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Coastal bass regulation survey deserves attention

Officials with the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) are seeking angler opinions on the bass fishery in the Sabine and Neches Rivers as well as Taylor/Hillebrandt Bayou systems.
It deals with the size limit and possible options for changing that limit to better reflect the local fishery.
Last week we broke this story and gave out a Web address for those anglers wanting to participate in a survey.
Current data indicates that largemouth bass in these three systems are relatively abundant, but have slow growth and high mortality rates.
TPWD reports that on average, largemouth bass here reach 14 inches in length at 3.9 years. For reference, largemouth bass at Sam Rayburn and Toledo Bend reservoirs reach 14 inches at approximately 2.5 years. Slow growth and high mortality rates are common to coastal estuary populations (primarily due to influences of variable salinity and availability of quality forage) and result in few fish of larger sizes.
“Only seven percent of the largemouth bass we sampled from these three systems were greater than 14 inches in length.”
TPWD biologist Todd Driscoll said information gained from this questionnaire will help TPWD make an informed decision regarding a potential harvest regulation change that would be consistent with the needs and desires of all anglers.
“Your cooperation is important for the successful completion of this research study. Your responses will not be connected with your name and all information you provide will remain strictly confidential,” he said.
In my opinion, lowering the limit would be a good thing for local bass tournaments, especially high school events.
There are many local teams and the only local tournament I am aware of was held by my wife’s team from Deweyville two years ago.
The reason?
Local bass are by and large below the 14-inch minimum size limit and very few kids would bring in fish. No one wants to fish a tournament where only a few people can catch legal fish.
In addition evening tournaments like those held by Simon Outfitters in Orange would have an opportunity to thrive with more chances to be competitive and weigh-in catches.
The key would be for local anglers to step up conservation efforts by releasing all local bass, especially those measuring 14 inches or more. In addition it would be great for the state to begin restocking our system with Florida-strain bass.
There was some forward traction made in our fishery due to the stocking of Florida-strain fish but the Rita and Ike put a dumper on that by the fish kills the spawned and funding issues have caused TPWD to pull back on quite a bit of bass stocking statewide.
Bass fisheries have thrived on Texas reservoirs due to good management by the state and a strong catch-and-release ethic by fishermen. If that combination makes its way to our coastal area bass fishery, anglers and the fishery will benefit.
No matter what your opinion of different management strategies available, TPWD wants your feedback.
This survey can be completed online athttp://tinyurl.com/bayousurvey
The fact that we are discussing our bass fishery is a good thing. As this process unfolds we have a good chance to ask hard questions, take a good look at conservation options and give a nice benefit to local anglers who like to compete in bass tournaments without driving up to Toledo Bend or Sam Rayburn.
(To contact Chester Moore, e-mail him at chester@kingdomzoo.com. You can hear him on “Moore Outdoors” Fridays from 6-7 p.m. on Newstalk AM 560 KLVI or online at www.klvi.com.)