AUSTIN, Texas — Texas Parks and Wildlife Department surveys confirm what most saltwater anglers already know: the fishing along the Texas coast is getting better and more anglers are taking advantage of it.

About 2,000 new anglers per month on average are discovering Texas coastal fishing, based on saltwater fishing license sales during the last seven years. The economic impact of saltwater angling in Texas exceeds $1.3 billion dollars annually and provides more than 13,000 jobs, according to TPWD research.

“There are indications that this trend will continue,” stated Larry McKinney, Ph.D. and TPWD coastal fisheries director. “The popularity of center-console bay boats continues to increase as does the use of kayaks and the continued increase in the sale of saltwater tackle.”

The amount of time anglers spend plying Texas coastal waters is staggering. In the 2003-04 season, according to TPWD creel surveys, anglers spent 5.27 million hours fishing on the Texas coast.

Not only are there more anglers but they are catching more fish. Landings of the two most popular gamefish, spotted seatrout and red drum, increased coastwide in 2003-04 by 11 percent and 31 percent, respectively. Galveston Bay (24 percent) and the Lower Laguna Madre (33 percent) showed the greatest increases while Aransas and Corpus Christi Bays declined slightly. However, Aransas Bay saw a spectacular increase in red drum landings with an increase of 76 percent. Other bays showed significant increases as well: Upper Laguna Madre (57 percent), Lower Laguna Madre (40 percent) and San Antonio Bay (45 percent). Only Galveston Bay showed a decrease in red drum landings.

“These year-to-year fluctuations show the power of having good monitoring programs that can track annual changes down to the bay system level,” said Robin Riechers, science and policy director for TPWD’s Coastal Fisheries Division. “But the real value is when you start to link up the data to look at long-term trends.”

The long-term trend in the recreational catch data along with the TPWD resource monitoring data allows TPWD to monitor and track fish populations along the entire coast as well as in each bay system.

Texas anglers have also become more efficient as well. Catch rates (the number of fish caught per hour of effort) for all species combined increased by four percent from .27 fish per hour in 2002-03 to .28 fish per hour in 2003-04. When the statistics for gamefish are examined separately, spotted seatrout saw an increase in catch rate of nine percent and red drum a spectacular increase of 33 percent.

“Even with the increased numbers and pressure, our populations of gamefish, especially red drum and spotted seatrout, remain strong and healthy,” concluded McKinney. “We face challenges in two areas to continue this success. One is assuring that the quality of the fishing experience continues in the face of issues like access and allocation of resources among users. The second is assuring the water quality of our estuarine waters and that freshwater inflows into them are adequate to maintain their health and productivity.” – Lake Mohave

– Lake Mohave