fishing proposals. Locations and times will be announced soon.
On the Net:
- TPWD Public Meeting Calendar: http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/business/feedback/meetings/statewide_hearings/
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