Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
March 30, 2011Commission Hearing Room
Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex
4200 Smith School Road
Austin, TX 78744
BE IT REMEMBERED, that heretofore on the 30th day of March 2011, there came to be heard matters under the regulatory authority of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission in the Commission Hearing Room of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex, to wit:
THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION:
- T. Dan Friedkin, Houston, Texas, Committee Chairman
- Peter M. Holt, San Antonio, Texas, Chairman
- Ralph H. Duggins, Fort Worth, Texas
- Antonio Falcon, MD, Rio Grande City, Texas
- Karen J. Hixon, San Antonio, Texas
- Dan Allen Hughes, Jr., Beeville, Texas (absent)
- Margaret Martin, Boerne, Texas
- S. Reed Morian, Houston, Texas
- Dick Scott, Wimberley, Texas
THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT:
- Carter P. Smith, Executive Director, and other personnel of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
P R O C E E D I N G S
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Good morning, everyone. Sorry, we’re running a bit late here. I didn’t realize it was after 9:00. This meeting is called to order, March 30th, 2011, at 9:10 a.m. Before proceeding with any business, I believe Mr. Smith has a statement to make.
MR. SMITH: I do, Mr. Chairman. Thank you. A public notice of this meeting containing all items on the proposed agenda has been filed in the Office of the Secretary of State, as required by Chapter 551, Government Code, referred to as the Open Meetings Act. I’d like for this fact to be noted in the official record of the meeting. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay. Thank you. To start with, I want to introduce ‑‑ we have a new commissioner, Dick Scott. Dick is right over here and Dick has been involved in various things. Obviously, he went to Harvard on the Neches River.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: I hadn’t heard that but I remembered it. Graduated from Lamar University, lives up in that part of the world, but where are you living now? I know you were born in Wimberley or ‑‑
COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Actually, about halfway between Dripping Springs and Wimberley.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes. Okay, good. I appreciate moving ‑‑ I’m a Blanco County guy so I’m glad. Dick has also been on the Lower Colorado River Authority and they just rewarded him by letting him off that Board and on to TPW, where we even have less money. So, welcome aboard and I’m glad you’re here, Dick. Thank you very much. And, also, believe it or not, has been already approved by the Senate so he must know somebody up there. The rest of us, it took us about three years to get approved. But, welcome aboard.
Secondly is, Professor Doug Slack has his group here that he brings once a year from Texas A&M, his wildlife and fisheries conservation class, and Professor Slack, you want to stand up and have your students stand up. They’re here ‑‑ please, because we appreciate them coming.
PROFESSOR SLACK: It’s a great day to be an Aggie.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Congratulations on your women’s team. Yes. I think that was a little bit of a shocker for Baylor, wasn’t it? Onward, onward. Congratulations. I assume that’s what you were referring to. Now, your favorite governor would say, it’s always a good day to be an Aggie. With that, we’ll get started with Regulations Committee this morning.
Chairman Friedkin, please call your Committee to order.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you. Okay. First order of business is approval of previous committee meeting minutes. Motion for approval?
COMMISSIONER HIXON: So move.
COMMISSIONER FALCON: Second.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Commissioner Hixon, second by Commissioner Falcon. All in favor?
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I move to correct.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Already?
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I want you to know that I read it. Page 21, I’m quoted as saying, "Is that ‑‑
COMMISSIONER HOLT: That’s why it bothered him.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: "Is that intended to refer to a trot line, jugs, a rim line?" Rim should have been limb. With that correction now?
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: So, with that correction ‑‑
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Boy, I tell you, you’re getting tougher by the day.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Okay. No discussion on that? We’re all okay with that?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes. Are you indicating that the law business is not doing too well up there in Fort Worth? Is that ‑‑
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: We’ve always got room for more.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: The motion carries. Committee Item Number 1, Update on Parks and Wildlife Progress in Implementing the TPWD Land and Water Resources Conservation and Recreation Plan. Carter.
MR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, I appreciate that. This morning we do not have any action items to report on from the Land and Water Plan but certainly, at the next meeting, we absolutely will, so we’ll be giving you an update on some of our milestones with respect to our progress there. Just a couple of items of interest that I do want to report on. One thing that I think was enormously productive over the last year was an interim committee that was championed by Representative Tan Parker from up in the north Texas ‑‑ north Dallas area on a Recreational Boating Advisory panel that assembled a bunch of different stakeholders to look at different boating safety and water safety mechanisms that could be implemented to keep our lakes safer, our boaters safer and also to help us from a law enforcement prospective.
And I want to brag on our boating law administrator, Game Warden Jeff Parish, and Cody Jones, who were intimately involved in that process and really did a great job ‑‑ a number of bills that Representative Parker has brought forward this session that I think will provide some substantive improvements in there to just keep boaters safer on the water. So, an important development there.
You will remember, I think, receiving a couple of letters from petitioners that were asking the Commission to consider opening up a bow-hunting season in Collin County, near Dallas. That’s a near-urban county near Dallas that currently does not have a deer season.
The petitioners, including Representative Laubenberg, had asked that we consider ‑‑ or you consider ‑‑ establishing an archery season there to create additional hunting opportunities for those, not unlike Grayson County. We have informed Representative Laubenberg and other petitioners that we plan to look at that issue over the summer, have our biologists evaluate that and maybe look at it in the context of an urban resource management unit where we have kind of urban and near-urban counties that currently don’t have a deer season but which might be able to have sufficient deer populations that could sustain an archery-only type season again, not unlike Grayson County. And so, what we’d like to do, with your permission, is just have our biologists kind of study that issue, think about the idea of establishing an urban resource management unit and then come back and visit with you in November to see if that idea would bear fruit. And so, kind of with your concurrence, we’d like to proceed in that direction.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Okay.
MR. SMITH: With that, Mr. Chairman, I’m finished with my remarks and I’ll turn it back over to you, unless there’s any questions.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: I appreciate it. Thank you.
All right. Committee Item Number 2, Potential Changes to the Migratory Game Bird Proclamation — Request Permission to Publish Proposed Changes in the Texas Register. Kevin’s coming on up.
MR. KRAAI: Good afternoon. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, committee members. For the record, my name is Kevin Kraai, Waterfowl Program Leader for the Wildlife Division. Today I’m here to visit with you about the upcoming 2011-2012 migratory game bird hunting seasons. More specifically, to kick off the annual regulations process, whereby we’ll be requesting from this committee permission to publish, in the state register, comments from the public.
We have developed ‑‑ the Wildlife Division has developed a suite of season dates that has recently been approved by our Migratory Game Bird Advisory Committee, as well as our technical committee. The important thing to know with migratory game birds is that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ultimately has final say over the rulemaking process and so the dates I’m going to show you here today could potentially change significantly as data comes in later this spring.
To begin with, I’ll talk about dove seasons. We do expect a 70-day season again this year, along with a 15-bird daily bag limit for all zones. With specifically the north and central zones, we are proposing that they run concurrent again this year with the traditional season opener being the first day of September, running through October 23rd, closing for a split and then reopening the second segment on December 24th, which is Christmas Eve and then running out their allowable 70 days being January 9th. As for the south zone, currently the earliest day at which we can open the south zone, with the current rules, is September 23rd run through October 30th. We open December 24th with the rest of the state and then run out at 70 days, being January 24th. I will quickly reference a potential change to that that we have before the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service right now and then I’ll speak about that in more detail in a minute.
Specifically, in the south zone, within the special white-winged dove hunting area, we are allowed four early days to take advantage of white-wings in that zone and, traditionally, those are the first two full weekends in September. Those are half-day seasons ‑‑ half-day hunting in those first four days. We expect a 15-bird aggregate, of which no more than four may be mourning doves in that zone. It will then reopen, along with the rest of the south zone, being September 23rd running through October 30th and then reopening with the rest of the state December 24th and running out its allowable 70 days, that being January 20th, which is four days less than the rest of the south zone.
To get a look at that, both of the dove seasons on some calendars, we’ll begin with the north and central zones. In blue, you can see denotes the season dates for the north and central dove zones. With respect to the south zone and the special white-winged dove hunting area, in green, you can see the four early half-days, the first two full weekends in September and, then, in blue denotes the regular season for both the south and the special white-winged dove hunting area and in orange you can see the four days for just, the south zone outside the special white-winged dove hunting area that will allow the full complement of the 70 days.
As I mentioned earlier, we do have a current proposal before the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to address the opening date. In 2009, Texas Parks and Wildlife developed a recommendation to create a consistent opening date in the south zone for landowners and land managers to plan appropriately and that being about the third week of September. Basically what happened is that we did not account for leap year with the future calendars and, as you can see, with the current proposals, the earliest date we can open is September 23rd in the south zone.
So, basically right now, the current rulemaking process for that is we’re allowed to choose the Friday nearest September 20th but no earlier than the 17th but we’ve cleaned up that record for that verbiage and now have a recommendation requesting the Friday nearest the third Saturday ‑‑ or the Friday closest to the third Saturday in September. So, until that gets approved, these are the current dates that we’re allowed to ‑‑ but just for your information and assuming this would get approved, it’s likely we’ll see this in future meetings.
The next calendar shows what that would look like and basically it’s just a calendar shift to one week earlier such that the regular season would open on the 16th and then the closure for both the south zone and the special white-winged area would be the 13th and then just the south zone outside the special white-wing area would be the 17th. So, you may see this again earlier. We just thought it important that we give you the heads-up on this.
Moving on to teal seasons, currently the service allows either 16 or 9 nine ‑‑ excuse me.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I have a question on this.
MR. KRAAI: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: The north and central zone second season dates, did the migratory game committee consider moving that up a day so that it began on the 23rd, which would be Friday, since the 9th is a Monday and I’m thinking about how to expand ‑‑ the options for people there to get out ‑‑
MR. KRAAI: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: ‑‑ so it seems to me that might be worthy of consideration. Was that discussed at the ‑‑
MR. KRAAI: I don’t believe that was. I think with the onset of the creation of this split season across the state, at least last year when the ‑‑ it was vetted through our committees, it was thought that it would be best to open on that Saturday but that’s certainly a possibility that can be looked into.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, my thought was that very few people are likely to hunt on Christmas Eve ‑‑
MR. KRAAI: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: ‑‑ yet they might on the day before.
MR. KRAAI: The day before.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: ‑‑ due to the ‑‑ most people aren’t working and they’re not likely to use the January 9th, which is a Monday. It seems like we might provide more opportunities to our hunters in those two zones, if we tweaked that by moving it up a day. What do the rest of them think about it?
MR. KRAAI: Yes, I will make sure that we investigate that with our committee and see if that’s something they would be interested in and potentially bringing that forward to you at a later meeting. So, we have that room within the federal framework to do that.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Okay. I agree, I think you can look at that and potentially would create more opportunities so, ‑‑
MR. KRAAI: Yes, sir. Okay. With respect to early teal seasons, as I was saying earlier, the service allows either a 16- or a nine-day season. If it’s a 16-day season, it typically will be the last three full weekends of September, being the 10th through the 25th and if we’re given a nine-day teal season selection, it’ll be the 17th through the 25th. My crystal ball says, considering the conditions that we’re currently seeing in the prairies, it will most likely be the first, being the 10th through the 25th, which is a 16-day season.
With respect to rails, gallinules, snipe and woodcock, for rail and gallinule, we like ‑‑ it’s historically open concurrent with the early teal seasons so you can see a September 10th through 25 season there, to run concurrent with teal season. And then we open on November 5th, which is kind of important because that is a change from last year and that reflects a concurrent opener with the duck seasons I’m about to propose to you ‑‑ and then concluding on December 28th. As for snipe as well, the November the 5th opener to open concurrent with duck seasons and run its full allotment of its allowable framework and that being February 19th. With respect to woodcock, Fish and Wildlife Service allows us 45 days for woodcock hunting, which the latest day being January 31st, so we simply, historically, have started on the 31st and backed up 45 days, that being December 18th.
Now moving on to ducks, mergansers and coots, we’ll start with the High Plains Mallard Management Unit but at first I’d like to talk about some changes that we may see that we’re proposing for ducks across all zones. Over the last few years we’ve received considerable public comment regarding the selection of the season that did not go to the end of allowable frameworks. That topic was recently vetted through our in-house migratory game bird tech committee, as well as our migratory game bird advisory committee. After looking at all the pros and cons of this topic, including everything from an earlier shifting calendar over the next few years, public opinion, migration chronology, other opening days of migratory game birds and potential conflict with big game opening season dates.
Ultimately, there was a unanimous decision, from both groups, that the season that provides the best opportunity for duck hunters across the entire state of Texas and maybe even more importantly, waterfowl hunters in general, when considering a trending delay in goose migrations, that the season ‑‑ that season would be one that would conclude at the end of allowable federal frameworks, being the last Sunday in January.
The other thing I would like to preface before I show you our proposals for duck season is that these dates are all prefaced on the fact that Fish and Wildlife Service setting a liberal framework. And, obviously, if that does not happen, these dates would change significantly.
Again, like I said, the teal season conditions are better than maybe they’ve ever been in human history right now with the snow and the water prior so we do expect a liberal season so these dates are probably pretty accurate.
Specifically, with the High Plains Mallard Management Unit highlighted there, our proposals are traditional youth season the weekend before the regular opener, that being October 22nd and 23rd. The following weekend, the 29th and 30th being the opener of the regular season and the closing for four days and then reopening on Friday, November 4th running to the end of allowable frameworks, being January 29th.
We do expect U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to implement a delay ‑‑ a five-day delay on mottled ducks again this year and that would be for the High Plains zone of November 7th. To look at that and plot it out on a calendar, in green you can see what the early teal season dates would look like for a 16-day season. The gray boxes, the 22nd and 23rd, would be the youth seasons and then the blue would denote the regular seasons for the High Plains unit. As for the north and south zones, we expect a 76-day season when you include youth season, that being the weekend before regular season, October 29th and 30th for those zones. Then, the regular season opening November 5th and running through November 27th, which is the Sunday after Thanksgiving and then reopening two weeks later on December 10th to run to January 29th. Again, the same as the High Plains unit, we do expect a five-day delay in the mottled duck season and that would be November 10th for these two zones.
Have a look at that on the calendar. Again, with the north and south zones, the green denotes the teal season, the gray boxes denote the proposed youth season prior to the regular season and then the blue boxes denote the regular season, closing January 29th. As for proposed bag limits statewide, we do expect, again, a six-day aggregate bag limit for ducks, that being of which no more than three may be wood ducks, scaup, hen mallards ‑‑ two hen mallards, two scaup, two redheads, two pintails, one canvasback, one dusky duck ‑‑ which is a mottled, black or Mexican-like duck and their hybrids and there is a potential ‑‑ we do expect a five-day delay on that. And all other duck species, we expect a six-bird bag limit. As for mergansers, we expect five per day, of which no more than two may be hooded and then the ever elusive coot is a 15-bird bag limit.
Moving on to geese, we begin with our eastern zone and there are a couple of changes here that I would like to point out that we will be proposing to this committee. The first being vetted in fact that the duck season we’re proposing moving later, so in order to keep regulations similar, the goose season opener will also be moved back a week, that being November 5th and for light geese running to January 29th, which is also the close of the duck season in the north and south zones. Specifically relating to Canada geese, we are proposing a new Canada goose season and that being two extra weeks of Canada goose-only hunting opportunity. This season is proposed as an early season in September, to run concurrent with teal season and is designed to take advantage of a growing population of resident or non-migratory Canada geese in the northeastern portion of the state. And in some locations those birds are being considered to be nuisance birds. And, you can see there in red that would be the season dates that we’re proposing and that is also the season dates for the teal season, September 10th to September 25, then with the regular dark goose season opening November 5th with the other species and running to January 29th. As for white-fronted geese or speckled-belly geese, the management plan for white-fronted geese currently only allows for a 72-day season thus we would open concurrent with the other geese and duck seasons and then run 72 days and then close that season, that being January 15th, this year. As for the expected bag limit in the eastern zone, we expect three Canada geese, two white-fronted geese and then 20 light geese.
To look at that on a calendar, the purple dates denote ‑‑ with the light blue-letters denote the Canada goose-only season that we’re proposing for the east zone. The gray boxes with the yellow lettering denote the white-fronted goose season and then you can see continuing on in the gray boxes are the Canada goose and the light goose seasons, ending on January 29th. And in blue, you can see the beginning of the conservation order.
Moving on to the west zone, highlighted in red, this is a little simpler, basically because it’s a simple calendar shift from last season. To begin light goose season ‑‑ as well as dark goose ‑‑ November 5th and run through February 5th, with a bag limit on white geese being 20 and dark geese ‑‑ the bag limit will be no more than ‑‑ will be a bag limit of five, of which no more than one can be a white-fronted goose in that zone. Again, to look at that on a calendar, the gray boxes denote the regular season for light and dark geese, with the blue boxes illustrating the beginning of the conservation order, running to March 25th.
As I mentioned, if we move on to the light goose conservation order, another way to look at it is, in the west zone, beginning February 6th, the day after seasons close. Similarly in the east zone, the day after season close, being January 30th and both seasons ending March 25th. As for sandhill cranes, zone A ‑‑
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Excuse me, Kevin. Commissioner Duggins has a question.
MR. KRAAI: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Question on the light geese conservation provision. I guess this is 65.321, which is on page 23 of our books.
MR. KRAAI: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: A couple of questions. Under subpart c, it says a person may give, leave, receive, or possess ‑‑ what does the word "leave" mean in it.
MR. KRAAI: Basically, I believe what that means ‑‑ and there’s probably a clarification from Robert Macdonald ‑‑ but I believe that means just gifting and not having to ‑‑ you know, it’s eliminating some of the restrictions associated with possession limits that have been tied up with the regular season birds such as making it easier for people to get rid of their birds, basically, if they harvest a lot of birds.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: It seems to me we ought to say "gift" because I think you could confuse ‑‑ interpret the word "leave" to mean you could just leave them on the ground.
MR. KRAAI: In the field.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And that could be waste. Now the ‑‑ we also have, under that same subpart, that to participate, you’ve got to have all of this information, the name of the person receiving the bird, the number and species of the bird, the date the ‑‑
is that ‑‑ all that really necessary if the person’s licensed?
MR. KRAAI: That’s federal framework ‑‑
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Federal rule that’s required by USFW.
MR. KRAAI: Yes, sir. That’s basically federal rule that we’re required to follow in order to hold that season.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. And then my last question is, do we really find that this works where it’s only permitted from February 26th to March 25th? Haven’t most of the birds moved out by then?
MR. KRAAI: We do have a ‑‑ being at, you know, the southern end of the flyway, there are years at which Texas doesn’t get to participate very much in that season. But in the east zone, which is the majority of our goose ‑‑ our snow goose hunting, you can see we do open it earlier than we do in our west zone to take advantage of those birds while they’re still here. For example, this year was extremely cold throughout the Midwest in February and those individuals were able to take very much advantage of a delayed migration of those birds and it worked out very well and they had almost two full months of hunting down there.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: But the ability to use the calls and that sort of thing, you can’t do that in the east zone until you get past the regular season.
MR. KRAAI: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And what I’m asking is, is there a way to ‑‑ have you considered whether the special season should be moved up either ‑‑ in either area ‑‑
MR. MORRISON: Excuse me. My name is Dave Morrison. I’m the Small Game Program Leader. Part of the thing with the light goose conservation order, all migratory bird seasons have to be closed before you can implement these special provisions. That is a guideline of the Fish and Wildlife Service. So that before we can open the special light goose conservation order, other seasons have to be closed.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Right.
MR. MORRISON: For example, the sandhill crane season. You know, we would certainly ‑‑ there’s those people in that Zone C would like to see that run later but, in order to take advantage of the conservation order when those birds are here, we run it concurrent and close with the duck season. So yes, sir, there is some advantage in trying to do it. We’ve looked at possibly doing it ‑‑ the splits and times like that ‑‑ but you run up against the fact that there are other migratory game bird seasons open. That is a key consideration with respect to how the Fish and Wildlife Service set up this conservation order.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: But what is open in February? I mean, this shows that ‑‑
MR. MORRISON: The only thing that would be open would be the snipe season and snipe is one that they have given us an allowance for.
MR. SMITH: Dave, just as a matter of clarification, are we proposing that we open the light goose conservation order season on February 6th or February 26th?
MR. MORRISON: Sixth.
MR. SMITH: Okay, there’s a discrepancy in the book.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, that’s what I was ‑‑
MR. MORRISON: Oh, I’m sorry.
MR. SMITH: So, in the book it suggests the 26th so we’ll fix that. February 6th is the date.
MR. MORRISON: I apologize. I did not see that.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: It’s on page 24 of our book. It says 26th. That’s why I focused on that.
MR. MORRISON: Okay.
MR. SMITH: We’ll get that fixed.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you.
MR. MORRISON: One other quick thing. The "leave" part. If you want to leave them at a picker or leave them with somebody, that’s basically what they’re talking about, leaving them with some place other than what you, as the person that took those birds. So there’s lots of different things. Gifting is one thing and so there are different ways of handling how you leave those birds at one place. Regardless, if you leave them and they’re no longer in your possession, you have to have that information with them that identifies who took them.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I’m just suggesting we clarify, maybe at the end of the sentence, to say, provided that in no event, they’re not wasted ‑‑
MR. MORRISON: That’s no problem. We can get something in there on that.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I just think that’s something is ‑‑
MR. MORRISON: Sure. Thank you.
MR. KRAAI: I believe we’re on sandhill crane proposals? With respect to Zone A, in blue, this is nothing more than a calendar shift we’re proposing to you from last year that basically the season that runs concurrent with the proposed goose seasons, running from November 4th ‑‑ November 5th to February 5th, with a bag limit of three birds. Zone B, in accordance with our agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to have a delayed opener associated with whooping crane migration, our proposal is November 25th to February 5th. And then in Zone C, there’s a slight change here that we’re proposing, that having to do with the closing of duck season. That’s ‑‑ this proposal we have here would be a week delay in the Zone C season, this year being December 24th and running to January 29th, with a bag limit of two.
The suggested dates for extended falconry season. These dates, it’s important to note, have been vetted through the Falconry and Raptor Council and they are in agreement with these dates.
With respect to doves, our proposed seasons are November 17th through December 23rd, which is the time period between the split.
Ducks, both the North and South zones only, we are allowed 15 extra days, so we’d run that January 30th through February 13th, basically the 15 days after the close of duck season and then rails, gallinules and woodcock beginning January 30th, similarly, and running to February 13th. And with that ‑‑
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Is that 15 days more than last year?
MR. KRAAI: No, sir. It’s 15 days in addition to allow the framework to ‑‑
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: So, in terms of overall falconry opportunity, how does this compare to previous years?
MR. KRAAI: Similar ‑‑ exactly the same with the exception of the season will begin a week later because of the proposed duck season.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Sounds good. Thank you, Kevin. Any other questions? All right. Appreciate it.
MR. KRAAI: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: All right. No further discussion, I’ll authorize staff to publish the proposed changes in the Texas Register for the required public comment period.
Committee Item 3 — Public Lands Proclamation — Request Permission to Publish. Linda Campbell.
MS. CAMPBELL: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, I’m Linda Campbell. I’m Program Director of the Private Lands and Public Hunting Program in the Wildlife Division. And, today we have two proposed amendments to the Public Lands Proclamation.
Blue Elbow Swamp — Tony Houseman Wildlife Management Area State Park has been a Wildlife Management Area since 1997 but due to an oversight was never added to the list of WMAs currently contained in the Public Lands Proclamation. The proposed amendment would correct that oversight.
Also, advances in propulsion systems technology have increased the ability of shallow draft vessels to operate in very shallow waters and wetlands, which poses threats to habitat by disturbing soils and vegetation. Current rules prohibit the use of airboats on wildlife management areas except by executive order or written permission and several WMAs impose site-specific restrictions on the operation of motorboats. However, the terms "airboat" and "motorboat" are not defined by rule. The proposed amendment would supply a regulatory meaning of those terms for enforcement purposes.
Here are the proposed definitions and I’ll give you a moment to look at those. So, Mr. Chairman, with the approval of the Committee, staff will publish the proposed amendments in the Texas Register for public comment and I thank you for your attention and try to answer any questions you might have.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Linda, on the proposed definition of "motorboat," is that ‑‑ it seems to me that might not cover a situation where it is a motorboat but at the time the person is confronted, it’s not being propelled by machinery. Shouldn’t that seem ‑‑ don’t you mean a vessel capable of being propelled by machinery?
MS. CAMPBELL: That might ‑‑
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I mean, because somebody can turn the motor off.
MS. CAMPBELL: Yes, sir, I see that.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Well, you do do that.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Yes.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: You do that all the time.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Or you mean "vessel propelling" ‑‑
MS. CAMPBELL: Capable of being propelled.
MR. WOLF: Chairman, for the record I’m Clayton Wolf of Wildlife Division. We did have some discussions about this and compared that to motorboat definitions and I forget in what part of the Code – a separate part of the Code ‑‑ but some of our discussions involved folks that might motor to a restricted area and then want to pole, paddle or oar further in there and so there was discussion about this, you know, because, for instance, on the Murphree area we have areas ‑‑ it takes a while to get out there and so they’ll motor to the area and then we have restricted areas that are posted, at what point they’re no longer allowed motorized access so, at that point, folks can pole, paddle or push, however, even though they have an outboard motor or GO-DEVIL or what have you on there. So there was some intent to describing how it was being propelled, I guess, if it were discovered by law enforcement division, as opposed to the purpose.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: You’ve covered it in other aspects of the regulations because if this object is that it’s not being propelled by a mechanized means at the time you’re in this qualified area?
MR. WOLF: That’s correct because they could have an outboard motor ‑‑ and they need the outboard motor to get, you know, to some of those areas further out there and then it’s just when they get to that point, it’s the means of propulsion at that time, when they’re in the restricted area.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Where is that in the ‑‑
MR. WOLF: That’s not in there. The way we looked at it is the first sentence there ‑‑ that is being propelled ‑‑ and so we read that to meant whatever the ‑‑ once they’re in there, it’s the means of propulsion for that boat while it’s there and we’d take any suggestions for anything that might further clarify that, obviously.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right. Well, that answers the question.
MR. WOLF: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Okay. Linda, thank you very much. Any other questions for Linda? Okay. No further questions or discussion, I’ll authorize staff to publish the proposed changes in the Texas Register for the required public comment period.
Committee Item 4 — Briefing on the February Freeze Event and Closures. Rebecca Hensley.
MS. HENSLEY: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, I’m Rebecca Hensley with the Coastal Fisheries Division, located up in the Dickinson Office, just north of Galveston Bay. I’m here to basically update you on our past February freeze, as well as talk to you a little bit about our thermal refuge closures during that time period. Late January we had predictions of a severe Arctic front that was going to impact the coast from the 1st to the 4th of February, bringing coastwide temperatures anywhere between 25 to 38 degrees and at that time period we kind of went into a response readiness mode to talk to several different divisions, communications, law enforcement, inland, coastal fisheries and wildlife and trying to get ready for the onset as well as the post-freeze assessment and we also talked about some proactive measures with respect to enhancing survivability to the fish with our thermal refuge closures, as well as some land cut ‑‑ barge traffic stoppage during the land cut in the Upper Laguna Madre.
Well, the freeze actually did hit the first of February ‑‑ the night of the first and the temperatures actually were a little longer, hitting about the first two weeks of February, with a slight warming period. In that time period the air temperatures along the coast dropped 22 degrees. The water temperatures in all the bay systems ‑‑ at least part of them ‑‑ hit freezing and we had at least two days of 45 degree water temperatures along the entire coast. This was the first time that we have used ‑‑ that our Executive Director has used the authority that was granted by the 2005 Commission to ‑‑ following the 2004 freeze, to actually close some of the deepwater thermal refuge sites where fish are known to congregate during the cold water events. And based on the predictions ‑‑ the weather predictions ‑‑ the coastwide impact as well as the duration of the freeze, this closure was initially implemented to be the 2nd through the 5th of February and, as I said earlier, the duration of the freeze actually was longer so what was done was we extended the freeze ‑‑ the temporary recreational closure to the 7th of February and, again, 21 sites that have been previously designated along the entire coast for thermal refuges, where fish normally congregate.
A significant voluntary effort occurred with the Gulf Intercoastal Canal Association, which is a group of barge operators that voluntarily shut down ‑‑ cease their traffic in the Upper Laguna Madre, a section called the Land Cut, which is south of Baffin Bay, north of Port Mansfield and they closed or stopped their barge traffic from the 3rd, which is Thursday, through Saturday. Again, that was to enhance the survival of those fish, to minimize the prop damage of those fish there in the deepwater areas, as well as prop wash, which actually causes sedimentation and potential asphyxiation of those fish with silt on the gills. Again, a significant effort, which impacted those companies at roughly $7,000 a day, each day of the closure during the freeze event.
So, what happened with our fish ‑‑ what was impacted?
Along the coast, we saw at least 290,000 fish killed with the majority of those fish being what we considered non-recreational species, forage and other species. Those were primarily dominated by the hard-head catfish, silver perch and mullet. We had less than 20 percent of those fish killed were recreational species, running about 8 percent sheepshead and less than 8 percent spotted seatrout, red drum and black drum. Again, we saw substantial numbers of turtle strandings, over 1500.
Each of the bay systems have slightly different species compositions and impacts. For example, Matagorda Bay had the majority of the fish impacts with over 160,000 fish killed. The recreational species there that were impacted were black drum and sheepshead, in comparison with the Lower Laguna Madre, which had about 35,000 fish killed and the primary species impacted, recreationally, as sheepshead, about 50 percent.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Let me just quickly ‑‑ on the stranded turtles ‑‑
MS. HENSLEY: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: — was there some help ‑‑ in volunteer help, were we able to save any of those stranded turtles or when you say stranded ‑‑ stranded and died or stranded and ‑‑
MS. HENSLEY: They were stranded and I have a slide just for that and I’ll go into a little more detail on that.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay. Thank you. You’re way ahead of me on that one.
MS. HENSLEY: Thank you. In comparing the historical freezes to where we are right now at 2011, looking at 1983 and the two 1989 freezes, those made up about 32 million fish that were killed during those three events and the night ‑‑ the 2011 freeze was significant but in comparison it was most similar ‑‑ at least in the total number of fish killed through the 1997 freeze. Again, 2004, 2010, weather freezes barely hitting this graph because of the scale of the mortality but we saw about 31,000 and 55,000 fish in those two years, respectively.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: You obviously went back and compared like ’83 and ’89, were they were just much more extreme freezes, lasted longer, more fish ‑‑ what went through ‑‑
MS. HENSLEY: The temperatures were much more severe and we had some predictions that the 2011 freeze would be as severe as that. Thankfully, it wasn’t. Colder temperatures, much colder than 45, which usually is the lethal thermal tolerance for many of our species and a long, long period of cold weather.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay.
MS. HENSLEY: Ice on the shorelines. This picture next ‑‑ the ones on the left are 1983. So, pretty substantial and just comparing those ‑‑ the 1980 freezes with 1997 and 2011, using spotted seatrout, red drum and black drum, in 1983 and the two combined 1989 freezes, less than 1 percent of those species killed were those three species. But again, 1 million fish in 1983 of those three species and 1 million combined in 1989.
1997 was a little bit different than 2011. We had the majority of those fish that were killed in that freeze were recreational species with almost 75 percent being spotted seatrout, red drum and black drum. And, again, 2011, less than 8 percent of those three species. So, the sea turtle strandings ‑‑ basically, this was a big surprise for us. We had stunned sea turtles ‑‑ actually a huge effort with public ‑‑ a lot of volunteers, federal groups and a lot of Texas Parks and Wildlife staff, law enforcement, communications, coastal fisheries. They were all in the water, picking up turtles as they got on the shoreline as soon as the freeze began and it was that rapid response ‑‑ we quickly realized that there were not enough facilities to hold and hold these turtles as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife normally does and walk through the warming period, get them into a rehab facility, get them into the water and then release them when the air temperature warmed up ‑‑ so utilizing some of the other states that have had record cold sea turtle strandings, they said, Get these sea turtles into the Gulf waters as quickly as possible, as long as those waters warm up.
And we were lucky enough to have a warm period in between those two freezes and we had 700 turtles that were released into the Gulf on Sunday the 6th. Very successfully with those temperatures over ‑‑ about 50, 52 degrees. So that’s something we will be using. Again, a big effort on Parks and Wildlife equipment, staff, facilities. We participated at all levels of the pickup, transport, storage, rehab.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: So very little observed mortality in the turtles or ‑‑
MS. HENSLEY: We had a little over 200 turtles that died and compared to 2010, last year, we had over 400 turtles that were picked up and two-thirds of those were dead so pretty significant turtle survival with this. Most of these were greens.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: So the awareness level over the last few years has really changed and raised the volunteerism and the help that you get ‑‑
MS. HENSLEY: Exactly.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: ‑‑ immediately, you said.
MS. HENSLEY: Well, surprisingly enough, with all the ice on the road, we still had people on the water after the turtles.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: I noticed one guy had his Spurs T-shirt on so he ‑‑
COMMISSIONER HOLT: And that’s why.
UNNAMED PERSON: You didn’t pay for that, did you?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yeah, right. I’d better get that blown up. I need that picture.
MS. HENSLEY: With everything that we do ‑‑ the first time we closed the thermal refuges ‑‑ we go back ‑‑ as well as with our freeze event, what could we do better and one of the things we are working on now is getting the message out a little better with respect to our thermal refuges. That includes additional signage on some additional maps and tools for both anglers and law enforcement during the time periods, as well as some site assessments of these thermal refuges, the boundaries’ locations ‑‑ are they conducive to recreational angling going on, are they appropriate?
And with respect to our fisheries, we took a pretty good hit ‑‑ thankfully not as bad as 1983 and ’89. With respect to the impacts along the coast, we will monitor through this next year ‑‑ we always do after all freezes ‑‑ and assess the full impact with our fisheries -monitoring program and if there are needed recommendations for management strategies, we’ll provide those. And so with that, Mr. Chairman and Commissioners, I conclude my comments.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you. Questions or ‑‑
COMMISSIONER HIXON: I’m just curious as to how you extrapolate the numbers. I mean, you’re talking millions of fish or hundreds of ‑‑
COMMISSIONER HOLT: I’m glad you asked that.
MS. HENSLEY: Well, with a lot of our field effort, we basically try to get up in the air, utilize law enforcement plane to overfly to the coast, get the extent of the impact. Usually it’s a few days after the freeze when fish start floating. And then, we get people on the ground and do a subset of samples and extrapolate for those areas. So, it’s a lot of field time.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: You’re apparently comfortable with your counts and how you count.
MS. HENSLEY: The counts have been consistent since 1983 as the procedures have been consistent. Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you very much. It’s great.
MS. HENSLEY: Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Appreciate it. Committee Item 5 ‑‑ I think that’s where we are ‑‑ 2011-2012 Statewide Hunting Proclamation — Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes. Jason Hardin.
MR. HARDIN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Jason Hardin, Upland Game Bird Specialist with Texas Parks and Wildlife. I’m here today to present the proposed regulations changes impacting wild turkey season structure and the mule deer management and deer program. I’d like to start out by discussing three proposed regulation changes that, if adopted, will take effect during the 2011-2012 wild turkey season. These proposals were developed through our upland game bird technical committee, consisting of Parks and Wildlife staff and have been presented to the Upland Game Bird Advisory Committee during a briefing this past August and again in November. The advisory committee viewed the opinions of the Upland Game Bird Committee favorably.
The first proposal is to close 15 of the current 43 counties open for spring Eastern turkey season. The Eastern turkey season is unique in Texas in that it is the only game animal that is required to be reported following harvest. All harvested birds must be reported to one of our 90-plus mandatory check stations within 24 hours of harvest. The harvest data collected help us to implement management strategies. The counties recommended for closure are delineated here in black and listed to the left of the map. Closure are recommended due to less than one bird on average being reported for these counties over a minimum period of three years, with several of these counties going quite a bit longer without reporting a harvest. Based on hunter, landowner and TPWD biologist observations, there appears to be a lack of brood stock in these counties to support a season. Closing these counties provides us with the opportunity to move forward with new stocking strategies. There was also public comment ‑‑ found that 95 percent of responders support closing these 15 counties. Out of 78 responders, four disagreed with closing these counties. Some of the comments included, Open the season on April 15th in these counties and shorten the season to two weeks and another disagreed with closing these counties if restocking did not take place concurrently.
The second proposal is to delay the opening of the Eastern turkey season by two weeks. The current season opens April 1 and runs through April 30. The proposed season would open April 15 and close May 14. Research conducted in East Texas has identified a median nest initiation date falling in the middle of April. Research conducted in ’07 and ’08 looked at a nest initiation date of 98 nesting attempts. The median nest initiation fell on 16 April. This change will assure that the majority of hens have been bred by the available gobblers before the season opens and reduce the risk of accidental hen harvest because the majority of the hens will be sitting on a nest, incubating eggs for up to 23 hours a day. The results of public comment found that 87 percent of respondents support the season shift. Of 76 respondents, ten disagreed with the season date shift. Public comments included, the season should remain the same, a two-week season is long enough, May is too hot and gobbling activity has ceased by mid-May and one comment provided was not germane to the proposal.
The third proposal is to change the spring Rio Grande turkey season in the north and south zones from a gobbler-only season to an any bearded-bird season. This change reflects the bag of most states with a spring turkey season. Currently all but five of the north and south zones have a fall season to allow for the harvest of up to four hens. Bearded hens make up a small fraction of the hen population; however, many hunters rely on a beard as an indicator of a gobbler. Due to the low number of bearded hens available for harvest, this change will have little to no impact on the Texas Rio Grande Turkey population. The results of public comment found that 89 percent of respondents support the season shift and the spring bag. Of 88 respondents, ten disagreed with the shift. Public comments included, Keep the gobblers only, hunters should be able to identify bearded hens from gobblers. One commenter said that he was unaware of any other state that allowed for the harvest of bearded hens in the spring and that 5 percent values seemed too low.
The last proposal is modification to the current mule deer MLDP. We’re proposing a minor change to the mule deer MLDP that would primarily be a housekeeping measure. We’d like to clarify the rules to state that MLDP permits for mule deer are valid during the archery-only season but a take in mule deer with legal archery equipment. This modification will help clear up any confusion with respect to when tags can be used. The results of public comments found that 90 percent of respondents support the clean-up in the language, as it pertains to mule deer MLDP permits. Of the 72 respondents, seven disagree with the clean-up of the language but none of the comments were germane to the proposal.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Pretty straightforward. Any questions? Commissioner Duggins.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Jason, did the ‑‑ I think it’s the third slide that says, Proposed county closures, 15 counties closed ‑‑
MR. HARDIN: Yes.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: For Eastern ‑‑ the circuit?
MR. FRIEDKIN: Right. Okay.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I’m just curious why ‑‑ if you look at the counties that are in beige that wouldn’t be closed and that little finger comes into the ‑‑
MR. HARDIN: Part of Shelby County?
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: ‑‑ closure area. What’s different about those counties? Why do they have a population that’s huntable and those that are ‑‑
MR. HARDIN: It’s almost entirely habitat-related. A lot of this country is consistent with industry land ‑‑ paper industry, timber industry and national forest land. There’s a considerable amount of prescribed burning that takes place in these areas so habitats are maintained year in and year out. In the northern half, it becomes a Post Oak Savannah with little fingers of Blackland Prairie, which has a nice open understory, lots of diversity of open habitat, which provides good brooding cover so that the habitat’s just a little bit different between those two areas and it’s mostly a management scenario.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: But you think it’s primarily a habitat issue.
MR. HARDIN: I think it’s primarily a habitat issue but there may be some opportunities over to the west. The finger that you’re talking about, I would say is almost exactly just habitat related.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any questions for Jason?
Comments? That’s it. Thank you. I’ll place this item on the Thursday Commission meeting agenda for public comment and action.
Item Number 6 — 2011-2012 Statewide Fishing Proclamation — Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes. Robin Riechers. How are you, Robin?
MR. RIECHERS: Good morning, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Robin Riechers of the Coastal Fisheries Division and I’m here to present the 2011-2012 Coastal Fisheries Statewide Proposals.
As indicated before, none of the changes that we have before you are substantive in nature. They’re either clarifications of previous intent or kind of clarifying the language so that it’s better understood at this point in time. Two of those are correcting minimum length limits in the Proclamation regarding gag grouper and snook and then the clarifications or regarding the use of the bait on circle hooks in the bycatch retention associated with shrimp vessels. Again, as indicated, the corrections to the minimum length limits we’re correcting a typographical error that had gag grouper at 37 inches and the intent in previous action was to put that at a 22-inch minimum length limit and for snook, the correction changes it from 22 to 24 inches, as the rule was previous ‑‑ as your action had previously left it at.
In addition, regarding circle hooks, we’re clarifying that circle hooks are required when fishing with natural bait for red snapper. There was some confusion over this, whether you had to put circle hooks or alter hooks on artificial bait, if you were using some sort of artificial bait as well and we’re clarifying that it’s only when being used for red snapper. That’s consistent with the federal rule that’s outside the nine nautical miles that will make our rule inside the nine nautical miles consistent with that and obviously eliminate confusion for the anglers who are trying to abide by those rules.
Then lastly, we’re clarifying that on commercial shrimp boats, only those people who have either a shrimp boat owner or the actual license for the vessel or the shrimp boat captain’s license are the people who can retain a recreational bag limit on board the vessel. There’s been some confusion. Some people are exempted from that license if someone on board has that shrimp boat owner’s license or the vessel license or they have the captain’s license. The other members of the crew may not have to have a license and there’s been some confusion over whether they could keep a recreational bag limit and we’re going ‑‑ and indicating to them, no, that you actually have to have that; either the owner has to be on board with their license or the captain ‑‑ the person has to have a shrimp boat captain’s license.
When you look at the comment summary, you can see overwhelming support for this. None of our constituents felt strongly enough to come to any of our public hearings in regards to this but all of these are based on our web comments at this point and overwhelming support. With that, that concludes my presentation. I’d be happy to answer any other questions.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thanks, Robin. Commissioner Duggins.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Robin, has it been a year since the flounder reductions have been in place?
MR. RIECHERS: This will be ‑‑ the fall would have been the second year that those would have been in place so, yes, we’re two years into those rule reductions.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And do you have any updates on that that might impact if there should be further adjustments to the flounder?
MR. RIECHERS: As we discussed when we passed the rule, three years is where we really kind of make our benchmark but certainly, anecdotally, we can suggest to you that we believe some of those rules are having the impact that we desired but we certainly would like to review that in our next statewide cycle and be ready to come back to you with any changes that we’d recommend.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: When I’m down on the coast, everybody tells me there’s more flounder than there’s ever been and why haven’t I changed the rule back. You haven’t heard that yet – Robin, have you?
MR. RIECHERS: We still hear that one, yes. That probably started the day after we changed the rule.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: We heard it the day of the rule. At least, anecdotally, it does seem to be healthy for the fishery.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thanks, Robin, appreciate it. Ken of Inland.
MR. KURZAWSKI: Good morning, Commissioners. My name is Ken Kurzawski of Inland Fisheries Division and I’m here to go over the proposed changes to the Freshwater Fishing Regulations. Starting off, we have change on Wheeler Branch, which is a new reservoir that’s going to be opening this fall near Glen Rose and our goal there is to protect and enhance the new fishery that we’ve been working on since the reservoir failed in 2007. Typically, what we want to do is try and get some harvest protection to those new populations and the regulations that we’re proposing there are to slot limits for largemouth bass, 14- to 21-inch slot with a five-fish daily bag, one fish over 21 inches. An 18-inch minimum for smallmouth bass with three-fish bag and then a gear restriction there to pull and line only to help cut down on some of the higher harvests there, just to distribute the catch and also the nature of the reservoir there that what the Somerville Water District ‑‑ this would be more compatible with some of the uses there.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Is the reservoir built for a water supply, for ‑‑
MR. KURZAWSKI: Yes. Somerville Water District supply and they also, you know, want to do recreation there’s a park around there.
MR. KURZAWSKI: Next, Lake Kyle, which is a small 12 acre existing lake just south of Austin here near ‑‑ in the Plum Creek development and they’re developing it as a public park within that subdivision and it’s set to open to limited public access next year and it has an excellent largemouth bass population existing in there. Because of the small size and the potential for over-harvest, staff would like to protect that population and we’re going to go with the 14-, 21-inch slot limit for largemouth bass also in there and this reservoir will also fall in our community fishing lake regulations, which is a reduced harvest for ‑‑ reduced bag limit for channel catfish and blue catfish find, no size limit and also pole and line angling only in those smaller reservoirs.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Ken, before you move on from that, on the community lakes, is there also a limitation on the number of poles ‑‑
MR. KURZAWSKI: Yes, there’s a two-pole limit on our community fishing lakes.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And then the next question is, when you say limited public access, what do you mean?
MR. KURZAWSKI: There’ll be ‑‑ I think there will be a certain number of people that they allow on at a time, to prevent overcrowding on the lake.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And who will determine who’s allowed?
MR. KURZAWSKI: Well, it would be just sort of a first come, first serve and there would be also a time it will be open ‑‑ the park open at a certain time and close at a certain time but there won’t be any difference between, you know, community residence or outs ‑‑ you know, people can come from the outside, it’ll just be a first come, first serve, whatever the parking lot could hold there. It’s a small water ‑‑
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Who will determine that, is my question?
MR. KURZAWSKI: Well, I think it’s whoever, you know, when it’s full, it’s full. That’s the only ‑‑
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: That’s a good question. Who actually manages it?
MR. KURZAWSKI: It’ll be ‑‑ they’re creating a public park at the Plum Creek area will be ‑‑ is creating the public park. It’ll be open to the public.
COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Will it be the city monitoring the ‑‑
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: Not the city. The homeowners association, Ken?
MR. KURZAWSKI: Well, it’ll be a public lake so it’ll be ‑‑ our law enforcement will ‑‑
COMMISSIONER HOLT: It’ll be our law enforcement.
MR. KURZAWSKI: Right.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: That’s my question. It’s our law enforcement?
MR. KURZAWSKI: Right. Yes, it’ll be a public water body once it gets open to the public.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: But they will control access even though we’re effectively a state lake.
MR. KURZAWSKI: Yes. You know, it’s typical of any ‑‑ you know, like a power plant lake that we have, we have agreements with them to allow people to fish there and if we do the ‑‑ you know, if they allow anyone from the public to fish without, you know, discrimination ‑‑
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: It’s not uncommon to have that type of relationship.
MR. KURZAWSKI: Sure, sure. And then we would manage ‑‑ if they allow the public to fish in any way, we will manage it, stock it ‑‑
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: I know what you’re getting out there and ‑‑
MR. KURZAWSKI: That’s ‑‑
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: ‑‑ how to handle this. It’s obviously important. It’s still a state resource.
MR. KURZAWSKI: Right. But it is, you know, just a rather small lake so they can’t just ‑‑ they just don’t want it being overrun by people and having problems with people parking ‑‑
On next at Lake Alan Henry. Our goals there for our proposed changes are to allow anglers to harvest some of the smaller spotted bass and also reduce some of the identification problems between some of the bass species we have there. We’re going to remove the 18-inch minimum for spotted bass and combine the spotted bass and largemouth bass limits so that’ll be a five-fish bag and will allow you to catch two ‑‑ they’ll allow harvest to two bass, spotted or largemouth less than 18 inches. We stocked the spotted bass ‑‑ Alabama spotted bass in there, which are a strain that gets to be a larger size and the fish pictured there is actually a state record spotted bass that was caught there in January 15th of this year. So that did produce some results in that reservoir.
And then we want to change the smallmouth bass limit back to the 14-inch statewide limit. We did stock smallmouth in there when the reservoir was opened. It hasn’t produced any population whatsoever and having an 18-inch minimum on there gives ‑‑ when anglers see that they think that ‑‑ that’s usually a regulation typically reserved for our better lakes ‑‑ trophy lakes and when actually it’s just the opposite. There really aren’t any smallmouth to speak of at all so we’re just going to let that revert back to the statewide minimum.
Our two reservoirs, Kirby and Palestine. Catfish are a popular species in both reservoirs. Population and structures are similar in that there’s a lot of ‑‑ the channel catfish are abundant and slow growing, small size.
A good structure on the blue catfish population and pretty good growth on those and what we’re trying to do there is sort of restructure those populations and reduce some of the competition among the catfish by allowing the additional harvest of channels and the increase of this harvest of smaller catfish should enhance over-production of the larger catfish, both channels and for the blue catfish. So we’re going to change the regulations there from the statewide limits, which is a 12-inch, 25-fish bag limit to a no-minimum length limit and a 50-fish daily bag of only five can be over 20 inches or greater. We’re going to try and limit ‑‑ produce some ‑‑ maintain some of those blue catfish, mainly those larger fish that are being caught out of the blue catfish. Anglers have said they’re desirous to harvest some of those smaller catfish so we’ll see if that ‑‑ channels ‑‑ see if that additional harvest helps restructure that population.
And, finally, we have a suite of changes on the Texas/Louisiana border waters. Both states have agreed to some proposed changes on Toledo Bend and the Sabine River and also on Caddo and our goal there is to standardize the regulations as much as possible on the border waters.
We typically meet on a regular basis with the staffs of Louisiana/Oklahoma to try and get those regulations on our border waters like Toledo Bend or Lake Texoma, as soon as similarly as possible for ease of enforcement, ease of understanding for the anglers and also to protect good quality fishing in those reservoirs. I might note that approval here by you is contingent on the Wildlife and Fisheries Commission in Louisiana vote on approval. They will vote on January 2nd. We’re hopeful that they will ‑‑ excuse me, June 2nd. And, hopefully, they will approve all these changes but until they actually do, we don’t know that.
You know, they’ve given us ‑‑ they’re working towards them so we’re hopeful that we’ll be able to get all these approved by their Commission also. They’re holding public hearings in Louisiana in early April so that maybe we’ll get a little better idea of how it’ll go over there. They don’t see any major problems at this time.
MR. SMITH: There’s been a lot of groundwork laid on this, just so you know, with our fisheries biologists working with their fisheries biologists, their secretary, et cetera, and so we certainly sense that they are committed to doing this but they just have to go through their process as well. And this will allow us to synchronize the approvals between the two commissions and so hence the reason for the ‑‑ kind of a caveat on that.
MR. KURZAWSKI: I think there’s a lot of momentum and motivation on their side to approve ‑‑ to get these as close as possible also. So, looking at Toledo Bend Reservoir, some of the proposed changes we have there ‑‑ we’re changing the blue and channel catfish regulations to the no-minimum length limit, 50-fish bag with the five-fish-over-20 inches, which is similar to what we’re proposing on Kirby and Palestine so that’ll help us give us another few reservoirs we could ‑‑ and all these regulations ‑‑ that’s a new regulation for us, that’ll give us another opportunity for our staffs to get out there and evaluate those and see if they’re achieving the goals for those.
We’re going to slightly modify the catfish. We’re going to stay with eight for flathead catfish, 18-inch minimum with a ten-fish bag and we’re going to ‑‑ the big one that we’ve talked about years with them, the crappie reg. We’re going to remove the minimum length limit and go with the 25-fish combined bag there. And then, also, we have to modify the upper limit of the existing Toledo Bend Reservoir definition to include the area up to the Texas/Louisiana state line.
The number of changes on the Sabine River. Some of these are ones that are existing exceptions on Toledo Bend Reservoir. We’re trying to make from the upper end of Toledo Bend all the way down to
I-10, have the regulations similar so we have those same regulations for channel and blues, the flatheads and white and black crappies and then those ‑‑ the striped bass, white bass and largemouth bass. The spotted regs are the existing regs that we have agreed upon in the reservoir itself and this would apply from that area from the Toledo Bend Dam downstream to the I-10 bridge, which is the boundary of the freshwater/saltwater zone.
And then, finally, on Caddo we have some of the similar changes for the catfish, blues and channels and flatheads. We’re going with the no-minimum length limit, 25-fish bag on crappie. Similar to white bass, no-minimum-length limit, 25-fish bag. We have ‑‑ on largemouth, we have agreed upon a 14 to 18-inch slot there with an eight-fish bag with only four largemouth over that 18 inches and then a no-minimum on the spotted bass and I have that largemouth ‑‑ some of the highlights there for the largemouth and spotted in your books. It’s not as specific as we need to make it, as far as noting, on page 143 there, that the slot just pertains to the largemouth bass and there would be no minimum length limit on spotted bass. You could harvest any sized spotted bass. So, we’ll have to make those changes in the final version.
And this is our summary of comment on this. For Wheeler Branch and Lake Kyle, some of the comments we had opposing that were just general comments on people don’t like slot limits in general. They thought we should a little smaller slot limit there. For Lake Alan Henry, some of the people who are against that were saying we should even allow more ‑‑ harvest of more spotted bass than we’re allowing at this time and certainly that’s ‑‑ this regulation to allow the harvest of some of those smaller bass was generated by a lot of the angler comments and what we see developing in the spotted bass population.
So we’re going to go in there and evaluate how well this regulation is doing to ‑‑ on the spotted bass population and that’s ‑‑ certainly that’s something we can consider, allowing more smaller ‑‑ harvest of more smaller spotted bass there in the future. No specific comments opposing on Kirby and Palestine and, then, for the border waters, most of the comments opposing that are from people saying we should maintain some of our minimum lengths on crappie or a little different slot or size limit on bass. So no outright opposition to what we’re trying to attempt to do there to standardize those regulations. So those are all our changes and public comment and based on that, other than ‑‑ those minor modifications to the largemouth and spotted bass regs on Caddo are the only changes we would need to go forward with.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you, Ken. Any discussion or questions? Commissioner Duggins.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Ken, two things. One, when do we ‑‑ when are you projected to get back with the report on the alligator gar situation.
MR. KURZAWSKI: Well, that’s, you know, ongoing. We did present something the last ‑‑ I guess it was in January ‑‑ on that, gave some additional information. We’ll probably be evaluating that on a yearly basis.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: So, you’re comfortable that the regulations should stay the same, at this point?
MR. KURZAWSKI: Yes. You know, that’s ‑‑ it’s just been a couple of years and those are ‑‑ that’s a long-lived species. It takes a while in those types of species to see changes in the population structure so, you know, that’s something we’ll ‑‑ you know, our staff there at Heart of the Hills is continuing to devote a lot of effort to looking at those, working with the bow anglers to get information, so that’s something we’re very interested in staying on top of then if we have to make any changes there to pursue those.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: The second question is, in your discussions with the Louisiana biologists, are you also talking about the problems with invasives, and this is a little off the track but I’m just curious, you do have that forum to visit with them to coordinate whatever efforts can be made on that.
MR. SMITH: We do, absolutely ‑‑ talking to them about giant salvinia issues or water hyacinth and hydrilla, so those conversations are ongoing. In fact, I visited with a group from Marshall and Senator Eltife yesterday and they were asking about that coordination across the border on aquatic, invasive species. It’s top of mind for folks up there so, yes, our folks are coordinating regularly on that.
MR. KURZAWSKI: Yes, we have a staff that works out of Jasper that coordinates, you know, with Louisiana people on the Toledo Bend and on the giant salvinia and other issues over there.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And does that also include law enforcement on boater education?
MR. KURZAWSKI: Yes.
MR. SMITH: Yes, and of course the big focus, as of late, has been the zebra mussel up at Texoma and a big educational push with Inland Fisheries and law enforcement and communication, North Texas Municipal Water District, Corps of Engineers and others, to try to see that we can do everything we can to contain the zebra mussels in that body. That’s a formidable proposition. I want to make sure everybody understands the risk that we have there but everybody’s really working, I think we’re all together on that.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: ‑‑ in Oklahoma?
MR. SMITH: In Oklahoma. Now they ‑‑ yes, they’ve got zebra mussels in Oklahoma and so, unfortunately, they’re learning how to live with them. We’re trying to contain them, if at all possible to keep them just in that one water body. We do not want them to get in the Trinity River and move downstream to other water bodies so good cooperation, on the education front, in particular.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Okay. Thank you. Any other questions? Ken, thank you, appreciate it. Okay, I’ll place this item on the Thursday Commission meeting agenda for public comment and action and, Chairman Holt, this committee has concluded its business.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you, sir.
(Whereupon, at 10:25 a.m., the Regulations Committee was adjourned.)
C E R T I F I C A T E
MEETING OF: Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, Regulations Committee
LOCATION: Austin, Texas
DATE: March 30, 2011
I do hereby certify that the foregoing pages, numbers 1 through 59, inclusive, are the true, accurate, and complete transcript prepared from the verbal recording made by electronic recording by Penny Bynum before the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission.
On the Record Reporting, Inc.
3307 Northland, Suite 315
Austin, Texas 78731