Texas STAR Tournament 2021 – A Conservation Triumph

Texas STAR Tournament 2021 – A Conservation Triumph

Figure 1: 2021 TPWD Coastal Stocking Totals through mid-September

The 32nd annual STAR is a tribute to YOU, and the righteous pride we all feel as true conservationists. Following the deadly February freeze, CCA Texas had to act fast, all hands on deck, to build a new STAR format to help our impacted species, especially speckled trout. Radical moves were required, right then, to offset the damage done. We knew our passion to fish is strong, but did we have what it takes to catch…and not keep?

The results are in. We are winning! No one anywhere could match the magnificent restraint CCA anglers demonstrated on behalf of our precious resources. You held back, without government intervention in most cases, to give these fish a break, sensing that our combined efforts would sooner accelerate recovery back to the highest saltwater gamefish populations in the country. Coupled with quick action and stepped-up hatchery releases of 4.8 million speckled trout since the freeze, our mutual angling restraint proves yet again the CCA mission statement is solid. We, as CCA members, are indeed dedicated to the conservation of marine life. Kudos to every single one of you. We are headed the right direction, and faster.

As further testament, our first Catch/Clip/Release format was a resounding success. Thanks to your support almost 55,000 folks fished the 2021 STAR Tournament. NEW anglers coming into our sport continues strong. More kids hit the water (Note: a special thanks to parents for ensuring the next wave of future conservationists). Yes, we are aware many would like to see the return of more actual competition versus only tagged-fish catches. As we await results from the TPWD fall gill-net surveys we will determine which species can safely return. It is likely you can expect a 2022 hybrid of this year’s model as these fisheries recover.

Nonetheless, the credit this year goes to you, our members. Since inception, CCA has sought to educate our angling base on both the perils of overfishing and the benefits of marine conservation. YOUR response, in our drastic time of need, is the best there is. No matter what, we are FOR THE FISH.

With over triple the number of tagged fish released, tournament action kept us hopping this year. A record 37 tagged fish were caught with winners capturing more big prizes than ever.

CCA Texas and STAR would like to thank our fine sponsors and the countless volunteers for their hard work and dedication in not only helping to enhance our marine resources but helping these lucky kids with their education.

Coastal Hatcheries Stocking Update Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) Coastal Fisheries Enhancement has been firing on all cylinders this summer, releasing over 23 million speckled trout and red drum into Texas bay systems (see Figure 1 which details the numbers through mid-September). Going into the production season, which typically starts in mid-April, hatcheries received an outpouring of support from groups and individuals such as CCA Texas, West End Anglers, Bayou City Angler and TPWD volunteers. Couple that support with professional biologists and technicians motivated to fulfill their mission; great things are bound to happen.

To top things off, TPWD staff have been taking extra measures to increase stocking locations and recruitment of fingerlings, utilizing vessels to place fingerlings directly into estuaries with optimal conditions for survivability. TPWD staff have stocked fingerlings directly into Big Pasture and Goat Island in East Galveston Bay, and Christmas Bay, Bastrop Bayou, Greens Lake, Nicks Lake and Salt Lake in West Galveston Bay. East Matagorda Bay has seen boat stockings directly adjacent to Brown Cedar Cut, the backside of Redhouse Reef and the southside of the spoil islands near Flounder Cut. And of course, the Laguna Madre Bay systems have seen their fair share of boat stockings in prime seagrass habitat as we highlighted in a video you can find under the news section of the CCA Texas website. September – November are typically great months for trout spawning in the hatcheries, so as TPWD enters the final months of their fingerling production season, you can expect that the trout stockings will substantially increase.

The CCA Texas mission is to conserve, promote and enhance coastal resources for public benefit. We are proud to support TPWD Coastal Fisheries in their efforts to enhance our fisheries - $152,000 in donations to replace pond liners and heat exchangers, seventeen summer internships in 2021 and numerous hours of volunteer service by CCA Texas members – these endeavors affect change, increase output and make a difference for coastal resources. This is who we are, this is what we do. Great job team!

Flounder Season Reminder

Back in May of 2020, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission (TPWC) adopted changes to flounder regulations in efforts to help the struggling population. You may remember that effective September 2020, the minimum size was increased from 14 to 15 inches. At that same May meeting, TPWC voted in favor of a fall closure to allow spawning females to migrate to the Gulf, but they decided not to make that rule effective until 2021, citing consideration of economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. This rule change was likely forgotten by a few anglers, hence this reminder.

Flounder Regulations

Daily Bag: 5 fish

Min Length: 15 inches

Max Length: No limit

Daily bag is 5 fish except Nov 1 - Dec 14 (fishery closed; bag limit = 0).

Possession limit = the daily bag.

The TPWC also directed staff to: 1) move towards real-time reporting of commercial landings to ensure that all flounder landed under a commercial finfish license are reported to the department, and 2) further study a potential slot limit for the fishery to increase spawning biomass. In closing discussions, then Vice-Chairman (now current Chairman) Arch H. “Beaver” Aplin of Lake Jackson provided supportive comments on the continued need to provide some relief to the fishery through the flounder stock enhancement program. Shane Bonnot, CCA Texas Advocacy Director, provided comments to the commission citing concerns for the continued declines and need for action to conserve southern flounder. “CCA Texas appreciates the Commission taking action that considers what is best for the resource while remaining sensitive to the economic impacts that the current pandemic has had on recreational fishing guides, anglers and businesses supportive of the recreational fishing industry,” stated Bonnot. “Over the past 15 years our membership has donated over $1 million to support larval research and flounder stock enhancement. We are committed to continuing efforts that will improve this fishery and provide opportunities for the recreational angler.” You can find our full press release on the regulation changes, our article titled “One Fish, Two Coasts – Same Big Problem” and numerous other flounder resources on the CCA Texas website.  

So, from November 1 through December 14, you can fish for flounder, but you must let them go. Practice catch and release; Let them spawn during this critical part of their journey to the Gulf of Mexico.

CCA & Texas Parks and Wildlife Department 2021 Laguna Madre Spotted Sea Trout Fingerling Release