“What’s so great about saltwater fishing in Texas?”

Everett Johnson
That was a question posed by a guy who handles the media relations for a large East Coast tackle company. As you might imagine I wasted no time in reply, and with just a touch of Texas pride.

"To begin," I said, "Unlike many coastal states, Texas offers a year-round fishery for all the popular inshore species and excellent year-round offshore fishing as well, everything from snapper, kings and ling, to billfish. Thanks to excellent management and huge buy-in from recreational fishermen, Texas is known as the birthplace of modern marine conservation and marine fisheries management. We're so good everybody follows us!"

What other state offers a 62-mile stretch of unspoiled and undeveloped beach where surf anglers can still drive and fish as we do on Padre Island National Seashore?

What other state has so many square miles of bays with such diverse habitat beginning with Sabine's river mouth estuary and extending to the Laguna Madre's hyper-saline lagoons.

Name a state (other than Florida) that has one million saltwater anglers and a sportfishing industry that generates more than $2.2 billion annually. And, (here's the kicker) offers enough inshore water and prime habitat where anglers can still fish with barely another boat in sight. We are very lucky to have shorelines dotted with cattle and cactus, not houses, hotels and condominiums.

Most sources declare the Texas coastline to be approximately 370 miles in length. However, if you were to measure every bay, all its surrounding marsh habitat and barrier island shoreline, that number would likely be quadrupled and, with but a few exceptions, it's all public access.

Of course I had to throw in TPWD's Marine Fisheries Stock Enhancement Program; three hatcheries that contribute in the neighborhood of twenty-five million red drum and five million spotted seatrout fingerlings each year to boost already robust natural recruitment. Then I explained the work being done to build a southern flounder stocking program. Next, I laid it on about the CCA Texas Laboratory for Marine Larviculture at UTMSI in Port Aransas and the various marine biology programs and resources at Texas A&M and Harte Institute.

Sustainable marine fisheries, I explained, includes estuary and bay ecology, and that's where maintaining freshwater inflow comes in. In 2007 the Texas legislature passed Senate Bill 3 creating the current environmental flows process and the Environmental Flows Advisory Groups.

Saltwater fishing in Texas is more popular than ever and growing faster than in any coastal state in the country; so says the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and American Sportfishing Association. How is this possible? Three things according to Dr. Larry McKinney of Harte Institute: a generally robust and stable economy, a rapidly growing population, and last but not least, excellent fishing opportunity.

So when I finally came up for air, the guy says, "Wow, you guys really do have a lot going on over thereand here I thought all that came out of Texas was a bunch of hot air."

I just chuckled. I might not have been born here but I've been learning since the day I arrived.

Here's wishing all a safe and happy Fourth of July. Take some kids fishing; they are the reason we practice conservation.