Austin, TX, United States (4E Sports) – Texas’ plan of implementing new fishing restrictions on spotted sea trout and flounder has sparked a heated discussion between fishing aficionados and state officials.
Aside from providing a worthy pastime to sporting fishermen, angling adds $2 billion to Texas economy each year.
With the planned restrictions, small-time fishermen are claiming that they are being eased out to make way for richer anglers.
“It’s a big emotional deal,” said Andrew Sansom, who led the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department from 1990 to 2001 and is now executive director of the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment at Texas State University.
The state has already implemented a partial ban on harvest of flounder and spotted trout, issuing just a limited number of licenses to commercial fishermen.
Last week, officials with the Parks and Wildlife Department discussed the possibility of imposing additional restrictions on the two fish, which are among the most sought after in Texas.
In November, during flounders’ spawning season, fishermen can catch only two fish per day on Galveston Bay.
The department is considering lengthening that period of such a low “bag limit,” or maximum allowable catch. In addition, the bag limit for spotted trout may be reduced to five from 10 year-round.
“It’s really about what we call helping the bag distribution, trying to get people to be able to harvest more fish,” said Jeremy Leitz, a statistician for the department.
However, many fishermen disagreed with Leitz’s claim.
“There’s nothing to show that changing these bag limits has increased the pleasure, has increased the numbers, increased anything,” said Johnny Valentino, whose family manages a fishing camp on Galveston Bay that is popular with saltwater trout anglers.
Everett Johnson, a retired fishing guide who is now the editor and publisher of the Texas Saltwater Fishing Magazine, said the opposition to new regulations is understandable because the bay is one of the most successful spots for landing trout, said.
“They have substantially more freshwater inflow by virtue of their geography,” Johnson said. “Trout do better in fresher water,” so anglers there are the most likely to see no need for limiting an already-stellar catch.”
Sansom agrees that such anglers would be hurt by additional regulation but he clarified that the threat to saltwater fish in Texas from severe weather and increasingly advanced and better fishing techniques is real.