“There are just too many redfish. They are eating all of the baby flounder. That is why flounder numbers are down.”
The first time I heard this, I wrote this off and ended up hearing the same thing from several people. One even suggested doubling the redfish bag limit, dropping the minimum size and ending all red drum stocking. The same has been said recently about the impact of redfish on speckled trout.
“The trout are declining because the reds are eating all their food.”
“The reds are eating everything in their path.”
This is reminiscent of the late 1990s when commercial fishermen in Louisiana tried to get gill and strike nets legalized for redfish once again because the reds were “wiping out the crabs.”
A decline in blue crab numbers could not possibly have been related to the insane number of crab traps set in Bayou State waters but had to have been redfish, which as far as we know have been co-existing with crabs forever.
There is a tendency in fisheries management to seek scapegoats when there are population problems or regulation debates.
These kinds of arguments and others like them do nothing but move the attention from the real issues, taking the fishing public down rabbit trails with no end. More importantly, it takes the focus off the side of the conservation equation we can control: ourselves.
There is a reason size and bag limits are put in place. Of the myriad factors that go into management of a species including drought, flood, salinity levels and freezes, our take of that resource is the one thing we can control. Texas Parks & Wildlife Commission members cannot pass a measure deeming salinity levels above 60 parts per thousand.
Well, they could but it would have zero impact.
Changing bag and size limits however does have an effect and along with stock enhancement are the only cost effective mechanisms we have to impact sport fish numbers.
A good, straightforward debate on whether or not we should make changes and the value we place on things like trout availability and trophy size is something we should discuss. However, we should do so without relegating redfish back to 1970s status when their primary purpose was an ingredient in a Chef Paul Prudhomme recipe. They deserve more respect than that.
Speaking of the 70s redfish slaughter, I met a man involved in commercial fishing a few years back who told me and I quote, “We should have never banned the nets for redfish.”
I’m glad his line of thinking did not prevail.
Chester Moore, Jr.