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.
— Will Leschper (@TXOutdoorDigest) September 8, 2013
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.
— Will Leschper (@TXOutdoorDigest) August 24, 2013