TPWD Meeting in Port Arthur Texas an Eye Opener

| January 15, 2014 | 1 Comment

sabine lake fly fishing texas flounder tpwd regulation changes
conservation awareness for fly fishersBy the time I split the second set of doors into the low ceilinged side room at the Port Arthur library last Wednesday night, I knew I was in for a cultural experience. I grabbed one of the few seats left. At fifteen minutes early, I was glad I didn’t wait in the truck any longer because all around was a cadre of fishermen in every form imaginable.

THE BALKANIZATION BEGINS

The meeting began with the obligatory Texas Parks and Wildlife Department slideshow that documented the resurgence of the flounder population and the general stabilization of the speckled trout population. And that’s exactly what this meeting, one of several meetings from where I was at the Louisiana border to the Mexico border down south, was about – flounder and trout regulations.

After the basic slides showing the history of TPWD’s success with populations after new regulations over the years, the later slides showed the possibilities with tweaks to the regulations.

The numbers showed significant increases in flounder (about +5% immediately) if a week was added to the two fish limit in October, or off the end in December. Add a week on both ends and the gains remain about the same.

When it comes to speckled trout, the room showed slightly less interest/concern, but the proposals were toward changing bag limits and backed by the quality improvement seen on the Lower Laguna Madre numbers.

THE VERDICT

The guys in the room were grumbling before the meeting started, “It don’t matter what happens here. They’re gonna’ do whatever they want to do.” The atmosphere became more tense after the TPWD’s show was over.


“We have our own fishery here! and it’s in great shape! If you change the flounder regulations, you’re gonna’ get people doing what they do now (to get around the flounder regs); piling a wife and kids into a little boat so they can keep two fish for each person in the boat.” Another guide said, “Why should we suffer while people from Louisiana can come over and rape the resources? Plenty of people drive across that bridge and launch so they can take all the fish that we can’t take in Texas!”

The meeting devolved pretty fast, into a few “experienced” guides’s takes (long monologues) on how it “used to be” and how TPWD was going to do “whatever they want anyway,” but noticeably absent were questions about the numbers. Sabine is very, very proud of their fishery. They also have some local concerns about silting in the lake for new refining infrastructure, and all that came out in this meeting (which should have been cut off and deflected to another forum).

I was wondering what the margin for error was for the projected improvements. I also wondered how they could add a week onto the flounder run regulations when that run date changes every year based on weather …

“We’re our own fishery here! We don’t rely on the rest of those regions, and they aren’t related to us! So why should we go along with them?” The moderator drew the inference, “So you’re saying we should stay the same? Do nothing?” to clarify the statement. “Or we should go back to the way it was before!” he chimed in. That’s not one of the options I thought to myself, and the moderator did ignore that nonsense.

The room did swell to the feeling that was; If we don’t have to do what the rest of the coastal regions do, then why should we? Sabine is its own bio system, unrelated to anything except the Gulf of Mexico. AND; something needs to be done about Louisiana, and their rape of the Sabine resources we are forced to conserve. It’s hard to “misunderestimate” the bad feelings toward Louisiana.

My only question, in the little time that was left, was about (and to) enforcement who was represented there. “Do you have what you need to enforce these regulations, or changes?” I asked. The short answer was “no” and never did and never will. Add the sophistication of the cell phone, Louisiana and other methods of deception … morale is not exactly high in the ranks. He summed it up, “If you see something, call us!” Essentially, enlisting us concerned and invested civilians is the only chance law enforcement has in this war.

THE BOTTOM LINE

The most critical point has been made – correctly. The isolation of the Sabine System lends itself to unique solutions to its problems. Other systems should do what’s best for their system. Sabine is currently lumped in with Galveston only because of geography, not biology. There will probably be a time when Sabine becomes exclusive. Most of the other regions have the interdependence that necessitates them to consider each other to some extent.

But what we have here is a situation where Texas is rightfully becoming “Balkanized” by regulation and biology. Common sense says that’s the way it should have been all along. How many of us fly fishers have been on Colorado or Oklahoma rivers where the regulations change multiple times over a few hundred yards.

Right now, Texas is still settling in to these new regulations, and it’s obvious that they still feel like a new pair of shoes still being broken in … a little pain and a few blisters.

It’s also obvious that these particular people are most interested in number 1. I didn’t realize just how big a business flounder have become (thanks to the regulations) all along the Texas Gulf Coast. Of course over the past few years I have documented the fun we’ve had with catching flounder on the run, but commercial harvest, the flounder gigging operations, all those guys are running WIDE OPEN right now. I believe there is a direct undeniable correlation between the success of catching flounder, the explosion of the flounder business in the last few years, and the regulations that were put in place to protect this fish.

Flounder gigging? Maybe we can send those carp bow “hunters” to the coast for a real challenge? At least the flounder giggers are eating their catch.

I haven’t heard what the other meeting last Wednesday, at the opposite end of the State produced, but there should be a record on the TPWD site somewhere. There are a few steps that will lead to new regulations for the Texas coast by the time the new booklets roll out next September. As of now, I would think there will not be any changes for this year (for any region). If you fly fish the Texas gulf coast, you want to keep your attention focused on this though.

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Category: Causes, Culture on the Skids, Science and Environmental, Texas Water Conservation

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