PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

Opinion

January 22, 2014

Chester Moore column: How would flounder reg changes affect Sabine area, state?

PORT ARTHUR —  Changes are coming to the Texas flounder fishery.

    It is not guaranteed but this week Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) officials will most likely vote to make an official regulation proposal in relation to flounder regulations.

    In 2009, TPWD enacted regulations that did the following:

    #Recreational possession limit was reduced to five, except in November when it is two.

    #Commercial possession limit was reduced to 30, except in November when it is two.

    #Gigging was banned in November.

    TPWD reported these actions accomplished a great deal over the last four years.

    #Commercial landings were reduced 30 percent in the first year.

    #Recreational landings were reduced 32 percent in the first year.

    #The regulations reduce the opportunity for sport gig fishery to illegally sell their catch

    #The flounder population increased 180 percent in three years.

     Along with an increase in the fishery has come an increase in the harvest of flounder and pursuit of the species. This is a major reason for TPWD considering an option to change regulations.

     The following are the options under consideration to become an official proposal in Austin this week. If any of these are made into a proposal by the TPWD Commission, they will be put out for public comment and will be voted on by the Commission in March.

    Options to extend the November regulations to:

 

    #Last week of October

    #Last two weeks of October

    #First week of December

    #First two weeks of December

    #Combinations of 1-4 above

    #Entire month of December

     TPWD’s projections show that closing the last week of October would reduce harvest by 1.5 percent. The last two weeks of October would accomplish a three percent reduction and the first week of December would eliminate 3.5 percent of the take.

    The last week of October and first week of December would cut five percent of harvest and the first two weeks of December seven percent. The last two weeks of October and first two weeks of December would cut 10 percent and all-December change would make a 14 percent cut in total harvest.

    Interestingly, before the gigging ban in November, less than five percent of the harvest was in December. Now that month accounts for 35 percent of the total.

     Of all areas of the state, these regulation changes would have the least total impact on the Sabine area. We have the least gigging of any ecosystem in the state and Louisiana still has a 10-fish year ‘round limit. Anglers are launching in Louisiana and taking their full legal limit.

    Our area has benefitted from the 2009 regulation changes with the best flounder counts in years. The five fish limit coupled with the November changes has had a very positive impact. Not everyone likes it but it has helped flounder numbers. If we did not have the Louisiana limit factor, it would no doubt be even more dramatic.

    Along the rest of the coast, particularly in the Coastal Bend and Lower Laguna Madre, an increase of the November restrictions would have a huge impact especially if all of December is chosen.

    All of the flounder that migrate out to the Gulf (some stick around) will be gone by the time January rolls around so there would be a dramatic decrease in harvest of spawning-sized females. It would help the Sabine area too but there is no getting around the fact that we would not realize the full potential until Louisiana goes to some sort of standardized limits in Texas.

    The chances of that happening in the near future are small but the chances of some sort of flounder regulation change coming is big. Something is coming on trout too and we will discuss that and the fallout from the TPWD meeting taking place in Austin in the Sunday edition.

(To contact Chester Moore, e-mail him at cmooreoutdoors@gmail.com. You can watch him on "God's Outdoors with Chester Moore" Saturdays on GETV.org at 10 a.m. and listen to "Moore Outdoors" Fridays from 6-7 p.m. on Newstalk AM 560 KLVI.)

 

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