Are We Being Conservative Enough?

Everett Johnson
Don't worry; this is not a political rant; at least not in the sense of presidential campaign and election politics. I guess it could qualify as fishing politics so of.

What I want to talk about is the state of the Texas mid-coast spotted seatrout fishery. The middle coast got off to a better start this year than it did during the several most recent, no doubt the easing of the drought that has dogged us the past four years has helped some. But I'm here to tell you it didn't last near as long as we (or at least I) had hoped. Fishing reports from a host of qualified recreational anglers and guides bear this out via reports that ran a declining gamut from glowing to dismal as spring turned into summer and now fall.

Nearly everybody is catching "a ton of dinks" and truly solid catching for more than a day or two over the past four months have been the bragging material for only a lucky few recs. Guides that fish hard every day and network closely with associates who fish likewise have been ferreting out pockets of good fish on a more regular basis, but the action has certainly not been enjoyed by all guides who ply these waters. This is clearly evident in their frequent web postings and the fact that they can be seen "staked out" throwing natural bait for reds and black drum.

That "ton of dinks" can in some ways foretell of better days ahead but, trout of twelve to thirteen inches need at least another full year to graduate to "solid" status.

There is nothing really new in this. Even in the days of plenty along the mid-coast, I'm talking 1996 to 2002 here, "solid" trout were always more numerous in spring and early summer than during September and October. TPWD says we can attribute most of this to the number of fish harvested during the summer months. A quick comparison of coastwide spring and fall gill net survey results are actually quite convincing. In most bays the fall nets capture about 40-50% fewer trout. Suffice to say they went somewhere!

So this brings me to my point. Any angler with more than a few seasons under his belt can clearly see what has been happening. Resource managers call it fishing beyond the level of sustainability. To the rest of us it means we are taking more fish than the ecosystems can supply.

Think of it the same as a Mastercard or Visa account. When you spend more than you can pay when the bill arrives, you are charged interest. Pretty soon, if you do not adopt more conservative spending habits and pay down the balance, the card limit is reached and the provider suspends the account. Before you know it your credit score sinks so low that it takes years to rebuild.

Hence the title of this editorial Are we being conservative enough? People often say, "Money is tight," when they cannot afford a new car or a nice vacation.

Right now - I say our mid-coast spotted seatrout fishery is tight and the best way to improve the situation is to conserve what we currently still have.
The regs say we can keep ten but is that conservative enough?