The Last Leg of 2021

John Blaha
The Last Leg of 2021
CCA Texas is committed to oyster restoration efforts along the coast. CCA Texas fully supports TPWD’s efforts to protect these restorations with two-year closures following completion of the projects.

As the calendar turns to the last quarter of 2021, CCA Texas has worked through a year that started with many unknowns and a deep freeze in February. CCA Texas volunteers and staff rolled into 2021 with a renewed sense of purpose to ensure the Texas coastal resources are healthy for future and present generations, and the February freeze only brought more challenges to the table. CCA Texas will always put the health of Texas’s coastal fisheries and ecosystems first, and volunteer committees and leadership stepped up to the challenge. 

STAR and Chapter Tournament Formats  - The STAR Tournament Committee moved methodically and purposefully, and made changes to the tournament that were necessary and immediate. The entire format of the tournament was changed to a tag and release tournament, with the mandatory release of any tagged redfish caught. It was simply a catch, clip and release format that was hugely successful and offered many opportunities for prizes. Sponsors and participants alike enjoyed the new format and saw categories filled with winners and opportunities till the last day. We look forward to a complete wrap-up by the STAR staff in the next issue.

On the chapter level, local chapters took the lead of the STAR Tournament, and all local chapter events moved to a Catch-Photo-Release format for local chapter events. The largest, Babes on the Bay, led the way, and immediately made changes to the annual tournament. After much committee discussion and visiting with tournament directors and App developers, the committee chose to go with the Fishing Chaos App. The committee and participants were up to the challenge, and over 900 lady anglers from Texas to California to Georgia participated in the event once again. The Fishing Chaos App proved to be easy to use and at the same time provided the opportunity for a full catch and release format that still upheld the integrity of the tournament and anglers alike. A lot was learned from the first-time use of the App, and CCA Texas looks forward to continuing to use Fishing Chaos in local chapter tournaments from over 1,000 anglers to as few as 20 teams such as local Guide’s Cup events. The Texas coast and fisheries are used by many charitable and non-charitable fishing tournaments and CCA Texas hopes that many will explore alternative ways to run these events that will offer the minimal impact possible to the resource.

Hatchery Support  - CCA Texas has been a long-time supporter of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s (TPWD) hatchery program, actually since day one. CCA volunteer committees played a big role in the efforts to put hatcheries in place in all facets. This commitment continued, and immediately after the February freeze CCA Texas and TPWD took steps to ensure the hatcheries abilities to increase and ensure productivity at the facilities. Through an electronic vote by the CCA Texas Board of Directors, $152,000 in funding was approved to aid the Sea Center Texas Hatchery in Lake Jackson and the CCA Marine Development Center (CCA MDC) in Flour Bluff to ramp up their production of juvenile speckled trout and redfish. With these funds TPWD biologists at Sea Center Texas will be able to purchase and install liner replacements for three rearing ponds, allowing them to immediately increase fingerling production as some of the ponds were entirely out of commission and the remainder required frequent repair. Additionally, CCA Texas funding will allow replacement of four vital heat exchangers for the speckled trout brood tank systems at the CCA MDC to ensure proper temperature control and allow staff to increase the spawning period and maximize egg production of speckled trout broodstock.

“It was a moment for immediate action to ensure a speedy recovery of all Texas bays and estuaries that were negatively impacted by the coastal freeze,” said Mark Ray, Chairman of CCA Texas. “I am proud that CCA Texas was able to step up quickly in this time of need for our critically important hatchery system, and we will continue to work with TPWD leadership as this effort continues.”

This move for funding cemented the continued support of TPWD Hatcheries to help the speckled trout and redfish rebound as quickly as possible from the devastating effects of the February freeze. This vote showed the ability of CCA Texas to move quickly when needed on key issues that affect Texas’s coastal resources.

Advocacy  - Oysters continue to stay at the forefront of CCA Texas Advocacy efforts.  The 2020/2021 season once again showed that changes to the management of public reefs must be continuously improved in the future to keep the resource sustainable.  The public reefs of Galveston were closed early in the season and the commercial fleet descended on the Coastal Bend. More than 100 boats worked the Aransas and Copano Bay systems daily. These smaller bay systems simply will not be able to continue to be sustainable with this type of continued pressure. CCA Texas, local recreational anglers, and resource managers are concerned about the continued assault on these reef systems and what future may hold. TPWD Coastal Fisheries managers are looking closely at the current processes and matrices that manage these systems, and what can be done to ensure their health for the future. 

TPWD recently posted requests seeking public input on a proposed amendment to temporarily prohibit oyster harvesting for two years from 199 acres of restored oyster reefs. The temporary closures will allow for the planting of oyster cultch to repopulate in those areas and provide enough time for those oysters to reach legal size for harvest. Oyster cultch is the material to which oyster spat (juvenile oysters) attach, creating an oyster reef.

Due to the decline of oyster reefs from overharvesting and other environmental conditions, the 85th Texas Legislature passed House Bill 51 in 2017. This bill included language that required certified oyster dealers return TPWD-approved cultch materials in an amount equal to 30% of the total volume of oysters purchased in the previous license year. A portion of ongoing restoration efforts are a direct result of that legislation.  CCA Texas supports all efforts to protect these restored reefs.

This recent request for input from the community is one of several ways that recreational fishermen can get involved. Other ways are making public comment at TPWD public meetings. TPWD Commissioners recently held their annual August meetings in Austin. The TPWD Commissioner’s meetings typically offer an opportunity for people to make statements to the Commission about their concerns and/or support of anything that has to do with TPWD. This is a great opportunity to make yourself heard to the body that directs the actions of TPWD. Shane Bonnot, CCA Texas Advocacy Director, and members of the Aransas Bay chapter attended the August meeting and expressed their individual concerns regarding the management of the oyster fishery in Aransas and Copano Bays. This opportunity is available to each of us to speak directly to the commissioners with our concerns.

2021 has been a very successful year thus far for CCA Texas. The leadership and staff look forward to a continued strong performance in the last quarter as the many volunteers, members, sponsors, and supporters push toward the goal line. To learn more about CCA Texas and all the happenings visit