In my April column I discussed the ecology of Galveston Bay and the current state of the spotted seatrout fishery there. I mentioned that a growing number of fishing guides and recreational anglers have been registering concern with TPWD over what they perceive to be a decline in that fishery. Simply catching trout, they say, has not been a problem; there’s lots of small ones. It’s the scarcity of three- to four-pounders, so historically abundant in Galveston Bay, that has them alarmed.
Spotted seatrout have a known affinity for staging on deep, cooler structure during summer. They are also known to vacate any region of an estuary when fresh water inflows reduce the salinity of otherwise good habitat. Putting the two together, it should be no surprise that the deep reefs and spoil banks in lower Galveston Bay became incredible hotspots during the summers of 2015, 2016 and 2017, when floods drove salinity to near zero in upper parts of the bay.
Stack-ups of this type are normal but the stack-ups that occurred in the years mentioned exceeded everything Galveston anglers had ever seen. And with that came three phenomenal summers of catching.
TPWD-Coastal Fisheries Division conducts a variety of sampling efforts to quantify the abundance of spotted seatrout in all life stages, from fingerlings to mature adults. The data obtained steers regulatory changes to insure sustainability of the fishery. Basically – TPWD cannot control natural events – but as a fishery is seen to rise or decline they can enact regulatory measures accordingly. Sustainability is the key word.
TPWD is also ever-vigilant to angler satisfaction and expectations. If you have participated in a dockside Creel Survey, you have been asked questions pertaining to not only your day’s catch, but also your county of residence, the number of hours you fished during the outing, type of bait used…and finally your degree of satisfaction with the experience.
So, what it all boils down to, is that TPWD manages the fishery through science-based sampling exercises, and also with a view toward enhancing angler satisfaction. They want us to go fishing, and they want us to catch fish!
To better understand the angler satisfaction and expectations side of things, TPWD recently conducted random mailings of survey forms to licensed saltwater anglers whose address indicated residence within the region of Galveston Bay. Recipients are encouraged to respond honestly and fairly. While some may opine that the average angler is no source upon which to base regulatory measures, it is very encouraging to me that TPWD is at least interested to learn what anglers want and expect from their fishery.July is a great month for fishing the Texas coast. I heartily encourage that all coastal anglers register for the CCA Texas STAR Tournament, including the kids. Simply being a CCA member does not automatically make you eligible to win. A new Ford F-150, boat, motor, trailer package in the Tagged Redfish Division or a college scholarship for the kiddos would be a terrible thing to let slip away.