BASED ON PROJECTED landings estimates, the private recreational angler red snapper season in federal waters off the Texas coast closed Aug. 2, earlier than the initially projected 97-day season.
This is the second year of an agreement between the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), where TPWD can establish the opening and closing of the red snapper fishery in federal waters off the Texas coast for private recreational anglers fishing from their own vessels.
As part of this agreement, also known as an Exempted Fishing Permit, Texas must close the fishery when the state’s allotted poundage is reached. Red snapper catch estimates through July 12 from federal waters indicates Texas private recreational anglers have landed 69 percent of the allocation.
“Closing the red snapper fishery earlier than expected is a sign that anglers were able to get out in the gulf early in the season to catch red snapper,” said Robin Riechers, TPWD Coastal Fisheries Division Director. “An early season closure demonstrates our ability to meet management goals while still giving longer seasons than if we were still in the one size fits all approach across the gulf.”
In projecting the number of days for the 2019 private recreational red snapper season in federal waters several assumptions had to be made by TPWD, namely that fishing behavior by private recreational anglers would be similar to that in previous years, with the number of participants in the fishery remaining relatively constant and the average weight of fish landed similar to 2018.
As it has turned out, weather patterns in the western Gulf of Mexico during the early part of the federal season have been generally favorable, resulting in more angler trips earlier this year compared to past years. According to Mark Fisher, science director for coastal fisheries at TPWD, several factors have contributed to the need for an early closure. The average weight of red snapper landed daily and the number of angler trips in federal waters have been twice the amount seen in 2018, and the average fish size has also been larger.
“While we had hoped to reach the projected 97-day red snapper season, the ability to manage and close the fishery when the allotted poundage is reached demonstrates that state management of the fishery is working as expected,” said Carter Smith, TPWD Executive Director. “The success story here is that anglers have had greater opportunity to get out to this point and have taken full advantage of the weather and the fact that there are plenty of fish to catch.”
The private recreational angler red snapper season in Texas state waters out to nine nautical miles is expected to remain open year-round based on state water landing projections.
The federally permitted for-hire sector, which allow recreational anglers to fish from charter boats or head boats, will remain in its current management structure set by the federal government. The federally permitted for-hire sector’s red snapper season is projected to close Aug. 2.
Mustang Island State Park s reopening for overnight camping after Hurricane Harvey storm damage delayed the previously scheduled restroom replacement project in the campgrounds.
“The staff of Mustang Island State Park is excited to once again be able to offer camping opportunities to visitors from around the world,” said Scott Taylor, Superintendent at Mustang Island State Park. “We look forward seeing all of the park visitors who have patiently waited as park repairs were made following Hurricane Harvey and we would like to thank everyone for the continued support they have shown for their Texas State Park.”
The restroom replacement project included significant plumbing and electrical work which affected the campground electrical service and portions of the wastewater systems in the park. Additional Harvey repairs are still ongoing to park buildings including the headquarters and maintenance shop.
Overnight campground reservations for Mustang Island State Park can be made online at https://texasstateparks.reserveamerica.com/ or through the Texas State Parks Customer Service Center at (512) 389-8900.
Through the online system, visitors can choose a specific site when making reservations up to five months in advance. Photos and details of campsites allow campers can pick their site before arriving at the park and ensure that sites have the amenities they need during their trip.
Beach camping sites are reserved on a first come first serve basis. For availability, call the park at (361) 749-5246.
Less than a year after a major flood scoured much of the Llano River and left anglers worried about the future of the waterway’s renowned bass fishery, biologists with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department are finding evidence of a recovery.
A fish sampling effort near Castell in late-June by TPWD aquatic biologists found large numbers of juvenile largemouth and Guadalupe bass are now present in the river. TPWD Aquatic Biologist Preston Bean, who is heading up a study looking at recovery of the river’s habitat and fish assemblage, reported Guadalupe bass made up 26 percent of the total catch and were at least 10 percent of the catch at each of 10 sampling sites.
“Most Guadalupe bass we collected were spawned this spring and the average length was 2.2 inches,” said Bean. “The fish appeared to be feeding heavily and had excellent body condition.”
The health of the resource was also evident from sampling of other aquatic species present in the river. Archis Grubh, TPWD Aquatic Ecologist who is studying effects of the flood on aquatic invertebrates reported seeing a steady repopulation of the invertebrate community, which means plentiful food is available for juvenile sport fish.
While biologists note that it will take time for keeper-sized bass to reach pre-flood levels in the Llano River, the presence of large numbers of juveniles indicates the fishery is healthy and on the way to recovery. Based on average growth rates for bass from Hill Country rivers, it will likely take several years before good numbers of larger bass are available for anglers in the most affected reaches of the river. Follow-up fish, habitat, and aquatic invertebrate surveys are planned by TPWD in the months ahead, along with surveys to monitor for aquatic invasive species that often spread during flood events.
“Keep in mind, last year the Llano River was greatly affected by a 100-year flood event that significantly altered its fish habitat,” said John Botros, TPWD River Access Program Coordinator. “Many anglers and local landowners expressed concern to us about the status of the fish population following this catastrophic flooding. While the abundance of fish in the river is lower than it was before the flood, we are happy to report that fish populations are showing signs of recovery.”