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Is it time to lower the limit on speckled trout?

April 30th, 2018

blumentrout Is it time to lower the limit on speckled trout?

Speckled trout. Photo by Garrett Blumenshine.

By Capt. Joe Kent

Almost every time the subject of lowering the number of fish anglers can retain crops up, a controversy arises that seems to draw a line in the sand.

Part of the problem is that there remain a large number of anglers who grew up fishing under no size or bag limits for saltwater fish.  Fifty years ago anyone would have been laughed at if they suggested placing a limit on the number of fish an individual could keep, let alone place any size restrictions on the catches.

After all, there was an endless supply of finfish and shellfish swimming the coastal waters and there was no way fishermen could even dent the populations.

Unfortunately, it did not take long to prove otherwise, as freeze events and overfishing by both commercial and recreational anglers began taking their toll on our stocks of trout, redfish and flounder.

Toward the end of the 1970s, when the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) was compelled to take action, the bag and size limits imposed were met with resistance by many in the fishing community.

That mentality continues to exist and was noticeable as recently as seven years ago when the TPWD held public hearings soliciting comments and opinions from anyone affected by any change in the bag limits for trout.

One meeting that was held at the TPWD Dickinson Lab almost got out of hand, as guides, marina operators and others were quite vocal in their opposition to any reduction in the number of trout allowed.

While the TPWD passed on the concerns expressed for the upper Texas Coast, they did recommend and had approved by the commissioners a reduction from 10 to five trout for anglers fishing the lower and middle coasts.

As an outdoor writer and columnist, I have been noticing an increasing number of sportsmen, including fishing guides and others with commercial interests in fishing, supporting a change in the rules.

Many of those same individuals were among the loud protesters at the hearings mentioned earlier.

I asked several of those I personally know what brought about their change of attitude?  Universally, they said that it was concern over the long-term survival of our stocks of trout.

One well-known fishing guide pointed out that the problem was of an environmental nature and that while recreational fishermen had a minimal impact, the solution required sacrifices on all ends.  There is not much individuals can do about devastating floods or severe droughts; however, they can do their part as stewards of our wildlife resources.

Each year there are increasing numbers of anglers fishing the Galveston Bay Complex and we are at the point that our resources of trout and other fish just cannot handle all of the added pressure.

At this point trout appear to be the only finfish about which there are concerns.  Reds have a three-fish slot limit and seem to be thriving well around the Galveston Bay Complex.

Several years ago the bag limit for flounder during the majority of the year was reduced from 10 to five and all indications are that the stocks are rebounding well following that change.

While anglers have a voice in the matter, the answers are going to have to come from the TPWD.  If the parties are in agreement, the process should be fairly easy to get initiated. The legislative procedures will begin to get the regulatory changes into law.

Thoughts on the call for a trout limit reduction

April 30th, 2018

By Capt. David C. Dillman

galvestonbaycharterfishing.com | 832-228-8012

dillman fishing Thoughts on the call for a trout limit reduction

Mickey and Pat Carr

Galveston Bay is the seventh largest estuary in the United States. The surface area of the bay is 600 square miles with a average depth of ten feet. The bay complex has survived floods, freezes and pollution and still continues to thrive. Changes to the bay have occurred ever since “Moby Dick was a minnow.”

In the past few years, the bay system has seen its share of droughts and floods. Ever resilient, the bay system rebounds and so does the fishery. No matter what “Mother Nature” throws at it, the bay system rebounds. This resiliency is what makes Galveston Bay such a great fishery.

There has been a recent increase in calls for a reduction in the bag limit for speckled trout. The influx of freshwater into our bay system over the past two years has made trout easy targets for some. A situation known as a “stack up” of these fish occurred in the bay and many trout were taken by anglers in the know, many of them being charter boats. Fearing another “stack up” situation this year from the recent rains and runoff this April, some anglers and charter boat captains are calling for a reduced limit of trout. The current limit is ten fish per angler and on charter boats the captains limit is excluded. A five fish limit is what this group is seeking.

dillman fishing2 Thoughts on the call for a trout limit reduction

Dick Daugird with grandkids Wade and Walker Winters.

A article that was in the Houston Chronicle dated April 4, 2018 deemed our fishery “fine and dandy” according to Glen Sutton of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. So why are some anglers and charter boat captains “beating their drum” for a reduced limit? Some of this group believes the trout population has suffered over the past couple years due to them being stacked up in one area for a few weeks. I do believe they became easy prey for some anglers, most of them on chartered boats. The question becomes, what type of conservation should be in place to protect our trout fishery?

Fact is, the average angler seldom, if ever, catches a ten fish limit of trout. They just want to go out and enjoy their fishing experience with the hope of catching a ten fish limit one day. Anglers on charter boats go out with the expectation of catching their trout limit. The captain, as the law is written, can contribute to the boat limit of speckled trout. I think we all can agree there is an abundance of charter boats on Galveston Bay. These same charter boats take a majority of trout from the bay system. So maybe we need to find a way to reduce the catches of trout on chartered boats. I know good and well that a captain fishing along with their customer catches and retains an unequal amount of trout most of the time. This ensures the captain of a quick day and full limits for the boat.

What I would propose, is that a captain CANNOT retain any fish on a chartered trip. They can fish, but with no retention or “boxing” of fish. After all, I feel the customers should be the ones catching their own fish to take home, not the boat captain.

I feel no one user group should dictate what the fish limits should be unless it is agreed upon by the majority of fishing license holders or TPWD officials and biologists.