Most of my friends are coastal anglers. When we get together we talk about fishing. Where we’ve been fishing, recent catching success, and fishing trips we will be making soon. We actively support CCA Texas and other conservation groups. We don’t think of ourselves as especially senior but our outdoor careers began in the 1960s and 70s. We’ve been around long enough to see many changes in our fisheries.
During an Independence Day gathering we engaged in discussion of the state of Texas’ inshore fisheries. Of course Galveston’s seatrout fishery became a topic. Where are the fish, fishing pressure, angler attitudes, pending regulation changes…and so forth?
A point many seem to overlook is that Mother Nature is in charge and nobody tells her what to do or when to do it. All man can do is react, for the most part. However, we should also strive to be pro-active in fisheries management.
This brings me to population growth in Texas. Thanks largely to a mostly-thriving energy economy since the 1970s, our population has grown like the proverbial bad weed.
The 1970 census declared the population of Texas to be 11.2 million. By 2010 it had grown to 25.3 million. Projections indicate that we will top 30 million in 2020 and could reach 40 million by 2030.
While the population continues to grow, the geographic area of Texas will remain the same. As development along the coast continues to boom, it would be fair to say the coast will actually shrink – at least in its capacity to support healthy estuarine habitat.
So, what about fishing participation? Today, with population pushing toward 30 million; TPWD says they sold 1.2 million saltwater fishing licenses in 2017 but have no data as to how many actually went fishing. US Fish and Wildlife Service reports 800,000 anglers plied Texas saltwater during 2011. Data through 2016 is expected soon.
Do we have to wait for the report or is the handwriting on the wall clear enough?
As the population of Texas rises, I believe the number of saltwater anglers will rise with it. Whether we have 800,000 or 1.2 million anglers today is hardly as important as the fact that we will soon have more. Where will they fish, and will the habitat support additional harvest?
About all we say with certainty is that Mother Nature will remain fickle, our population is growing, coastal fishing will remain popular as long as there are fish to catch, and TPWD will be charged with regulating it.
As anglers, we can sit back and continue to chew the good-old-day fat and wait for Mother Nature to smile again, or we can revise our expectations and pro-actively encourage more conservative regulations from TPWD.
Me and my group will be enjoying occasional fish suppers while practicing way more catch and release. We will urge TPWD to listen to angler concerns about the Galveston fishery and continue to support CCA’s habitat restoration and creation projects.
Our greatest responsibility in this is to conserve what we still have for future generations to enjoy.Take a kid fishing!