Texas saltwater fisheries roller coaster: three years ago we shoveled snow and our upper coast was pounded by hurricane Rita. Two years ago we had a statewide drought; last year was one of the wettest on record. It is difficult to predict what this year will bring but the relatively mild and dry conditions make angling prospects good for the remainder of the year.
The fishing forecast for the upcoming year was derived from reviewing the coastwide data with additional input from each of the ecosystem biologists along the coast.
- Fishing effort declined 11% from the previous year, most likely due to high fuel costs and a rainy summer. Fuel prices are expected to rise again which may result in fewer fishing trips.
- Total landings decreased 13%, but landings per angler-hour declined only 2%. Less fishing effort will result in fewer landings, but catch per angler-hour should remain steady, if not increase.
- Spotted seatrout landings decreased 5% but angler catch rates increased 8% - not as many anglers but better success rates.
- Red drum landings decreased 24% and angler catch rates declined 13% compared to the previous year's 10-year high catch rate. Last years higher than normal tides were a challenge for the shallow water angler to find reds.
- Gill net surveys show red drum populations remaining at near-record numbers, with fall 2007 catches the second-highest on record.
- Spotted seatrout populations are at near-record numbers, with the spring 2007 catches the highest in six years.
- Flounder landings and abundance are at a record low.
- Some popular boat ramps are still in disrepair from Hurricane Rita.
- Availability of live bait has been unpredictable, so check before heading to this area.
- Red drum anglers should expect successful trips since last year's fall gill net catch rate was the highest since the 2002 season.
- Spotted seatrout abundance is at a near-record high, and 2007 gill net catch rates were near record levels, well above this system's 22-year average.
- Spring gill nets produced the highest spotted seatrout catches in 23 years. Anglers should experience average or better trout and red drum catches for the remainder of 2008.
- Angler landings and TPWD survey nets indicated increase availability of gray snapper. The mild winter may continue to produce larger fish.
- Catches of striped bass have been reported, some near 24" long. The frequency and numbers of striped bass reportedly caught this year is rather unusual.
- The spring black drum run along the Galveston jetties was reported to have average catches of "bull" drum. The bull drum are usually too large to keep but the action can get fast and furious.
- Spotted seatrout catches in spring 2007 gill nets were the highest ever recorded over the past 24-years of sampling. This suggests trout are doing well and could translate into exceptional fishing for spring and summer.
- Summer 2007 was one of the wettest years on record, but the nutrients, sediments and other "goodies" transported into the bay enhanced the overall bay productivity, including bait species.
- A study evaluating four mid-bay reefs produced excellent catches of black drum, Atlantic croaker, spot croaker, spotted seatrout and a variety of sharks. Anglers should target reef areas for these common, fun fishing and good eating fishes. Fishing pressure and success for tripletail continues as well.
- The mild winter should help gray snapper, usually found in ports and near bulkheads.
- Look for another fall "croaker run" near Sargent. Angler surveys and gill net samples suggest good numbers of large Atlantic croaker and spot croaker.
- Spring 2007 gill net catches of spotted seatrout set an all time record high and was mirrored by some of the highest recreational trout catches over the past 6 years.
- Recreational landings of red drum have been increasing since the devastating 1989-90 freezes. Gill nets continue to produce some of the highest red drum catches along the Texas coast.
- The extensive rainfall in 2007 caused the entire bay to be much fresher than normal during the summer. This condition has abated and salinities have climbed to slightly above long-term averages in early 2008.
- Spring gill net catch rates for seatrout were down in 2007 continuing a recent trend. The cause of this trend is unclear, but biologists are watching it closely. The climbing salinities this year should present improved trout angling opportunities.
- The 2007 red drum gill net catch rate fell off the record high of 2006. Despite this, the trend is still upward. Angler success rates for red drum have been increasing in recent years and remain at near record highs.
- San Antonio Bay netting and angler surveys indicate an upward trend in southern flounder populations, opposite of the coastwide trends.
- Don't overlook the great catching and good table fare of other common fishes caught in San Antonio Bay: black drum, sheepshead, gafftopsail catfish, gray snapper, and, finally, the blue catfish, a freshwater resident that ventures into the upper bay areas.
- This fishing season marks the third year of the seagrass protection regulation within the Redfish Bay State Scientific Area (RBSSA). Anglers are reminded that access is allowed throughout the RBSSA; uprooting of seagrass is against the law. Hint for boaters: Lift, Drift, Pole or Troll in seagrass meadows.
- Spotted seatrout abundance exhibited a sharp increase in last spring's gill net surveys from the low seen in 2006 and anglers should see increased catches this spring and summer.
- Red drum abundance remains above the coastwide average and increased during last fall's gill net surveys. Anglers should benefit from this increase availability.
- The mild winter allowed many forage species to remain abundant throughout Aransas Bay. White shrimp were caught throughout the winter providing an excellent forage base for game fish.
- The catch rate for spotted seatrout in spring gill nets remained high in Corpus Christi Bay. Overall, the population of seatrout is up and anglers should expect good catches.
- The gill net catch rate for red drum was the highest since 2000 and third highest recorded for the bay. The fish are abundant, and if the weather cooperates, fishing for red drum should be outstanding!
- The catch rate of southern flounder in gill nets was the highest it has been in three years but overall the population of flounder remains low. Angler catches of flounder will likely remain low.
- The gill net catches of sheepshead are typically much higher than the coastwide average and are expected to remain so.
- The trend of larger angler catches of gray snapper should continue.
Upper Laguna Madre
- Spotted seatrout landings generally increased between 1990 and 2006. Fish over 24" made up about 18% of seatrout caught in last spring's gill nets, about the same percent as last year.
- Fall gill net catch rates for red drum was the second highest recorded since 1984. Reds are as abundant as spotted seatrout but are not harvested or targeted at the same rate as trout.
- Black drum are extremely abundant with gill net catch rates 4 or 5 times those observed for spotted seatrout or red drum.
- Large snook, spotted seatrout, red drum, Spanish mackerel, some tarpon, and occasional king mackerel were landed from the Packery Channel jetties last spring and summer.
- Sporadic brown tide has not adversely affected fish populations. Large noisy lures, rattling bobbers, and natural baits are very effective at producing fish in brown-tide stained water.
Lower Laguna Madre
- While harvest of red drum by anglers was down slightly in 2007, TPWD gill net catch rates were at near record highs. Therefore, anglers targeting red drum should expect excellent catches in 2008.
- Recreational landings for spotted seatrout last year were at their lowest since 1990. Anglers can expect catches to improve and good numbers of smaller spotted seatrout (15 17 inches) can still be caught, despite the new bag limit.
- Reports indicate that snook, tarpon, and gray snapper catches were excellent in 2007, and this year's mild winter should improve the fishing for these species.