TPWD staff briefed the Regulations Committee of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission Wednesday, Nov. 2, on a slate of possible changes designed to increase recreational opportunity and further enhance the state’s fish and wildlife resources.
The annual regulatory review process begins each fall after resource assessments by biologists and game wardens, as well as independent recommendations received from various groups. During this scoping portion of the process, TPWD gathers public input and weighs the biological implications of each issue before presenting the commission with a set of proposed regulation changes in January. Additional discourse is sought during special public meetings in the spring, and the commission at its April 2006 meeting determines the final regulation changes.
Following is a summary of those potential changes.
Potential Wildlife Regulation Proposals
Expansion of antler restriction harvest rules in all or portions of 40 additional counties in East and Central Texas. The rules are currently in place in 21 southeastern counties. The purpose of this potential proposal is to ensure a balanced age class structure for a healthy deer herd by shifting harvest pressure away from young bucks, which typically comprise upwards of 60 percent of the annual harvest. Under this regulation, a legal buck is one which has (1) at least 1 unbranched antler, or (2) an inside spread measurement of 13 inches or greater. Under the suggested provisions, the candidate counties would see an increase in the buck bag limit from one to two; however, no more than one buck may have an inside spread measurement of 13 plus inches. The candidate counties are: Bell, Bosque, Bowie, Burleson, Camp, Cass, Cherokee, Comal (east of Interstate 35), Comanche, Coryell, Delta, Eastland, Erath, Fannin, Franklin, Gregg, Hamilton, Harrison, Hays (east of Interstate 35), Hopkins, Houston, Lamar, Lampasas, Leon, Marion, Morris, Nacogdoches, Panola, Rains, Red River, Rusk, Sabine, San Augustine, Shelby, Somervell, Titus, Travis (east of Interstate 35), Upshur, Williamson, and Wood.
TPWD is also looking into standardizing harvest regulations in Upton County, which currently has split regulations, to four deer, no more than two bucks, and no antlerless permit required
Upland Game Birds
Expansion of the successful Managed Lands Deer Permit program to include similar provisions for adjusting season length and/or bag limits for upland game bird species, including quail, turkey, pheasant, chachalaca and lesser prairie chickens on properties with a wildlife management plan where certain habitat management practices are implemented.
Include regulations governing the recreational take of alligator in the Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation.
Potential Freshwater Fishing Regulation Changes
Lake Colorado City (Mitchell County)
Change harvest regulations for red drum from the current 20-inch minimum length limit and three fish daily bag limit to no length and no bag limit.
Mountain Creek Lake (Dallas County)
All fish species in Mountain Creek Lake are managed under statewide length and bag limits. The regulations would be changed to catch-and-release only for all species.
Marine Creek Reservoir (Tarrant County)
Current harvest regulations for largemouth bass consist of statewide 14-inch minimum length limit with a five fish daily bag limit. The regulation would be changed to an 18-inch minimum length limit. The five fish daily bag would be retained.
Statewide baitfish exceptions
Add Kinney County to current list of bait fish exceptions. Current regulations are: “In Brewster, Crane, Crockett, Culberson, Ector, El Paso, Jeff Davis, Hudspeth, Loving, Pecos, Presidio, Reeves, Terrell, Upton, Val Verde, Ward, and Winkler counties, the only fishes that may be used or possessed for bait while fishing are common carp, fathead minnows, gizzard and threadfin shad, golden shiners, goldfish, Mexican tetra, Rio Grande cichlid, silversides (Atherinidae family), and sunfish (Lepomis).”
TPWD will be seeking public input on the possibility of making bowfishing a legal means of take for catfish.
Potential Coastal Fishing Regulation Proposals
Largetooth sawfish (Pristis perotteti)
The National Marine Fisheries and the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service have listed the smalltooth sawfish as endangered and, therefore, it is now endangered in Texas under PWC Chapter 68. Because of the extreme difficulty that anglers will have in distinguishing the smalltooth sawfish from the largetooth sawfish, protection of both is believed to be the only way to protect the listed species. This proposal would prohibit the taking of both.
TPWD will scope two proposals to eliminate the red drum tags. Either option would continue to ensure protection of red drum in Texas and provide the benefits of having the tags without the administrative issues of maintaining tags in the license system. The options presented are:
- One red drum larger than 28 inches may be taken as part of the 3 fish daily bag limit.
- One red drum larger than 28 inches may be taken in addition to the 3 fish daily bag limit
A potential proposal to eliminate the trophy tarpon tag and implement a bag limit of one fish with a minimum size limit that corresponds to the state record. This will allow fishermen to continue to challenge that record while preventing the retention of any other tarpon that may be caught.
TPWD also will scope a proposal similar to the tarpon recommendation of one fish above a maximum size limit (i.e., set at the state record) for black drum.
Changing the possession limit on flounder so that it is equal to the bag limit for the recreational fishery. This is already the case in the commercial fishery. This will create some redistribution of the current catches in the recreational fishery and basically limit a person to 10 fish per trip instead of the 20 fish bag they can keep if they fish past midnight now. Part of the rationale is that since flounder mortality from the recreational and commercial harvest makes up only 18 percent of its mortality, changes in the directed fishery will not have a large impacts to the overall population. Current trends in the fishery suggest that recent emphasis on shrimping effort and bycatch are starting to show signs that the flounder fishery is improving.
Tripletail (Lobotes surinamensis)
TPWD will scope a proposal to list tripletail as a game fish, place a minimum size limit of 17 inches and a 3 fish bag limit. Alabama has a 17-inch minimum * and bag limit of three and Florida has a 15-inch limit and bag limit of two.
In addition to these potential proposals, TPWD is looking at the possibility of increasing the fee for hunter education courses from $10 to $15. The increase would enable the agency to recruit more hunter education instructors and thereby provide
more convenience through additional class offerings and related enhancements to the program.
Public comment about these issues and others of interest may be made to TPWD, Regulatory Proposals Public Comment, 4200 Smith School Road, 78744, by phoning 800-792-1112 or by visiting the Web (http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/)