On March 20 2019, The Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPW) Commission adopted a suite of changes to this year’s fishing regulations for spotted seatrout, alligator gar, sharks, cobia and oysters.
After years of dialogue with recreational anglers and an overwhelming support during the public comment period, the TPW Commission voted in favor of extending the 5-fish spotted seatrout bag limit to Galveston Bay and Sabine Lake, creating a statewide five-fish bag limit. 10 years of data from the lower Texas coast suggests that lowering the bag limits increases TPW gill net catch rates by 16%, increases average length of fish caught by 4.4% and increases percentage of fish greater than 25 inches by a whopping 58%.
Alligator gar are one of the most unique fishes in Texas. Their prehistoric appearance, long lifespan, large size, and specific breeding requirements add to the mystery and majesty of this distinctive fish. However, some of the unusual characteristics of the alligator gar also mean it is susceptible to overharvesting. TPW biologists estimate less than 5% of the alligator gar may be harvested annually and still maintain a healthy population. Concerned about the lack of harvest data, and an increasing interest in alligator gar fishing in the Trinity River driven in part by online videos and televised fishing shows, in order to protect this species, the TPW commission made the following changes to alligator gar regulations.
- Enact a 48-inch maximum length limit for alligator gar on the Trinity River from the I-30 bridge in Dallas downstream to the I-10 bridge in Chambers County, including the East Fork of the Trinity River upstream to the dam at Lake Ray Hubbard.
- Implement a drawing to allow selected anglers to harvest one alligator gar over 48 inches in length per year from the Trinity River. The draw system would allow non-transferable harvest authorization for a to-be-determined number of alligator gar.
- Between one half-hour after sunset and one half-hour before sunrise, no person may take or possess an alligator gar by means of lawful archery equipment or crossbow on the Trinity River unless they have received a harvest authorization through the drawing system.
- All persons who take an alligator gar from the public fresh waters of the state other than Falcon International Reservoir would be required to report the harvest via the department’s website or by mobile app within 24 hours of take.
Sharks and Cobia
The TPW Commission also voted to change regulations for cobia and sharks to match recent federal regulation changes. Anglers targeting sharks will be required to use non-offset non-stainless circle hooks. The minimum size limit for cobia was increased to 40” total length.
Finally, the TPW Commission authorized a 2-yr temporary closure of oyster restoration areas in Galveston, Matagorda and Copano Bays to allow oysters on the newly restored reefs to reach marketable size prior to harvest. We have witnessed the positive impact that these temporary closures can have on these reefs and the ancillary beneficial effects that come along with these growing reefs including recreational fishing opportunities, improved water quality and improved habitat for many aquatic species.
The changes to the 2019-20 Statewide Recreational and Commercial Fishing regulations take effect on Sept. 1, 2019.