Welcome to 2022!

Happy New Year! Here’s hoping 2022 proves friendlier to the Texas fishing community than its predecessor.

The biggest topic right now in Texas fishing is the likelihood of temporary speckled trout regulations coming soon. I use the term temporary with respect to the fact that the proposal presented recently by Coastal Fisheries Division to the TPWD commissioners includes a sunset provision, after which trout regulations will revert to the current five fish bag limit.

In a nutshell: In effort to further boost spawning biomass, bag limits would be reduced to 3 trout per day with a slot limit of 17- to 23-inches. No fish greater than 23-inches retained. The proposed regulatory changes would become effective sometime in spring 2022 and expire August 31, 2023.

If this looks familiar, it should. The proposed changes are the same as those enacted for 180 days in the Laguna Madre in 2021, and for the same reason. For those who say, “TPWD only takes away and never gives back,” please go back and read the sunset provision… the proposed regulatory changes will expire August 31, 2023. If approved by the commission, the new regulations would again apply to the Laguna Madre, and extend northward to include East Matagorda.

Coastal Fisheries Division staff will be conducting scoping meetings in January to explain the proposals and seek public input. For any unable to attend in-person, opportunity to voice opinion will be available electronically via portal at www.tpwd.texas.gov.

Moving on, another situation of increasing concern to Texas anglers is the growing commercial oyster harvest in Middle Coast bays. For decades, the Galveston Bay System was the greatest source of oysters in Texas, and the majority of commercial oystering effort. Hurricane Ike back in 2008 changed all that as Galveston’s oyster reefs were blanketed with heavy layers of silt and 80% of the producing reefs died.

Since then there has been a tremendous shift of effort toward Middle Coast bays where oyster reefs continued to thrive. The resulting harvest pressure in Matagorda, San Antonio, and parts of the Aransas complex became enormous and unprecedented. It is the opinion of many recreational anglers and a long list of NGOs that over-harvest has been occurring in recent years, to the extent that many reefs are endangered beyond natural recovery.

TPWD is seeking a solution to this problem but the issue is very complex with no easy fix available. For more information I encourage readers to check CCA’s Conservation Section on page 40 of this issue.

 I encourage everyone to get on the water, practice C&R on speckled trout, and please…Take a Kid Fishing!  

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