Officials to meet with public about seatrout limits

Nearly a year after the big freeze caused major fish kills along the Texas gulf coast, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department fisheries officials are proposing reduced daily bag and size limits to help spotted seatrout recover.

TPWD officials are seeking public input on proposed changes that would reduce the daily bag limit for trout from five to three, and the current slot size of between 15 and 25 inches would be tightened to 17 and 23 inches.

The proposed new limits would be in place for two years, TPWD says, “to leave more spawning fish in the water for two spawning seasons in order to help the populations recover quickly from the 2021 winter storm.”

The regulatory changes would affect Matagorda Bay, San Antonio Bay, Aransas Bay, Corpus Christi Bay and the Upper and Lower Laguna Madre systems.

But among fishing guides in the Lower Laguna Madre, there is debate on whether the new proposals, which will be voted on by the TPWD board later this month, are even needed.

Capt. Burt Grayson guides between Port Mansfield and South Padre Island, specializing in inshore redfish and trout in the Laguna Madre.

He says nature is presently taking the proper course.

“It’s already been a year and the trout population has increased a lot,” Grayson said. “So yeah, I’m against it, thoroughly against it. Who wants to go out and catch three reds and three trout, and pay the same price?”

Grayson says he’s pretty conservative when it comes to protecting the fish stocks which form the basis of his guiding career, and he says he already does a lot of catch-and-release fishing.

But some clients want to take home a cooler of fish, he says.

“They need to leave the limit alone now, it’s already been a year,” he said.

But fellow guide, Capt. Mark Guillot, who also works the inshore waters of the Laguna Madre, is in favor of more restrictive seatrout limits and slot size.

“I like it — reduce it,” Guillot said. “Let these fish come back. It would help. If you leave them alone, they’ll reproduce.

“Three trout per person is plenty for dinner and lunch,” he added. “Forget putting fish in the freezer and then have people forget about them. Eat what you catch, and go on.”

The Port Isabel public meeting is one of four TPWD is holding to seek input on the proposed changes. The other venues are Corpus Christi, Port Lavaca and Rockport.

IF YOU GO

WHAT: Public hearing on reduced spotted seatrout daily bag, size limits
WHEN: Jan. 11, 6-8 p.m.
WHERE: Port Isabel Event and Cultural Center, 309 Railroad St.
WHO: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

Watch online

TPWD Coastal Fisheries staff will present proposed fishing regulation changes and answer questions in an online webinar on Zoom on Jan. 10 from 6-8 p.m. The webinar will also be posted on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s YouTube channel and Facebook page

To comment

Online: Official public comments of the changes can be provided on the TPWD public comment page until Jan. 26. Phone or Email: The Coastal Fisheries Division at 512-389-8575 or cfish@tpwd.texas.gov