Time to Change

John Blaha
Time to Change
Though not affected as badly as trout, redfish also deserve our help. Please consider keeping only what you need for dinner and releasing the rest.

Without a doubt, 2020 marked a year of great change in many ways and that change continues to evolve as we move forward in 2021. It’s hard to believe that it has now been a year since business of all types and sizes were shut down and forced to find new ways to continue operating. These changes were deeply rooted in survival as businesses and organizations across the world invented and employed them in order to remain viable. CCA State Chapters made necessary changes, all while keeping in place the mission to continue their work to ensure our coastal resources remain robust and available to both present and future generations. 

CCA as an organization continued its advocacy and habitat work, and worked closely with local chapters to raise necessary funds to keep the mission moving forward. As we began planning for 2021 with a new hope of moving forward with the hope of moving towards our historic “normal” the freeze of February hit, and hit hard.  As the long days of cold played out, photos and videos of fish kills became the talk of the fishing community. 

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) began their survey process and the Commissioners met on March 25 to review reports from Coastal Fisheries Division field stations and biologists. Ultimately, the upshot of those proceedings was the announcement of emergency fishing regulations that would reduce the daily bag limit of spotted sea trout from five to three, with a “keep” slot of 17- to 23-inches, and no trout retained longer than 23-inches.  This emergency measure was enacted to include all Texas waters south of the JFK Causeway to the Texas-Mexico border and became effective on April 1, for a period of 120 days. It also included an option to extend the time period for 60 additional days. Springtime population surveys via gill net began in April, and the results will continue to tell the story of the damage from the freeze.  The debate among recreational fishermen as to the damage of the freeze is never ending, and while we have seen the damage, there has also been encouraging signs as well.  Bottom line is the resource suffered a damaging freeze and fish kill and it’s time to change.

CCA Texas STAR Tournament Committee and CCA Texas leadership watched the freeze and how it played out in all bay systems very closely.  The committee ultimately took decisive action that changed the format of the tournament to a no-kill, tagged redfish, Catch and Clip tournament.  While the STAR committee continues to hammer out the details, this is setting the standard for other CCA chapter events. 

The Babes on the Bay All Women tournament, hosted by the Aransas Bay Chapter, has switched to a Catch-Photo-Release format in 2021 and will not include spotted sea trout in any bags.  Many chapter events are following this path as well.  These changes by two major tournaments will hopefully change the standard by which many amateur fishing tournaments up and down the coast operate.  Many of these tournaments support worthy causes, but changes are necessary to ensure our coastal fisheries remain healthy.  2020 saw an increase of 25% plus in fishing license sales.  If you follow real estate sales, the real estate market in rural and coastal communities has exploded as people look to leave the crowded cities.  Boat sales continue to exceed all prior years, and people simply want to be on the coast.  With a growing user group and growth of our coastal communities, it’s time to change.

There is still lots to learn about the freeze of February 2021.  As the results continue to evolve and we make adjustments, think about the future and what we want the next generations of our families and friends to be able to experience.  There is certainly great hope because of past management practices that helped create a robust fishery, new attitudes in conservation, and a greater understanding by all about the results of good management and conservation-minded actions.  As we move forward in 2021 and beyond, we should all continue to educate ourselves and one another, and hold ourselves and each other accountable for actions and commitment to make the great coastal resources of Texas even better. 

Be sure to visit www.ccatexas.org and www.startournament.org and follow social media of both for details about ongoing efforts of CCA Texas, and changes and details to the STAR tournament.  CCA has partnered with Shimano and Harte Research Institute to create ReleaSense.  The goal of ReleaSense is to advance the traditional role of anglers as leaders in fisheries conservation.  Simply put; fish today with tomorrow in mind.  Be sure to visit the ReleaSense website (www.releasense.org) and follow them on social media.

Lastly, CCA Texas and its local chapters are back in business!  Be sure to watch your emails and mail for local chapter event details, and how you can get involved.

Conserving Fisheries – CCA Texas and Releasense.org – Get on board!