Texas bowfishermen could soon be banned from taking alligator gar at night on all waters statewide as part of a proposed regulation change recently introduced by inland fisheries managers with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD).
The nighttime ban on shooting the fish with bows was one in a series of alligator gar regulation changes officially proposed during a Jan. 23 TPWD Commission work session held in Austin.
The list of proposed changes also includes placing the section of Trinity River from the I-30 bridge in Dallas to the I-10 bridge in Chambers County under a four-foot maximum length limit on alligator gar and leaving the current one-fish daily bag limit in place.
Additionally, TPWD is proposing the implementation of a mandatory reporting requirement for alligator gar harvested on all Texas waters, excluding Lake Falcon.
Mandatory reporting would require anglers to report each harvest within 24 hours online via a mobile app. It could potentially be a useful tool to help scientists track how many big alligator gar are being harvested, where they are being taken and the primary harvest methods.
The four-foot maximum length limit and mandatory reporting segments of the proposal were previously previewed to the commission during a November 2018 meeting in Mission. However, the push for a statewide ban on nighttime bowfishing for alligator gar came about as the result of a recent request from TPWD Commission Chairman Ralph Duggins, who last spring ordered inland fisheries staff to fashion a proposal to eliminate the harvest of large gar on the Trinity River.
“It was a last minute addition,” said Ken Kurzawski, TPWD Inland Fisheries Director of Information and Regulations.
Alligator gar are a long-lived fish known to reach lengths of eight feet and weights beyond 300 pounds during a slow growth life cycle that can last for decades. Texas is believed to be one of nation’s last strongholds for the prehistoric-looking fish, which require specific spawning conditions that don’t exist every year. The Trinity River is a well-known hot spot for big ones.
It should be noted that TPWD fisheries managers usually don’t suggest making such drastic changes in harvest recommendations without solid research data to back it up. Interestingly, there is no concrete data to suggest the Trinity River alligator gar population is in trouble, or that a more restrictive regulation is necessary to sustain it.
The alligator gar proposal is currently open for public comment and will also be taken to public hearings later this spring. The TPWD Commission will vote on the proposal at its March meeting. If adopted, the new regulation will take effect, Sept. 1.