Public Meetings Expected in January Regarding Proposed Changes in Spotted Seatrout Regulations

Shane Bonnot – Advocacy Director – CCA Texas
Public Meetings Expected in January Regarding Proposed Changes in Spotted Seatrout Regulations

Figure 1: Texas Parks and Wildlife Scoping and Survey Results on Trout Fishery.

As you may recall, Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPWD) conducted public scoping meetings in October to gather input from stakeholders and constituents concerning spotted seatrout management options. The meetings were held in Port Arthur, Texas City, Port Lavaca, Rockport, Corpus Christi and Port Isabel. A total of 275 comments were received at these meetings and via email. Additionally, on behalf of TPWD, Texas A&M University conducted a randomized email survey with over 10,000 saltwater anglers and 1,000 fishing guides, receiving 1,584 responses (see Figure 1 below).

After the scoping meetings, TPWD staff presented fisheries data and public responses to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission (TPWC) at their November 2023 meeting. Subsequently, the TPWC discussed options for the fishery moving forward. If you’d like to view the work session on this agenda item, you can scan the QR Code provided below and scroll the timeline forward to 6:27:43. Observing the linked video, you'll notice a significant amount of concern expressed regarding the effects of the 2021 freeze, elevated pressure on the resource, and the overall trajectory of the fishery. Most notably, for the past 3 years, spring gill net catch rates in the Matagorda and San Antonio Bay Systems have experienced ≥30% declines from the previous 10-yr mean. After much discussion, the TPWC directed staff to publish a proposal to modify the coast-wide bag and size limit on speckled trout to a 3-fish bag limit with a 15-20-inch slot size and allowance of one fish over 25-inches to be part of the 3-fish bag. This proposed regulation change would provide the fishery with an estimated 26.7% increase in spawning stock biomass over the lifetime of a trout (7-8yrs), with the goal of recovering the fishery from recent declines and enhancing the fishery’s readiness to face specific challenges.

You can expect TPWD to hold public meetings along the coast to gather comments on this proposal, likely in the second week of January. Additionally, once the proposal is published, TPWD will accept comments online through their public comment portal and via email. CCA Texas will communicate the details of these meetings, opportunities for public input, and our position on this proposal after it is published. If you care to speak directly to the TPWC regarding this proposal, you may do so on January 25, 2024, in Austin at their scheduled meeting.

As we approach this opportunity to shape the future of the speckled trout fishery, it is important to keep a few things in mind.

  • From 2013 to 2023, All-water Guide License sales have increased by 62%, from 1,060 to 1,720.
  • From 2013 to 2023, Saltwater License sales have increased from 1.2M to 1.4M.
  • The Texas population has increased by nearly 4M people since 2013 and is expected to reach 55M people by 2025.
  • 2023 Spring Gill Net data shows that nearly every bay system is seeing recent declines in catch rates, with Matagorda and San Antonio Bays at an alarming 32% and 34% decrease from the previous 10-year average.

It is imperative that the angling public participate in this upcoming opportunity to have their voices heard, and as you do so ask yourself this question: Do you want the speckled trout fishery managed with a vision for the future or would you prefer the tides of circumstance to carry this fishery into uncharted waters?

Questions or Comments? Feel free to email me at [email protected]

 If you’d like to view the TPWC  November 2023 work session on spotted seatrout regulation discussion, you can scan this QR Code and scroll the timeline forward to 6:27:43

CCA Texas Funds Another $154,606 for Conservation Efforts in November Meeting

CCA Texas continued funding conservation efforts in 2023 by funding an additional $154,606 at its November Executive Board meeting.  This brings total funding for conservation in 2023 to $5,854,606 to habitat projects, research, and equipment for TPWD Coastal Fisheries and Law Enforcement.

$110,500 – TPWD Coastal Fisheries Internships

CCA Texas continued its longstanding support of TPWD Coastal Fisheries interns by funding 17 interns for the 2024 year.  These internships include eight fisheries management team positions, one each in Lower Laguna Madre, Corpus Christi Bay, Aransas Bay, San Antonio Bay, Matagorda Bay, Galveston Bay, and Sabine Lake ecosystem offices.  Additionally four ecosystem resources team positions; one each in Corpus Christi and Dickinson, and two to be determined.  One genetic research team position is funded in Palacios and four hatchery technicians, two each at Sea Center Texas and CCA/CP Marine Development Center.

$15,600 – TPWD Summer Game Warden Interns

TPWD Game Wardens are the front line to the protection of Texas’s coastal resources.  CCA Texas proudly continues its support of the TPWD Summer Game Warden Interns and has funded $15,600 that will be used to place six interns in the TPWD Game Wardens Summer Intern program.

$28,506 – TPWD Game Warden Upper Coast Boat Motor and Night Vision

CCA Texas continues to support the efforts to conserve the oyster resources of Texas.  Recent funding was approved that will fund $21,000 to the upper Texas coast game wardens to purchase a new 250 HP Suzuki outboard motor and $7,506 for the purchase of night vision googles and the helmets and mounts for them.  This equipment is critical in their continuous enforcement efforts and especially those under the cover of darkness when some of the most egregious violations take place.

CCA Texas looks forward to a successful 2024 and shares in the excitement of the local chapters as they all collectively make a difference in the conservation of Texas’s coastal resources.