AUSTIN, Texas — Among the possible changes in hunting and fishing
regulations next year, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is
considering altering restrictions on spotted seatrout in the Lower
Laguna Madre and a 16-inch maximum length limit on largemouth bass on a
handful of lakes.

– Lake Havasu

TPWD staff briefed the Regulations Committee of the Texas Parks and
Wildlife Commission Wednesday, Nov. 1, on a slate of possible changes
designed to increase recreational opportunity and further enhance the
state’s fish and wildlife resources.

The annual regulatory review process begins each fall after resource
assessments by biologists and game wardens, as well as independent
recommendations received from various groups. During this scoping
portion of the process, TPWD gathers public input and weighs the
biological implications of each issue before presenting the commission
with a set of proposed regulation changes in January. Additional
discourse is sought during special public meetings in the spring, and
the commission at its April 2007 meeting determines the final
regulation changes.

The most dramatic change being discussed addresses coastal fisheries
biologists’ concerns about declining numbers of legal-sized spotted
seatrout in the Lower Laguna Madre bay ecosystem compared to historic
levels. Although officials point out the seatrout populations in this
bay system are on par with numbers statewide, they believe proactive
steps will help ensure and enhance the future health of this world
class fishery.

TPWD will be gathering public input during the next six months on a
variety of strategies emphasizing possible reductions in daily bag
limits to achieve management goals.

In addition to regional seatrout regulations, TPWD is considering the following potential changes.

  • Increasing the minimum length limit on sheepshead to provide
    sufficient protection for this popular fish to reach sexual maturity
    and thereby ensure sustainable productivity.
  • Provide protection for diamondback terrapins by banning harvest.
    Biologists are concerned about the possibility of a growing commercial
    market for the species.
  • Increase the minimum length limit for retention of a tarpon to 90 inches.
  • Expand current rules prohibiting use of airboats to rally or harass schools of fish to include all boats.
  • A modification to the spring Rio Grande turkey season to offer
    better hunting opportunity to hunters. Two years ago TPWD simplified
    spring Rio Grande turkey seasons by merging the north and south zones
    into a single zone and increased hunting opportunity by adding a week
    to the season. In the process of monitoring and evaluating the new
    season, staff has concluded that while the 44-day season is fine,
    hunting opportunity can be optimized by reinstituting the zone system,
    allowing the South Texas season to open earlier and the North Texas
    season to run later.
  • Eliminate the double tagging requirement for mule deer on
    properties operating under Managed Lands Deer permits and make those
    permits available for use during the archery season.
  • Increase the possession limit for striped bass on Lake Texoma to 20
    to eliminate confusion among anglers and more closely align with
    Oklahoma limits.
  • Create a 16-inch maximum length limit for largemouth bass on a
    handful of lakes to address management concerns over lack of
    improvement in bass population structure and current limits. Seven
    lakes are being considered, including Bridgeport, Bryan, Cypress
    Springs, Georgetown, Hawkins, Joe Poole and Nacogdoches.

Public comment about these issues and others of interest may be made
to TPWD, Regulatory Proposals Public Comment, 4200 Smith School Road,
78744, by phoning 800-792-1112 or by visiting the Web

– Lake Havasu