As we move into 2020 and our minds begin shifting from deer and duck blinds to coastal fishing, it is a good time for each of us to sit and think; “What would make me a better steward of the wonderful coastal resources that the Texas coast has to offer?”
As saltwater enthusiasts, opportunities are plentiful up and down the entire Texas coast. As the population along the coast and the number of families that travel to the coast continue to grow at a rapid pace, we must put our best foot forward to continue to educate ourselves and fellow users of the importance of conservation. We must all put our best foot forward to individually do all we can to insure sustainable resources for the future.
The populations of speckled trout and redfish are doing well according to recent resource surveys by Coastal Fisheries Division of Texas Parks Wildlife Department (TPWD). This is great news for recreational fisherman, but as the number of fish stocks appears to be in good shape we must keep a constant vigil to make sure we sustain these valuable resources. Speckled trout regulations are now consistent along the entire coast, and flounder are now getting a very close look by the TPWD Commission, with potential regulation changes on the way. While significant changes have been made to the flounder fishery regulations in the recent past, the continued average downward trend indicates more changes may be necessary.
Texas’ estuaries seem to be under constant attacks from continued coastal development, and the continuous loss of vital freshwater inflows to the bays. This is due to many factors; prolonged drought in some areas, rapidly growing populations all across the state, and constantly expanding industrial and agricultural needs. In addition to the growth of our coastal-area towns, the number of recreational fishermen is expected to continue climbing, and the primary charge we have as stewards of the resource is to instill a conservation ethic into future fishermen as well as our current fishing buddies. This conservation ethic can come in many forms including keeping only the fish we need, picking up trash while navigating the bays and disposing of it properly, working with a conservation organization to improve coastal resources fundraising efforts for projects and management initiatives, and educating young and old about the importance of respect for the resource.
TPWD, Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Program (CBBEP), Galveston Bay Foundation (GBF), CCA Texas and other like organizations offer many ways to instill a stewardship mentality into the general fishing population and at the same time sharpen that of those that are already active conservationists. All of these organizations offer many educational opportunities in not only literature but also hands-on experiences such as hatchery tours, volunteer grass plantings, fishery surveys, beach cleanups and much more. Non-profit groups such as CCA Texas are always looking for new volunteers to work with local chapters in the day-to-day operations of the chapters and the fundraising process for the organization. The fundraising process provides the necessary funds to help advocate proper fisheries and habitat management, provide invaluable college education funds for future marine biologists, ensure research is current and cutting edge, provide state-of-the-art equipment for local game wardens, and much more. CCA Texas is proud to help provide these important dollars and to work with other organizations in the fight to ensure the coast for future generations.
In the end, conservation and stewardship is so much more than not keeping all the fish you can keep in a day. It is teaching our families, friends and peers to care for a resource that has been given to us and why we have to take care of it now for the future. Many of us fall into the routine of fishing with our buddies, staying on the always elusive trophy fish hunt, or fulfilling that internal competitive fire by fishing every tournament we can. Take some time to get your kids and family on the water and let the beauty of the coastal resource soak in. You never know what you might see or learn that you have routinely overlooked. Education and individual action is the key to the future and if it’s overlooked our resources will decline, our efforts will be lost, and we stand the chance to become overly regulated in the use of our resources.
In closing, take a moment to think about the last time you were on the water and what you could have done differently. Could you have picked up a floating plastic bag that you just ran by, maybe explained to your fishing partners why the marsh they were fishing is so important, pointed out the importance of shallow seagrass beds to a companion new to the area, taken a few minutes to inform the local game wardens or Coastal Fisheries biologists of any unusual activity you may have seen, or maybe only kept a couple of fish for dinner instead of boxing a full limit.For more information about CCA Texas and how you can get involved, please visit www.ccatexas.org or email to [email protected]