TPWD staff briefed the Regulations Committee of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission Wednesday, Nov. 1, 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 2007 meeting determines the final regulation changes.
The most dramatic change being discussed addresses coastal fisheries biologists’ concerns about declining numbers of legal-sized spotted seatrout in the Lower Laguna Madre bay ecosystem compared to historic levels. Although officials point out the seatrout populations in this bay system are on par with numbers statewide, they believe proactive steps will help ensure and enhance the future health of this world class fishery.
TPWD will be gathering public input during the next six months on a variety of strategies emphasizing possible reductions in daily bag limits to achieve management goals.
In addition to regional seatrout regulations, TPWD is considering the following potential changes.
- Increasing the minimum length limit on sheepshead to provide sufficient protection for this popular fish to reach sexual maturity and thereby ensure sustainable productivity.
- Provide protection for diamondback terrapins by banning harvest. Biologists are concerned about the possibility of a growing commercial market for the species.
- Increase the minimum length limit for retention of a tarpon to 90 inches.
- Expand current rules prohibiting use of airboats to rally or harass schools of fish to include all boats.
- A modification to the spring Rio Grande turkey season to offer better hunting opportunity to hunters. Two years ago TPWD simplified spring Rio Grande turkey seasons by merging the north and south zones into a single zone and increased hunting opportunity by adding a week to the season. In the process of monitoring and evaluating the new season, staff has concluded that while the 44-day season is fine, hunting opportunity can be optimized by reinstituting the zone system, allowing the South Texas season to open earlier and the North Texas season to run later.
- Eliminate the double tagging requirement for mule deer on properties operating under Managed Lands Deer permits and make those permits available for use during the archery season.
- Increase the possession limit for striped bass on Lake Texoma to 20 to eliminate confusion among anglers and more closely align with Oklahoma limits.
- Create a 16-inch maximum length limit for largemouth bass on a handful of lakes to address management concerns over lack of improvement in bass population structure and current limits. Seven lakes are being considered, including Bridgeport, Bryan, Cypress Springs, Georgetown, Hawkins, Joe Poole and Nacogdoches.
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/)