Presenter: Robin Riechers

Commission Agenda Item No. 4
Petition for Rulemaking
Regarding the Establishment A Rule Mandating Spotted Seatrout, Flounder, and Red Drum Landed in Texas Comply with Established Texas Bag and Size Limits
November 2000

I. Discussion: On August 30, 2000, Mr. Jerry Norris presented a petition for rulemaking (Exhibit A) to the Commission that was signed by 569 individuals. The petition requests that any spotted seatrout, flounder or red drum landed in the counties of Jefferson and Orange, Texas must meet with established Texas bag and size limits required for those fish.

Spotted seatrout, flounder and red drum are indigenous to Sabine Lake. But because the border between Texas and Louisiana bisects Sabine Lake, dual jurisdiction exists over these species. Differences in Texas and Louisiana management strategies result in different recreational bag and size limits.

Species State Bag Limit Minimum Size (Inches) Maximum Size (Inches)
Spotted Seatrout Texas 10 15 No Limit
Spotted Seatrout Louisiana 25 12 No Limit
Red Drum Texas 3 20-28 1 over 28 with tag
Red Drum Louisiana 5 16 1 over 27
Flounder Texas 10 14 No Limit
Flounder Louisiana 10 No Limit No Limit

Under current reciprocal licensing agreements [31 TAC §53.1(d)(6) & (7)], citizens from Texas and Louisiana are allowed to fish throughout these common border waters provided they were legally licensed in their respective state of residence. This ability to fish both in Texas and Louisiana waters has led to some confusion by anglers over which limits are allowed in Texas. At present, an individual is allowed to land a Louisiana limit in Texas if that individual claims to have fished in Louisiana waters and is carrying a valid Louisiana or Texas resident fishing license or a valid Texas non-resident fishing license. In addition, they can also land a Texas limit if they have caught those fish in Texas waters.

Mr. Norris and the petitioners expressed the following concerns about populations of spotted seatrout, flounder and red drum in Sabine Lake: 1) a large number of anglers were landing Louisiana limits in Texas; 2) fish caught legally in unlimited numbers within federal waters (EEZ) off Louisiana were being landed in Texas; and 3) this excessive harvest compromises the biological viability of the species within Sabine Lake.

Staff has reviewed this issue, and finds 1) Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPW) recreational harvest data indicate that few individuals landing fish in Texas exceeded Texas bag limits; 2) landing unlimited numbers of fish in Texas from the EEZ is already illegal; and 3) TPW resource monitoring data for Sabine Lake indicate population trends of these three species have improved over the last 10 years.

Staff has maintained an open dialogue with resource managers in Louisiana to resolve the differences in management strategy within Sabine Lake. One option being discussed is for Louisiana to establish compatible Texas size and bag limits on these species within their portion of Sabine Lake. Staff will continue to work closely with the State of Louisiana to reach mutually agreeable management measures.

Although staff agrees with the conservation intent of the petition, staff disagrees that new regulations can be justified at this time. Greater scoping efforts with local stakeholders are needed to better ascertain the social and economic consequences of any rule changes. Potential shifts in fishing pressure and marina locations need to be better understood prior to taking action. Staff will work with Mr. Norris and other interests on developing this information.

II. Recommendation: The staff recommends the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt the following motion:

"The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission denies the rulemaking petition at this time and directs the staff to continue to evaluate data and review public input with regard to future recommendations."

Attachments – 1
1. Exhibit A – Petition for Rulemaking (Available upon request.)

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