Anglers who fish in the near-coastal fisheries of four counties in the southeast corner of the state, or the Sabine River downstream from Toledo Bend Reservoir will see a new definition of “legal” largemouth bass if a proposed regulation is adopted.
Texas inland fisheries staff is recommending reducing the minimum length requirement for largemouth bass caught from those waters from the current 14-inch statewide minimum to 12- inches.
The change would apply to public waters in Chambers, Jefferson, Galveston and Orange counties and the reach of the Sabine River downstream of Toledo Bend.
“The coastal fresh/brackish waters of the lower Sabine, Neches and Trinity Rivers and the bayous and marshes of the southeast corner of the state hold a thriving bass population, and the fish grow much slower and suffer higher annual natural mortality than largemouths in reservoirs or other inland waters,” said Ken Kurzawski of TPWD inland fisheries.
The result is that few bass in the coastal estuary fisheries reach legal length.
The abundance of small bass and rarity of fish meeting the 14-inch minimum has been a source of frustration for bass tournaments and their participants, including high-profile professional bass tournaments as well as a growing number of high school and college bass tournament circuits that have discovered the coastal estuaries’ bass fishing in recent years.
Reducing the minimum length requirement to 12 inches for bass taken from these coastal fisheries but leaving the daily bag limit at five fish would allow tournament anglers to retain more fish for weighing and release, let the average recreational anglers keep a few more bass for the table, and not increase harvest enough to damage the fishery.
A clerical error made last year in converting a table chart to text in the Texas Administrative Code inadvertently omitted the 30-inch maximum length for black drum.
TPWD proposes reinstating the intended 14 to 30 inch “slot” limit for black drum. The 30-inch maximum was designed to protect adult black drum, helping ensure good reproduction to maintain the fishes population.
All proposed regulation changes are open to public comment in public hearings across the state in coming weeks. The TPWD Wildlife Commission will vote to adopt, modify or reject the proposals at its public hearing in Austin, March 24. Adopted changes will become effective Sept. 1.