M any years ago I had the honor of “serving my country” by being a member of the Coastal Migratory Pelagics Advisory Panel to the Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council.
We dealt with mackerel, mostly, and mainly regulations directed at king mackerel commercial and recreational fishing. Toward the end of my tenure on the panel, not much was happening, as mackerel stocks were in pretty good shape.
A recent update verifies that this is still the case, but that NMFS (National Marine Fisheries Service) and the Gulf Council are announcing some proposed changes. The majority of the changes deal with commercial fishing.
There is not much commercial activity for king and Spanish mackerel in the Western Gulf, so ‘ll leave these for you to find on the Gulf Council website, should you have an interest. Most of these are regulation “tweaks” concerning the boundary lines in the Florida Keys between Gulf group and South Atlantic Group king mackerel, but they also allow some retention of kings caught incidentally in shark gill nets.
Most important for recreational fishermen in the Texas Gulf is that Gulf Group kings are NOT considered “overfished or undergoing overfishing.” NMFS data estimates that the recreational sector in the Gulf since 2002-2003 through 2013-2014 consistently harvested less than 50 percent of the recreational Annual Catch Limit, while the commercial sector consistently harvested 90 percent or more of their ACL.
To put this into perspective, of the total Annual Catch Limit for King mackerel in the Gulf, of 10.8 million pounds, 68 percent is allocated to recreational fishermen, 32 percent to the commercial sector. When finalizing Amendment 26 to the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the Gulf Council considered—BUT REJECTED—moving some of the “unused” quota from the recreational sector to the commercial side.
Instead, it was decided to INCREASE the daily bag limit for recreational anglers from two fish per angler per trip to three. This action was determined to increase the opportunities for recreational anglers to take more of their allotted quota.
This seems to be a rare instance of the Federal fisheries rules working in favor of recreational anglers!
Another action that will affect recreational fishermen in the Gulf comes with Draft Amendment 5b to the 2006 “Consolidated Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan.” Basically, measures are being considered to protect dusky sharks, which ARE considered “overfished and experiencing overfishing.”
This Amendment could affect “ANY recreational fishermen who catch sharks of ANY species.” These changes were discussed in Public Hearings around the Gulf, Rhode Island, New Jersey, and North Carolina (for some reason) during November and December of 2016.
To catch sharks recreationally in federally managed waters beyond the control of the state of Texas—nine nautical miles from shore—requires a Highly Migratory Species Permit issued by NMFS. This amendment would add completion of an online shark identification training course, plus “additional recreational fisheries outreach(?).”
Any vessel using natural bait and wire or heavy (over 200 pound test) leaders of monofilament or fluorocarbon is assumed to be fishing for sharks. All HMS permit holders fishing for sharks must use circle hooks.
Any shark caught on non-circle hooks must be released. There are also size and bag limits on sharks, according to species, but these have been in force since the HMS permit requirement.
So, offshore fishermen in the Texas Gulf—a large number of whom fish out of Galveston—will get to keep an extra kingfish per angler per trip when Amendment 26 is final. But you will need to be a bit more careful when shark fishing if the proposed regulations do take effect.
Double check all regulations before heading out, guys!
Location: In June, the surf heats up in more ways than one!
Species: Bull reds and big jacks pull hard, also various sharks and tarpon will be feeding inshore. I’ve caught kingfish in the summer surf, but Spanish mackerel are more common. Speckled trout are a more common goal for wade fishermen, with pan fish like croakers and whiting making up a mixed bag.
Bait: Mullet, mud minnows, shad, and cut bait from just about anything caught in the surf works for larger species, with live shrimp or small baitfish usually better for trout. Artificial lures will also produce.
Best Time: Moving tides and clear water are favored for June, and a nice night with a big full moon can be ideal if the skeeters stay away.
Email Mike Holmes at [email protected]