The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission has approved expanding rules requiring anyone leaving or approaching public waters in 30 counties in Central and North Texas to drain their boats, an attempt to curb invasive zebra mussels, which continue to be found in multiple state lakes.
Anglers and boaters leaving or approaching public water will be required to take reasonable steps to drain water from their vessel, including live wells, bilges, motors and any other receptacles or water intake systems. This applies to all types and sizes of boats or any other vessel used on public waters, according to a news release.
The new rule applies to public waters in Archer, Bastrop, Bell, Bosque, Burnet, Clay, Comal, Comanche, Coryell, Eastland, Ellis, Erath, Falls, Fayette, Freestone, Hamilton, Hays, Henderson (west of Highway 19), Hill, Johnson, Leon, Limestone, Llano, McLennan, Navarro, Robertson, Somervell, Travis, Wichita, and Williamson counties.
Similar rules are in effect for 17 counties in North Texas, including Collin, Cooke, Dallas, Denton, Fannin, Grayson, Hood, Jack, Kaufman, Montague, Palo Pinto, Parker, Rockwall, Stephens, Tarrant, Wise and Young.
The commission’s actions Thursday also modified rules that affect participants in fishing tournaments holding off-site weigh-ins, according to the release. The changes allow anglers participating in a tournament confined to one water body during a single day to transport live fish in water from that water body to an identified weigh-in location, provided water is drained from their vessels before leaving the weigh-in location. Anglers will be required to possess documentation provided by tournament organizers that would identify them as participants.
The rules will take effect in late February or early March.
Anglers are allowed to transport and use commercially purchased live bait in water provided they have a receipt that identifies the source of the bait. Any live bait purchased from a location on or adjacent to a public water body that is transported in water from that water body could only be used as bait on that same water body, according to the release.
Movement from one access point to another on the same lake during the same day does not require drainage and there is an exception for governmental activities and emergencies. Marine sanitary systems are not covered by the new regulations
The alien mussels became established in Texas in Lake Texoma in 2009. During the past two years they have been found in lakes Belton, Bridgeport, Lavon, Lewisville and Ray Roberts. They can expand their range farther by hitching a ride on trailered boats that have been immersed or moored in waters where they have established populations.