Hunting and Fishing Regulation Changes Proposed

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Enhancing the state's spotted seatrout fishery without restricting current angling opportunity is the objective behind a set of proposed conservation measures being advanced by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

While the recommendations would not affect the current 10 fish daily bag limit or 15-inch minimum size limit for trout, it would cap the maximum legal length limit at 25 inches and establish a boat limit during for-hire outings. Biologists suggest the effectiveness of guides in catching trout makes a restriction of this type a feasible solution since it would have little impact on the average angler, but could have an impact in reducing overall harvest numbers. A boat limit would equal the combined daily bag limit for all customers. Guides could still fish and retain fish.

Also, as part of the proposed rule changes, anglers would still be allowed to retain one trout longer than 25 inches (per day).

The last alteration to spotted seatrout regulations occurred in 1990 when the minimum size limit was increased from 14 to 15 inches. Since then, the angling population along the Texas coast has increased by 19 percent and the number of fishing guides has grown by 300 percent since the early 1980s. The proposed changes are designed to meet the additional needs of this growing segment of resource users, while ensuring a healthy future for the fishery, according to Hal Osburn, TPWD Coastal Fisheries division director.

In addition to the trout proposals, TPWD staff presented recommendations to the Regulations Committee of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission on Jan. 22, about a series of issues that could result in changes to hunting and fishing regulations next fall. Each year, TPWD considers changes in hunting and fishing regulations to achieve resource management objectives and maximize outdoor recreation opportunities.

TPWD will be gathering public input at public meetings during February and March, and the commission will determine the final regulation changes at its April 3 meeting.

In addition to the boat limit bag restrictions for professional guides, which would be applicable for all species caught in Texas freshwater and saltwater, the department is assessing other requirements for guides, including an increase in the guide permit fee from $75 to $200. Saltwater fishing guides would also be required to possess a U.S. Coast Guard proficiency certification as a for-hire captain.

Other proposals being considered by the department include:

  • Several changes related to deer management practices, such as expanding the Managed Lands Deer permit system to include the issuance of permits for mule deer. Specifics of this proposal are still being determined. The agency is also looking at altering wildlife management plan components to replace 'deer census data' with 'deer population data,' which would allow consideration of such habitat indicators as browse surveys and body condition.
  • Increasing the white-tailed deer bag limit in Harris County from three deer, (no more than one buck), to four deer, (no more than two bucks), adding "doe days" to the hunting season and implementing a muzzleloader season. (Also implementing a muzzleloader season in San Jacinto, Trinity and Walker counties).
  • Implementation of a unique number identification system for desert bighorn sheep skulls found in the wild after adoption of the regulation.
  • Closure of pheasant season in Brazoria, Fort Bend, Matagorda, and Wharton counties, where the pheasant population has been minimal in recent years.
  • Lengthening the pheasant season in the Panhandle to 30 days and reducing the bag limit to two cocks per day. Current regulations provide for a 16-day pheasant season in 37 Panhandle counties, with a daily bag limit of three cock pheasants.
  • Closure of the lesser prairie chicken season statewide to conserve populations and provide potential brood stock for Texas and other states currently involved in prairie chicken restoration efforts. Currently, there is a two-day open season for prairie chickens in eight Panhandle counties.
  • Implement a statewide season for Mearn's quail and allow two Mearn's quail a day as part of an aggregate daily bag limit of quail. Mearn's quail are in the western Edwards Plateau and the Trans-Pecos regions. This proposal would be similar to the current rules relating to white-tipped doves, which allow for harvest statewide even though the species rarely occurs outside South Texas.
  • Replacement of the 16-inch minimum length limit with the statewide 14-inch minimum for largemouth bass on Lost Creek Reservoir.
  • Replacement of the 14-18-inch slot limit with the statewide 14-inch minimum for largemouth bass on Lake Waxahachie.
  • Replacement of the 12-inch minimum length limit with the statewide 10-inch minimum for white bass on Lost Creek Reservoir and Lakes Buchanan, Canyon, Conroe, Georgetown, Inks, Limestone, Livingston, Lyndon B. Johnson, Marble Falls, Palestine, Somerville, and Travis Reservoirs, and a section of the Trinity River. Decreasing the minimum length limit to 10 inches would standardize size limits for white bass statewide, which could increase the opportunity for angler harvest and possibly increase utilization of the fishery. The change would also reduce angler confusion and make enforcement easier for TPWD game wardens.
  • Delineation of reservoir boundary for Toledo Bend reservoir.

Public comment about these issues and others of interest may be made at any upcoming public meeting or to TPWD, Attn: Robert Macdonald for wildlife issues, Paul Hammerschmidt for saltwater issues and Ken Kurzawski for freshwater issues, 4200 Smith School Road, 78744, or by phoning 800-792-1112 or by visiting the Web (http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/).