The Port Arthur News
PORT ARTHUR —
Four years ago, the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) enacted the most conservative flounder regulations in the state’s history.
The bag limit was cut from 10 to five in the recreational sector with the November limit cut to two fish per day. The commercial bag was cut in half and all gigging and commercial harvest was banned in the month of November.
November is the primary month of flounder migration from the bays and estuaries to the Gulf of Mexico so restricting harvest during this period was seen as crucial to a fishery that at the time was at less than 50 percent below peaks in the 1980s.
I was on the committee that helped steer these regulations will never forget one of the biologists saying a flounder’s life cycle is 6-7 years and when we got around the six-year mark, we would see the payoff of the regulation change in full.
We are not quite there yet but the flounder fishery in Texas is at its best in my adult life.
Sabine Lake’s flounder numbers have shot way up since the change and statewide anglers are reporting more and more flounder. In the prism of history, this will be looked at in the same way the redfish conservation movement of the 80s. It is that significant.
Our region is in unique position because we share a border with Louisiana, a state that does not restrict harvest as we do. The limit there remains 10 fish. It would be interesting to see how much of a difference it would make if the limits for flounder were standardized. A fairly large number of anglers launch in Louisiana to take their 10 fish limit, which is perfectly legal if you have the proper license.
Over the last few years, there have been a handful of super unethical anglers who have taken great advantage of the flounder run on both Sabine and Lake Calcasieu by taking huge numbers of fish. That type of thing cannot be tolerated and not only hurts the fishery but also creates a bad example for the next generation of anglers coming up.
The gigging ban portion of the regulation change was the real sticking point (no pun intended) with some anglers, particularly on the Middle and Lower Coasts where clear waters make it prime gigging territory.
My contention was and is that if the fishery can be sustained with gigging allowed, and then let it continue.
However, when it comes to the November ban we must consider this.
If I were to go to the legislature and propose a bowfishing season for largemouth bass during March when the fish were spawning, I would probably be escorted out by security. It seems absurd to allow someone to use something besides a hook and line to catch bass, particularly during a spawn when they move into shallow water and are most vulnerable.
Well, that is exactly what November represents for flounder. They are funneling through narrow passes to spawn in the Gulf of Mexico, leaving them far more vulnerable than any time of year.
I cannot see a difference between allowing gigging during the flounder run and the ridiculous idea of allowing bowfishing for bass during the spawn. Actually, there is one difference.
Largemouth bass at the time of the flounder regulation change were at their highest levels in Texas history (and remain so) and flounder were at their lowest.
Think about it.
I have a feeling if we continue on this path and if TPWD’s flounder stocking program at Sea Center Texas in Lake Jackson develops as they project, the tradition of gigging will be able to continue and the flounder fishery can see its brightest days since record keeping on the fishery began.
It is a great time to be a flounder angler and as someone who has been championing their cause throughout my career, I could not be happier.
(To contact Chester Moore, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can hear him on “Moore Outdoors” Fridays from 6-7 p.m. on Newstalk AM 560 KLVI or online at www.klvi.com.)