Did you know that as of September 1, 2013, it has been illegal to cause or allow any rooted seagrass plant to be uprooted or dug out from the bay or saltwater bottom by a submerged propeller within the coastal waters of the state of Texas?
Violations are a Class C Misdemeanor subject to a fine of up to $500.
Back in 2005, the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) adopted a new regulation that made it illegal to uproot seagrasses with the propeller of a boat within the boundaries of the Redfish Bay State Scientific Area near Aransas Pass.
This no prop zone got plenty of press and in certain circles caused a bit of controversy. Now, 10 years later they are still in place but laws for seagrass have been expanded statewide.
According to TPWD, the no-uprooting regulation does not close any portion of the Texas coast to any type of watercraft.
“In fact, the no-uprooting regulation is specifically intended to preserve access to all areas of the coast while protecting valuable seagrass habitat. Boaters may access any area along the Texas coast, but will need to be aware of water depth and the capabilities of their boat to avoid damaging seagrasses,” they said.
Seagrass is mainly present on the Middle and Lower Coasts but it is present even in areas on the Upper Coast such as Christmas Bay. If you run through seagrass with a prop and cause damage, even without knowing you did, the possibility of getting a ticket is real.
In TPWD’s FAQ on seagrass an interesting question was raised. How will game wardens ticket someone for harming seagrass without harming it themselves?
“In some cases they can wait until an offender has passed out of the area before stopping them, or possibly use an airboat to access the area. In other cases they may have to enter the area themselves, just as a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper has to exceed the speed limit in order to catch a speeder. If a warden does have to damage some seagrass in order to enforce this law, they are only doing so in order to help reduce future damage.”
Over the last few years, persons leaving or approaching public fresh water have been required to drain all water from their vessels and on-board receptacles (includes live wells, bilges, motors and any other receptacles or water-intake systems coming into contact with public waters) to halt the spread of zebra mussels.
This rule applies at all sites where boats can be launched and includes all types and sizes of boats whether powered or not, personal watercraft, sailboats, kayaks/canoes, or any other vessel used to travel on public waters.
However, did you know that live including personally caught live bait, cannot be transported from the water body where the fish were caught in or aboard a vessel in water from the water body where the fish were caught?
Personally caught live bait can only be used in the water body where it was caught.
On top of that, transport and use of commercially purchased live bait in water while fishing from a vessel is allowed, however persons in possession of the bait must have a receipt that identifies the source of the bait.
“Any live bait purchased from a location on or adjacent to a public water body that is transported in water from that water body can only be used as bait on that same water body.”
In addition, according to TPWD, persons participating in a fishing tournament confined to one water body are allowed to transport live fish in water from that single water body to an identified off-site weigh-in location, provided all water is drained and properly disposed of before leaving that location. Participants must possess documentation provided by tournament organizers that identify them as participants in a tournament.
Marine sanitary systems are not covered by these regulations but otherwise these zebra mussel regulations are sweeping.
Although few anglers use them, did you know that there are types of fish traps that are legal in Texas?
Take, for example, minnows. They may be used to take nongame fish, and these traps may not exceed 24 inches in length. The throat may not exceed one inch by three inches. In addition a gear tag valid for only 10 days must be visibly attached.
Perch traps are also legal but in saltwater only. They are legal for catching nongame fish and may not exceed 18 cubic feet. These must be marked with a floating visible orange buoy not less than six inches in height and six inches in width. The buoy must have a gear tag valid only for 10 days attached. They also must be equipped with a biodegradable panel.
“Buoys or floats may not be made of plastic bottles of any color or size.
It is unlawful to place any type of trap within the area in Cedar Bayou between a department sign erected where Mesquite Bay flows into Cedar Bayou and the department sign erected near the point where the pass empties into the Gulf of Mexico,” according to TPWD.
An angler simply going about his business might miss some of these regulations and get in trouble. On other hand some might not realize devices such as perch traps are legal and allow anglers to catch their own bait.
Fishing is becoming more complex by the year, and we will do our best to remind you of the legalities of the sport and how to understand the frameworks in which we operate under the regulatory system.