Texas speckled trout bag limit lowered to five along coast

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Texas hunting and fishing licenses expire Aug. 31 with the exception of year-to-date licenses.
An angler with a speckled trout caught near Aransas Pass.

The Texas Parks & Wildlife Commission on Thursday in Austin voted to adopt rules extending a five-fish daily bag limit for speckled trout in effect in the Lower Laguna Madre up the coast through the Highway 457 bridge near Sargent with a five-year sunset date.

The commission modified an original proposal to change the possession limit on speckled trout in the affected area to twice the daily bag limit.

In other changes to saltwater fishing regulations, the Commission extended the two flounder per day bag limit restrictions in effect for November into the first two weeks of December. During December harvest would be allowed by any legal means.

The changes take effect Sept. 1.

As part of their ongoing research, TPWD officials previously projected the reductions in speckled trout harvest expected as a result of changing the daily trout limit from 10 fish to five, and those figures show some interesting trends. This especially is true in regards to guided fishing pursuits in some notable Coastal Bend bay systems.

Aransas Bay would see a 9 percent harvest reduction during non-guided trips and a 13 percent reduction from guided trips, according to TPWD projections, while Corpus Christi Bay would see a 3 percent harvest reduction during non-guided trips and a 27 percent reduction from guided trips. The Upper Laguna Madre seemingly would benefit the most from a bag limit change, with a 14 percent harvest reduction during non-guided trips and a 30 percent reduction from guided trips, according to department data.

Coastwide, the halving of the daily bag limit would elicit a 12 percent reduction during non-guided trips and a 22 percent reduction from guided trips.

According to more data gleaned on the Lower Laguna Madre by TPWD officials, non-guided anglers on average return from a day of fishing with about two trout. Meanwhile, anglers who pay to utilize the services and know-how of fishing guides typically bring home an average of more than twice that. It’s clear that when you fish with someone who spends lots of time on the water you’ll have a bigger impact on the trout population.

In 2007, the TPWD Commission voted to lower the bag and possession limit in the Lower Laguna Madre below Marker 21 in the Landcut to five fish as a result of a downward trend in spawning-age specks, something that ran counter to the increasing populations on the rest of the coast as a whole.

Mark Lingo, TPWD Lower Laguna Madre ecosystem leader, has said that the decrease in the trout limit hasn’t elicited an increase in numbers either in angler harvest or in TPWD gear, but he said he has observed a significant increase in size of specks there. In that regard, it would seem that a standard bag limit would be a good thing.

Kyle Spiller, former TPWD Upper Laguna Madre ecosystem leader, previously noted that fish-killing freezes in the 1980s and a subsequent increase in minimum size limits and a decrease in the bag limit afterward showed that an alteration in regulations can help a fishery recover not just from those types of events but also from overfishing.

Fishing pressure only continues to increase on the Texas coast, which likely fuels most of the worry among concerned biologists and anglers. Hal Osburn, then coastal fisheries division director, noted at a 2003 TPWD Commission meeting that the state had seen about a 300 percent growth in guides from two decades prior and those guides accounted for about 40 percent of the million trout annual harvest. He also noted that the ratio of trout larger than 25 inches was declining.

Subsequently, the department would go on to implement a 15- to 25-inch slot with anglers only allowed to keep one oversize fish per day while guides were prohibited from keeping their limits on paying trips.

5 COMMENTS

  1. I think the new rules are a good idea for the coast. I know a lot of anglers wont be happy because of the size and possession limits keep decreasing. But it’s what we have to do to keep our waters full of healthy game fish. We also need to put heavy regulations on people that ruin our waters with oil as this is affecting the population more than Billy with his 3 rods fishing from the bank. I’m all for bigger and more trout! 😉 Great post and thanks for keeping us informed.

  2. Well if the average catch unguided it two fish and guided is four I don’t see how this regulation change will do a bit of good. I practice catch and release mostly and often catch allot more than the average person, as stated here. I exclusively use artificial and the fish I release are handled gently and released alive as soon as possible, other anglers use live or cut bait and often they also use treble hooks that get swallowed so even if the fish is released there is a high percentage of death. I catch my fair share of large fish and more than my fair share in numbers but only keep around 30 fish per year, In my opinion this regulation is geared towards false information and will be of absolutely no benefit to the current Speckled Trout population or size.

  3. Sounds good to me , but who’s gonna enforce it? I see people all over my area breaking EVERY law this state has for specks & reds. You can make all the laws you want, but there’s nobody to enforce them. I’ve seen a picture of 3 guys in a skiff last year that gigged 113 flounder in 9 hours. I see people out here in the Seabrook , Tx area catching 30-40 specks on a stringer. More than half undersized too. Such a shame. I’ve witnessed on several occasions a group of Hispanics at Pine Gully Park pier in Seabrook catching and keeping multiple reds between 10-14″. EVERY WEEKEND !!!! They’ll line up 12 -15 poles at the end of the pier and keep EVERY single fish they catch. % or 6 of the guys are also using cast nets to catch tons of fish and there’s a sign posted that clearly says in English and Spanish…NO CAST NETS or ALCOHOL. !!! Every day I jog the pier and see them out there breaking EVERY law against specks/reds. The city cops don’t care, TPWD doesn’t EVER patrol, so why should the Hispanics. So to reiterate, make all the laws you want…there worthless. Poor fish 🙁

  4. Those averages are probably for year round. TPWD should be limiting the number of guides and tournaments instead of penalizing the average Joe fisherman. All this is going to do is hurt the redfish population because everyone will be fishing harder to get their 3 reds per day

  5. I just don’t understand why the limits were cut in half. Why not reduce to 7 trout per day? Also why not increase the redfish limits to 4/day and lower the slot to 18-27″ I fish the Matagadora bay system and there is plenty of trout in there, if you know how to catch them, which is why the survey shows guides fare much better. Now a fish I do have trouble catching is the croaker. I used to love to catch and eat them, but they are disappearing. So why aren’t they protected? TP&W has limits on drum, sheephead, gafftop and even mullet, but not croaker. Is TP&W/CCA being paid off? The way I see it, if you make croaker a game fish, you’ll see an increase in both croaker and speckled trout…. One more thing, most tournaments have almost zero effect on trout. The bigger tournaments only allow 3 trout per team, and alive.

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