New TPWD Threadfin & Gizzard Shad Rules for Freshwater Lakes in Texas Explained

Shad Rules

The new shad laws that Texas Parks and Wildlife put into effect this past April 2017 have been confusing to many of the anglers and boat owners I run with in my fishing ministry and elsewhere. My goal in writing this article is to hopefully clear up any confusions and to help us stop the spread of invasive species, such as the ever infamous zebra mussels, to other rivers and lakes as responsible fishermen.

Live shad have long been one of the best live baits for striped bass and white bass fishing and fresh cut shad has personally yielded many trophy blue cats in lakes for my friends and I that fish on a regular basis. The new law requires persons who uses containers larger than 82 gallons in total value when collecting shad to buy a $60 Permit to Possess or Sell Nongame Fish from Public Fresh Waters. TPWD put together a downloadable PDF to help explain the shad rules better but I was able to get further clarification on this below.

Illustration Courtesy Texas Parks & Wildlife Department

A TPWD official recently wrote the following in an email to clear up the confusion behind this law and the reason why it was needed: “The shad rule was enacted specifically to address harvesting of threadfin and gizzard shad from public waters. Our primary focus was those persons collecting large quantities of shad harvested from public water and then transporting them back to be used as a prey fish in private waters. Before this rule, no permit was required if shad harvested from public waters were not sold. If a person was harvesting shad and selling them, a permit to sell non-game fishes taken from public waters was required. Under the new rule, the permit is required for any person harvesting shad in containers that total 82 gallons or more, regardless of whether it’s for sale or personal use. The rule allows TPWD to better monitor harvesting to ensure sustainability of shad in Texas waters. It also gives the agency an opportunity to inform applicants of the risks of spreading invasive species — especially zebra mussels — when we issue a permit.”

The TPWD official continued, “There are some areas in East Texas where transfer of any live non-game fishes is prohibited – the Red River below Lake Texoma downstream to the Arkansas border, Big Cypress Bayou downstream of Ferrell’s Bridge Dam on Lake O’ the Pines (including the Texas waters of Caddo Lake), and the Sulphur River downstream of the Lake Wright Patman dam. Nongame fishes collected from these waters may be used as live bait on those water bodies only. These rules were passed to prevent the accidental spread of silver and bighead carp, which look a lot like shad when they are small. Silver carp are the fish you may have seen in videos that jump in the air when startled by boats that are abundant in the Mississippi River and its tributaries.

Rules passed in July 2014 mandate draining water from boats and containers in boats. That means you cannot transfer shad or any fish in water from a hauling container into your boat when you get to the lake. You would have to transfer the fish from the hauling container into your boat by use of a net without water. The reverse also applies. If you have live bait that you want to take home with you when you leave the lake, these fish would also have to be transferred from your boat in a net.”

Author’s Understanding

Now, from the author’s understanding of the rules, you can still catch shad and put them on ice for use later use on another fishing trip. Only if you collect more than the volume of an 82-gallon container or plan to sell these shad would you need a permit. The rule DOES allow you to catch and use shad within the confines of one lake without needing one of these permits.

So the main reason this new law exists is to keep our lakes safer from invasive species. That makes a lot of sense. Hopefully this article clears up the mystery and better explains the rule. Our goal here at Texas Fish & Game and FishGame.com is to follow all the rules prescribed by our state governing authorities (TPWD) as these laws exist to promote conservation and extend our fisheries to the next generation and beyond.

For information on purchasing one of these permits for nongame fish, you can find it and more information at http://tpwd.texas.gov/publications/fishboat/forms/ or by calling 512-389-4742.

Dustin Vaughn Warncke

TF&G Staff:
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