Are Galveston Anglers Ready?

The Galveston Bay Complex is truly an amazing body of water. Galveston Bay has always been the most biologically productive of Texas estuaries; thanks to inflow from the Trinity and San Jacinto rivers and excellent communication with the Gulf of Mexico.

Perhaps the most amazing facts about Galveston Bay are that it is also home to the second largest US port in total tonnage and one of the largest petrochemical complexes in the world; not to mention 4.5 million people living within the five counties that surround it.

Galveston is also the busiest of Texas bays in terms of recreational angling effort. A crowded day on any other system could hardly make a scratch in the number of anglers that ply Galveston.

Despite her long-standing reputation for great productivity and excellent fishing, many Galveston anglers are beginning to question whether we may have discovered the limit of the bay’s bounty – especially her seatrout fishery. To understand this, it helps to consider the ecology of the bay and the weather extremes of the most recent decade.

Unlike bays farther south, where estuarine ecology is based largely upon prolific seagrasses; Galveston’s bottom is comprised mostly of mud, with oyster reefs taking the place of seagrass.

In 2008, Hurricane Ike smothered more than eighty-percent of Galveston’s reefs in thick blankets of silt. Naturally, the oysters nearly all died, and much of the beneficial nursery habitat for other species also disappeared.

Then came the wicked drought of 2009-2014. Salinities soared and threatened the recruitment of many estuarine-dependent species – including seatrout.

As if this double-whammy wasn’t enough, three successive spring flood events in 2015, 2016 and 2017 turned nearly all of Galveston and her satellite bays almost totally fresh.

Seatrout can tolerate a wide range of salinities, but they cannot live in fresh water. So, when the salinity does not suit them, they leave. Huge numbers of them took up residence on major reefs in the lower portion of the bay where daily gulf tides provided saltier habitat. Sounds good so far…

But what happened on those reefs has been likened to slaughter by many who witnessed – hundreds of thousands of specks stacked in a small area became the daily target of an armada of fishing boats. Many are convinced the fishery was seriously depleted.

Anglers all across Texas have witnessed firsthand or heard what has been heralded as a huge rebound of the seatrout fishery since the enactment of five-fish limits on the Mid-Coast and Lower Laguna.

Driven by genuine concern for the future of their own fishery, a growing legion of Galveston anglers are now petitioning Texas Parks and Wildlife, seeking more restrictive bag limits for their home waters. A great number of highly-respected fishing guides and seasoned anglers are among them.

But change doesn’t always come easily. TPW will reportedly begin soliciting angler input and may soon conduct scoping meetings to more accurately gauge whether such a change could satisfy a greater segment of the angling community. TPW listens and your participation is highly encouraged.