A New Look and a Chance to Participate in Fisheries Management

Everett Johnson
I do not often use this column to discuss this magazine but, given that our Art and Graphics team dreamed up a new masthead image, I thought I should at least give them credit for the new look we're sporting on the cover. Experts say you have but a few seconds to grab attention on the newsstand and we are hoping it will be a winner. The team has also been busy between the covers with what they assure me is a more professional look and better organization in the layout. I promise the quality of the content has not changed, so don't waste time worrying about that.

Now for fishier business; if you have been reading here for a while you have probably endured my rants and reviews vis--vis the state of the spotted seatrout fishery in mid-coast bays. TPWD Coastal Fisheries' population surveys have identified a twelve year decline in San Antonio Bay and nine years in Aransas Bay. Neighboring West Matagorda and Corpus Christi bays are only slightly better. Ask any speck angler who has plied mid-coast waters for a dozen years or longer and you will likely get an earful. Here lately, fishing has been toughest since the big freezes of the eighties in the eyes of many seasoned anglers.

Well, the managers have been studying the data and a change could be in the works. Coastal Fisheries Division is planning a series of scoping meetings to seek public comment as regards seatrout regulations. There are a limited number of tools managers can employ and these will be explained in their presentations.

Changing bag limits is an obvious tool to promote propagation of the species. A five fish bag limit was enacted in the Lower Laguna Madre back in September 2007 and many anglers will attest to an abundance of eighteen to twenty-four inch fish since the regs took effect fish that were conspicuously absent there for more than a few years prior.

Increasing the minimum legal length would be the quickest boost to spawning biomass but tough to sell to fishermen who perceive the bays to be already brimming with sub-legal specimens they'd be happy to take home and fry. Assuring the fishermen that the population is not growth-stunted as is sometimes seen in smaller freshwater fisheries will not be easy but, suffice to say, none of our bays are currently supporting capacity populations.

According to Robin Riechers, Director of Coastal Fisheries, the intent of the public scoping will be to advise recreational users of the status of the fishery and then seek comment to shape the Division's recovery and management plans. Interestingly, both San Antonio and Aransas Bays have shown record crops of fingerling trout in recent bag seine surveys. Recruiting this year-class to become the backbone of the fishery will be a primary objective.

I would like to encourage all coastal anglers to attend the scoping meetings and participate in the discussion. Meeting venues and schedules will be released soon. This is our fishery and this is our chance to be heard. TPWD is seeking your input and support. Think of the quality of fishing we had ten years ago. Think of future generations of Texans. I will be encouraging a rebuilding plan for our mid-coast seatrout fisheries. It will be up to the resource managers to take us there.

Merry Christmas and great fishing in 2011!