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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.

Hot Weather, Hot Galveston Fishing

July 4th, 2016

spectacular trout reds Hot Weather, Hot Galveston FishingBy Capt. David Dillman

Spec-tacular Trout Adventures | 832-228-8012

The dog days of Summer are upon us along the Upper Coast. July and August are the warmest months of the year. Typically, winds are light and the temperatures can climb toward the 100 degree mark. Galveston fishing can be just as hot, but heat related health problems are a concern. I have personally suffered problems from the heat of our Texas summer. It should not be taken lightly.

Here are a few tips I can offer to combat heat related illness. Prevention is the key!

  1. Wear light colored and loose fitting clothing. I prefer lightweight 100 percent cotton clothing.
  2. Keep hydrated. Drink lots of water. Sport drinks are fine such as Gatorade, Powerade, etc…but always follow the 2:1 rule. One sports drink then 2 bottles of water.
  3. Avoid energy drinks, soda and alcohol. These drinks dehydrate you!
  4. If you find yourself not sweating, this is a serious sign of heat exhaustion. Seek a cool shaded area immediately. Slowly start to consume cool water. Something cool can be applied to the neck area. If symptoms worsen, seek medical attention.

On the fishing side, July and August are excellent months to catch speckled trout. As I type, Galveston Bay had its second influx of fresh water this year. The Trinity and San Jacinto Rivers both released lots of water downstream. Hopefully we have seen the last of the torrential rains this year. During July/August deep water structure will be the key to locating schools of Speckled Trout. The oyster reefs along the channel from markers 52-62 will yield good catches of trout. The adjacent gas wells known as the “Exxon A-Lease” will hold fish. These wells produce nice catches every year during this period.

As we move towards the second week of August, Trinity Bay should start seeing improved catches coming from the numerous wells and deep water shell reefs. The fishing in Trinity has been almost non-existent since the April floods.

Eagle Point Fishing Camp provides easy access to the channel, wells and Trinity Bay. With ample parking, a three lane boat ramp, fuel and live bait, they provide all that anglers need for a great day of fishing. Remember to be courteous on the water. Tight Lines!

Fishing the Reefs of Galveston Bay

February 25th, 2015

travistrout Fishing the Reefs of Galveston Bay

Travis Haight with a seven-pound speck.

By Capt. Joe Kent

We addressed the effects of oyster reefs on Galveston Bay fishing in the last edition of Gulf Coast Mariner Magazine and now we will expand on this by discussing fishing the reefs of Galveston Bay.

To begin, let’s take a look at the definition of a reef.  A reef is “a ridge of rock, sand, coral etc. the top of which lies close to the surface of the sea; a ridge or mound-like structure built by sedentary calcareous organisms and consisting mainly of their remains.”

In the Galveston Bay Complex we have both natural and artificial reefs.

The natural reefs consist of oyster reefs, clam shell reefs and sand reefs.

taylorhuntertrout Fishing the Reefs of Galveston Bay

Taylor Hunter caught this five-pound trout while wadefishing.

The artificial or man-made reefs consist of shell, sand and gravel beds associated with oil and gas production facilities or old tires and steel reefs that are mainly oil and gas wells. Artificial reefs associated with oil and gas facilities are not permanent and are removed soon after the well or platform is abandoned.

Tire reefs (chaining together old tires) are beginning to become more prevalent with the demise of so many of our natural reefs.  Lower West Bay is the location of one of the popular tire reefs.

Once, oyster reefs dominated the reef picture; however, following Hurricane Ike in 2008, that

Lou Nuffer with a bull red.

Lou Nuffer with a bull red.

domination ended and now oyster reefs make up a much smaller portion or our reefs and fishing grounds.

Clam shell reefs have a presence in upper Galveston and Trinity Bays; however, they are not as prolific as in other bay systems east of here.  The few we have do offer some excellent fishing much in the same manner as oyster reefs.

Sand reefs become more numerous the closer we get to the Gulf of Mexico especially around the passes. Sand reefs should not be confused with sand bars which are defined as “ridges of sand formed in a river or along a shore by the action of waves or currents”.

While artificial reefs do not initially meet the definition of reefs, after a time they become infested with barnacles and other growth that cause them to expand in size and come within the meaning of a reef.

Now that we know more about reefs in Galveston Bay, let’s discuss how to fish them.

Reef fishing is productive in all but the coldest months of winter.  They are most productive in the spring and fall, two seasons when tides run unusually high.  The reefs most affected by this are the shell and artificial reefs.

Deeper reefs are productive all year, especially in the summer when trout go to deeper waters.  A high percentage of the deep reefs are artificial and associated with oil and gas facilities.

The best of the reefs for fishing are the live reefs that have a wealth of small marine life around which in turn starts the food chain to moving.  Farther up the food chain are the predator fish which come to feed on the lesser species such as crustaceans.

The shell and artificial reefs offer hiding places for the lower of the food chain that is until the tide begins to move and that is when the action turns on.

Fishing the reefs is best when using a float to keep the bait from snagging on the rough foundation. Live bait is the choice of most anglers.

Speckled trout have sensitive skin and are most often caught around the edges of the reefs.  On the other hand, fish with scales and strong jaws or teeth are found feeding on the bottom eating crabs, live barnacles and other residents of the reefs.  Sheepshead and black drum are two examples of the mid-reef bottom feeders.

Other fish are found feeding on the food chain as well.  Panfish are usually thick around reefs.

Sand reefs are fished mostly by wading.  Fish feed on the wide variety of marine live that burrows into the sand for shelter and, as with the shell reefs, tidal movement sends them running for safety and again that is the best time to be fishing.

Without our reefs, fishing would not be as good in Galveston Bay.  Hopefully we will see an aggressive program get underway to restore our oyster reefs and add more permanent artificial reefs.

Submit your fishing photos for our print and web editions to art@baygroupmedia.com