Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Public Hearing

April 5, 2007

Commission Hearing Room
Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex
4200 Smith School Road
Austin, TX 78744

BE IT REMEMBERED, that heretofore on the 5th day of April, 2007, 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:




April 2007 Commission Meeting
Item Donor Description Details Amount
1 ESRI / Stratus Goods Computer hardware & Stratus server (1); computer software — ArcGIS server (1) $80,000.00
2 Norman Frede Chevrolet Goods Wildlife decoy of whitetail deer with a robotic head and tail. Radio controller and servos were included. $846.40
3 Operation Game Thief Goods 1-2007 Wells Cargo Utility Trailer, Series EW1622 (1WC200G2672059470) $11,387.00
4 Phillip Maloley — Triple 7 Vet Supply Goods Wildlife decoy of whitetail deer with a robotic head and tail. Radio controller and servos were included. $475.00
5 Safari Club International/Lubbock Club Goods 1 — Bushnell Night Vision Scope 1.5x54 Model #26-1554 — Green Color $1,300.00
6 Academy Sports and Outdoors Goods 15 gift cards at a value of $1,000 each. Academy will receive sponsorship value of $6,900 for logo placement in TPW magazine, Texas Monthly and Texas Coop Power magazine. TPWD website promoting the sweepstakes will contain Academy logo and sponsorship will be mentioned on the Passport to Texas radio show. $8,100.00
7 David & Janice Dauphin Cash Cash Donation for plants in the butterfly garden. The park will benefit from this donation in the ability to provide educational butterfly programs to the public. $500.00
8 David & Janice Dauphin Cash Cash Donation for plants in the butterfly garden. The park will benefit from this donation in the ability to provide educational butterfly programs to the public. $500.00
9 Dos Angeles Ranch Cash Cash Donation towards the purchase of ATV and accessories $800.00
10 Estate of Ronnie A. Blaschke Cash Cash Donation $1,000.00
11 Exxon Mobil Cash Cash Donation — Capital Repair of facilities at Sabine Pass SHP damaged by Hurricane Rita $228,134.71
12 Friends of Garner State Park Cash Cash Donations to assist with the printing of Garner State Park maps $1,874.68
13 H-E-B Cash Cash Donation for Wildlife Expo Sponsorship — Antler Associate $1,846.00
14 Lower Colorado River Authority Cash Cash Donation for Water Campaign Sponsorship — Supporting $1,776.00
15 N/A — Personal donor Cash Cash Donation — memorial gift in honor of Bill Negley $1,000.00
16 Parks and Wildlife Foundation Cash Lone Star Legacy Endowment Interest $19,695.00
17 Parks and Wildlife Foundation Cash Lone Star Legacy Endowment Interest $6,755.00
18 Parks and Wildlife Foundation Cash Lone Star Legacy Endowment Interest $5,899.00
19 Parks and Wildlife Foundation Cash Funds to cover the cost of printing the agency's 2006 Annual Report $4,563.67
20 Parks and Wildlife Foundation Cash Cash Donation for PCR system and coded wire tagging unit $20,521.80
21 Parks and Wildlife Foundation Cash Cash Donation for PCR system and coded wire tagging unit $49,478.20
22 Parks and Wildlife Foundation — (Anheuser Busch) Cash Cash Donation for Wildlife Expo Sponsorship — Antler Associate $19,485.00
23 Parks and Wildlife Foundation (Toyota) Cash Cash Donation for Wildlife Expo Sponsorship — Antler Associate $49,485.00
24 Parks & Wildlife Foundation of Texas Cash Cash Donation — Proceeds from the Budweiser endowment fund $29,000.00
25 Ray Passini Cash Cash Donation towards purchase of ATV and accessories $500.00
26 Tetra Technologies, Inc. Cash Cash and petroleum structure that was decommissioned: HI-A-316 to create marine reef habitat in the Gulf of Mexico $96,700.00
27 Texas Parks & Wildlife Foundation (Partnership Foundation) Cash Cash Donation for Water Campaign Sponsorship — Patron for Partnership Foundation $5,395.00
28 Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation Cash Cash Donation for support of operations for state parks $1,372.11
29 Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation Cash Cash Donation for support of operations at Sheldon Lake State Park $9,363.13
30 The David B Terk Foundation Cash Cash Donation for Outdoor Kid $500.00
31 Weatherby Foundation International Cash Cash Donation for Wildlife Expo Sponsorship $5,000.00
TOTAL $663,252.70
April 5, 2007
Division Name Title Location Service
Administrative Resources Yolanda Romo Accountant I Austin, TX 27 Years
Division Name Title Location Service
Inland Fisheries Eduardo E. Nunez F&W Technician IV Graford, TX 40 Years
State Parks Betty Jo Johnson Staff Srvcs. Officer I La Porte, TX 35 Years
Law Enforcement Forrest E. “Butch” Shoop, III Major Fort Worth, TX 35 Years
State Parks Jerome D. Bartel Manager V La Porte, TX 30 Years
Coastal Fisheries Mark J. Foreman F&W Technician IV Port Arthur, TX 20 Years
Coastal Fisheries Rodney A. Girndt F&W Technician IV Palacios, TX 20 Years
State Parks Kelly L. Grissom Park Specialist I Goliad, TX 20 Years
Inland Fisheries Leroy J. Kleinsasser Natural Res. Spec. VI San Marcos, TX 20 Years
Wildlife Chris J. Lena Customer Service Rep. III Austin, TX 20 Years
Inland Fisheries Gordon W. Linam Natural Res. Spec. VI San Marcos, TX 20 Years
Coastal Fisheries Cindy L. Loeffler Manager V Austin, TX 20 Years
Inland Fisheries Michele A. Nations Staff Srvcs. Officer I Graford, TX 20 Years
State Parks Vanessa D. Swearingen Administrative Asst. III Bastrop, TX 20 Years
Inland Fisheries Deborah E. Wade Natural Res. Spec. V Athens, TX 20 Years
APRIL 5, 2007
Name/Organization, Address Item Number Matter of Interest
Mike Forstner
Texas State University — Dept. Biology
240 Science
601 University Drive
San Marcos, TX
3. 2007-2008 Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation For
Bruce Shuler
Get-A-Way Adventure Lodge
P. O. Box 248
Port Mansfield, TX 78598
3. 2007-2008 Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation Spotted Seatrout
Scott Murray
1818 Rodd Field Road, Unite J-4
Corpus Christi, TX 78412
3. 2007-2008 Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation For - Spotted Seatrout
Everett Johnson
Gulf Coast Connections — Texas Saltwater Fishing Magazine
560 Lane Road
Seadrift, TX 77983
3. 2007-2008 Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation For - Seatrout
Leonard Ranne 3. 2007-2008 Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation Against
Brandon D. Shuler
P.O. Box 248
Port Mansfield, TX 78598
3. 2007-2008 Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation For - Seatrout
Darren Jones
13947 Cedar Canyon
San Antonio, TX
3. 2007-2008 Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation - Regionalization and Spotted Seatrout Bag Limits
Jim Smarr
RFA Texas
3. 2007-2008 Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation
Mike Stapelton
RFA Texas
3. 2007-2008 Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation
Dennis Lugg
Coastal Bend Guide Association
1560 W. DeBerry Avenue
Aransas Pass, TX 78336
3. 2007-2008 Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation Against - Trout Regs
Mike O’Dell
1104 N. Houston
Aransas Pass, TX
3. 2007-2008 Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation Against
Nancy Day
Coastal Bend Guides Association
10,000 SCR 1210
Midland, TX
3. 2007-2008 Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation Against - Sea Trout — Regionalization
Ellis Gilleland
Texas Animals
P.O. Box 9001
Austin, TX 78766
3. 2007-2008 Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation Against
Christopher Hunter Jones
Texas Commission on Natural Resources
Bee Caves Road
Austin, TX 77211
3. 2007-2008 Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation
Bruce Cartwright
Houston, TX
3. 2007-2008 Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation For — Against — Neutral
Joey Park
Coastal Conservation Association Texas
P.O. Box 1206
Austin, TX 78767
3. 2007-2008 Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation For
Tim Cook
Texas Bass Federation Nation
319 Pecoa Drive NE
McQueeney, TX 78123
3. 2007-2008 Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation Against - Bow fishing for catfish
Kirby Brown
Texas Wildlife Association
2800 NE Loop 410, Suite 105
San Antonio, TX 78218
3. 2007-2008 Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation For
Robert Singletary
Houston Bass Club
69 N. White Oak
3. 2007-2008 Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation Against - Bow fishing regulations
Ed Parten
1102 Lisa Lane
Kingwood, TX
3. 2007-2008 Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation Bow fishing catfish
Mr. Ellason
3. 2007-2008 Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation


COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Good morning. Bob, are we ready?

MR. COOK: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: All right. The meeting is called to order.

Before proceeding with any business, Mr. Cook, do you have a statement to make?

MR. COOK: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. A public notice of this meeting containing all items on the proposed agenda has been filed in the Office of Secretary of State as required by Chapter 551 of the Government Code, referred to as the Open Meetings Act.

I would like for this fact to be noted in the official record of the meeting. Ladies and gentlemen, we welcome you here today. And we've got, as you can see, a good attendance. So that everyone will have a chance to address the Commission who would like to do so and do so in an orderly fashion, we will follow the following ground rules today.

An individual wishing to speak before the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission must first fill out and sign a speaker registration form out here at the desk for each item on the agenda to which you wish to speak. The Chairman is in charge of this meeting.

And by law it is his duty to preserve order, direct the order of the hearing and recognize persons to be heard. We have sign-up cards for everyone wishing to speak. And the Chairman will call the names from those cards one at a time.

As he calls the names he'll likely also call up whoever's on deck next, so you can kind of be ready to come up. When your name is called, please come forward to the podium one at a time, state your name, who you represent if anyone other than yourself.

Then state your position on the agenda item under consideration and add supporting facts that will help the Commission understand your concerns. Please limit your remarks to the specific agenda item under consideration. Each person who wants to address the Commission will have three minutes to speak.

I'll keep track of time on this handy-dandy little thing right here, and will notify you when your three minutes is up. That thing will turn red when your three minutes is up. There's not a trap door there, but we'll ask you to adhere to that three minutes.

When your time is up please resume your seat, so that others may speak. Your time may be extended if a commissioner has a question for you. And as they ask those questions and discuss those questions that time will not count against you.

Statements that are merely argumentative or critical of others will not be tolerated. There's a microphone at the podium so it is not necessary to raise your voice. I request that you show proper respect for the commissioners as well as the other members of the audience.

You will not be recognized out of turn by raising your hand or interrupting others. Disruptive or offensive behavior will be grounds for immediate ejection from the meeting, possible arrest and criminal prosecution. I respectfully request that you please silence or turn off all of your cell phones, pagers and such, so that you will not disturb the meeting and those speaking.

If you would like to submit written materials to the commissioners, please bring them forward and give them to either Ms. Klaus or Ms. Hemby. And they will be delivered to the commissioners by them.

Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.


Our next is the approval of minutes from the previous meeting, which have already been distributed. I've got one correction in front regarding approval of donations at the January 25, 2007 meeting. Due to a formula error in the spreadsheet, the actual total should have read $1,584,450.87, instead of $1,535,593.67.

Whoever caught that, good job. I sure didn't. Is there a motion for approval?



COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Moved by Brown, second by Ramos. All in favor, say aye.

(A chorus of ayes.)


(No response.)

COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Hearing none, motion passes. Thank you. Next is acceptance of donations. It's also been distributed. Is there a motion for approval?



COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Motion by Friedkin, second by Holt. All in favor, aye.

(A chorus of ayes.)


(No response.)

COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Hearing none, motion passes. Next are the service awards and special recognition.

Mr. Cook.

MR. COOK: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, commissioners and ladies and gentlemen in the audience. We always take at our Commission meetings a special opportunity to recognize employees who have served with the Agency for many years and done us a great job.

We have one retirement certificate we're going to present this morning. So I hope you will join me in expressing your appreciation for these folks as we go along. From the Administrative Resources Division, Yolanda Romo, Accountant I, Austin, Texas, with 27 years is retiring.

Yolanda began her career with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in July 1979 in the State Parks Division. In January 1981 Yolanda was promoted to Secretary III working for the Revenue Branch in Finance. In 1988 Yolanda was again promoted to Accountant IV position, where she managed the Lifetime License Program and supervised the floating personnel pool for Finance.

In March '02 Yolanda moved into the position of supervisor for the Fines and Arrest Section. In February '03 she was promoted to the position of the HUB Specialist, the Historically Underutilized Business Specialist for the Department. In September of 2004 Yolanda transferred to the Administrative Resources Division as an accountant. Retiring with 27 years of service, Yolanda Romo.

MS. ROMO: Thank you.

MR. COOK: And who would believe this lady's been here 27 years. She was 12 years old.


MR. COOK: Now, in our Service Awards, these folks are still with us, and we again recognize them for their continuing service. From Inland Fisheries Division the first person we want to recognize today is Eduardo E. Nunez, Fish & Wildlife Technician IV, Graford, Texas with 40 years of service.

Now, before I go into all these good points about Ed, I want to tell you ‑‑ and I'm not sure he will claim this ‑‑ but he broke in Gene McCarty. So I don't know if Ed will claim that or not. He began his career with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department on December 15, 1966, as a biology field worker at the Possum Kingdom Fish Hatchery.

He continues to serve at the hatchery as a Fish & Wildlife Technician IV today. Over the past 40 years Ed has been an instrumental part of the Texas Parks and Wildlife hatchery program, with significant contributions in developing and refining culture techniques for striped bass and hybrid striped bass.

Ed has been directly in the production and distribution of more than 136 million hatchery-reared fry and fingerlings in support of fishery management efforts across the state. Ed's talents in general construction, welding and fabrication have significantly benefited hatchery operations and improved the overall operating efficiency of the facility. These contributions, combined with his constant, can-do attitude, make him a highly valued part of TPWD's Inland Fisheries Division and this agency. With 40 years of service, Ed Nunez.

From the State Parks Division with 35 years of service Betty Jo Johnson began her career with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in March 1972 as clerical support for the Finance Division. She was soon promoted to secretary for the Accounting Branch. In July 1981 Betty transferred to the San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Park as Office Manager. In January 1984 she was promoted to the position of Regional Office Manager for the State Parks's regional office in La Porte. Over the years those job functions now include, budget management, purchasing and human resources for 14 state parks and over 140 employees. With 35 years of service, Betty Jo Johnson.

Now, this next gentleman, I had a really good write‑up, but his mom is here and his wife. So let me just say about Butch Shoop, Butch Shoop is a major in our Law Enforcement Division in Fort Worth, Texas, with 35 years of service. He began his career at Texas Parks and Wildlife Department when he attended the Texas Game Warden Academy at Texas A&M University in August 1971.

His first duty station was in Polk County. He then transferred to Palo Pinto County and from there to Wichita County. He was promoted to District Supervisor, stationed in Waco in October 1990. In October '93 he was promoted to Regional Director in the Lubbock region. In 2002 Butch transferred to the Fort Worth region, where he continues to serve as our regional law enforcement supervisor. Now, Butch Shoop is a Texas game warden. He believes in and supports Texas game wardens and has throughout his career. I want to tell you that when we went into New Orleans, the day we went in and throughout the period, Butch was our commander on the ground and led that effort and won the respect of everyone in Louisiana. And everyone at Texas Parks and Wildlife Department of course he already had. But he has served us well, done us a great job. I would like for his family ‑‑ his mom, his wife, son, daughter, granddaughter and all ‑‑ to stand, please. Let's recognize you.

Butch, come on up.

From the State Parks Division our Manager V at La Porte, Texas, with 30 years of service, Jerry Bartel began his career with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department as a seasonal worker at Lake Brownwood State Park in March 1977. From October of 1977 to March of '86 he worked as a park ranger, and then as Park Specialist I as Galveston Island State Park. In 1982 Jerry was commissioned a park peace officer. From April 1986 through October 1990 Jerry was a park manager at Lake Somerville State Park, Nails Creek Unit.

Jerry transferred to a park manager position at Brazos Bend State Park, where he worked from October 1990 through June 2003, when he transferred to the regional headquarters in La Porte as Region IV Maintenance Specialist.

With 30 years of service in our State Parks Division, Jerry Bartel.

From the Coastal Fisheries Division Mike J. Foreman, Fish & Wildlife Technician IV, Port Arthur, Texas, with 20 years of service. Mark began his career with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department on March 9, 1987, at the Sabine Lake field station in Port Arthur, Texas. He was promoted from Tech II to Tech III in June 1990, and from Tech III to Tech IV in April '97. He has served as his facility's purchasing officer and as the Upper Coast regional editor for the Harvest Program. He currently serves as lab editor for all the field data, harvest backup regional editor, harvest team leader and additional duty safety officer. He also helped develop his facility's hurricane evacuation plan.

With 20 years of service, Coastal Fisheries Division, Mark J. Foreman.

Also from the Coastal Fisheries Division Rodney H. Girndt, Fish & Wildlife Technician IV, Palacios, Texas, with 20 years of service.

Rodney began his career with Texas Parks and Wildlife Coastal Fisheries Division on February 1, 1987, with an assignment to the Harvest Program at Palacios, Texas. Rodney's responsibilities included conducting wade boat ramp, recreational angler and commercial seafood landing surveys in both Matagorda and Galveston Bays. In 1990 Rodney was promoted to Fish & Wildlife Technician III and assumed the lead harvest technician at the Palacios Field Station, where he was responsible for coordinating harvest surveys in the Matagorda Bay system. In 1992 Rodney assumed the additional responsibilities of conducting resource monitoring in the Matagorda Bay system.

He transitioned into the dual role of harvest, resource Fish & Wildlife Technician with ease and quickly assumed a leadership role in both programs. Rodney was promoted to Fish & Wildlife Technician IV in 1995, and has continued to provide guidance and leadership in all aspects of his job. Rodney continues to work at the Palacios Field Station, conducting both harvest and resource surveys. His extensive knowledge of the biology and fisheries associated with this estuary, extensive knowledge of Coastal Fisheries methodology and protocol have contributed to the integrity of the Coastal Fisheries database and more importantly ensured the health and productivity of Texas second largest and most productive estuary.

With 20 years of service, Rodney A. Girndt.

I'm told our next person was not able to make it, Kelly Grissom. If she comes in before I get through, you all let me know.

From the Inland Fisheries Division Leroy J. Kleinsasser, Natural Resource Specialist VI, San Marcos, Texas, with 20 years of service. Roy Kleinsasser began his career with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in San Marcos as an Aquatic Biologist in the Resource Protection Division. Roy was hired to evaluate water quality and water diversion impacts on fish and wildlife resources within the state's streams and rivers. In 1991 he became a Program Leader over the Fish Kill Investigation Program and later became a Team Leader in the Aquatic Studies Branch. He subsequently became the Program Leader for the River Studies Program, now Freshwater Resources.

A desire to move back into research and field work prompted him to step down. And he is now a Senior Biologist in the program working in San Marcos, Texas. With 20 years of service, Roy Kleinsasser.

From the Wildlife Division Chris J. Lena, Customer Service Rep III, Austin, Texas, with 20 years of service.

Chris Lena, a 1982 graduate of Stephen F. Austin State University, began his career with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in February 1987 as a Fish & Wildlife Technician II with Coastal Fisheries in Seabrook, Texas. In May of 1993 he became a Wildlife Management Area Specialist at Martin Dies, Jr., State Park.

In May of 1997 he transferred to Austin headquarters and was the Angler Education Coordinator with Resource Protection until August '03, when he transferred to the Education Communication Branch as the Material Inventory Coordinator in hunter, boater and angler education. On June 1, 2006, Chris transferred to his present position, Customer Service Representative in the Wildlife Division's wildlife phone bank, where he shares his vast knowledge of wildlife, hunting and fishing with the public.

Chris stays busy as a certified hunter, boater and angler education instructor and a hunter education area chief. He is certified in prescribed burn school, fire behavior, and is on the PR Committee of the Fayette County Wildlife Management Association and an active member of several other wildlife-related organizations that partner with TPWD. With 20 years of service, Chris Lena.

On the Inland Fisheries Division Gordon W. Linam, Natural Resource Specialist VI, San Marcos, Texas, with 20 of service. Gordon Linam began his career with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in February 1987 in the newly formed River Studies Program. During his tenure with TPWD he's worked in every major river basin in the state, and has participated in projects which include: evaluating the water quality, and developing regional biological indices for evaluating stream fish communities, performed in-stream flow studies, performed an inventory of aquatic resources on the state's National Guard lands, described the habitat utilization and population size of the federally endangered fountain darter, evaluated the potential impact of off-road vehicles to the state's riverbeds, and determined the status of the biotic integrity, water quality and habitat in rivers such as the Trinity River, Pecos River, Comal River and lower Colorado River.

Gordon was a member of the Senate Bill 1 team that received the Department's Outstanding Team Award in 2001. He is presently the Project Manager of the San Antonio River in-stream flow study.

With 20 years of service, Gordon Linam.

Also from the Coastal Fisheries Division, Cindy Loeffler, Manager V, Austin, Texas, with 20 years. Cindy Loeffler received her Bachelor's of Science in Engineering from Colorado State University in 1984, and is a registered professional engineer in the State of Texas. After working with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service In-stream Flow Group in Fort Collins, Colorado for three years, Cindy began her tenure at Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in 1987 as a hydrologist in the Resource Protection Division's Coastal Studies Program.

Working closely with the Texas Water Development Board's Environment Systems Section, the Coastal Studies Program developed and applied the methodology to determine freshwater inflow needs for bays and estuaries. Beginning in 1991 Cindy became actively involved in long-term water-planning activities, such as the Trans-Texas consensus-base water planning and regional water planning. In 2001 Cindy was named the Water Resources Branch Chief at Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Her duties now include managing the Water Quality and Water Quantity Programs and the coordination of department response to water resource issues affecting fish and wildlife.

And believe me, she has been busy, and she has been an absolute pleasure to work with, and very professional in the work that she does. With 20 years of service, Cindy Loeffler. Truth is, she saved me and the Chairman's bacon several times regularly.

From the Inland Fisheries Division, Michele A. Nations, Staff Service Officer I in Graford, Texas, with 20 years of service. Michele Nations began her career with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department on March 7, 1987, as a Fish & Wildlife Technician II at the Dundee State Fish Hatchery. In May 1989 she transferred to the regional office where she has assisted Joe Warren and Gerald Curtin in preparing manuscripts for the management data series and production summaries, organized a yearly statewide feed purchases, and helped maintain the statewide fish hatchery stocking database. Her love for databases has allowed her to create and maintain the budget databases used by all of the Inland Fisheries administrative staff and hatcheries, as well as playing with a couple of smaller ones on tracking lead balances and reprints of scientific articles, and assisted Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center with a database for their auction to raise funds for their new education building.

Now at the Possum Kingdom Fish Hatchery, she can be found pulling together articles and photos from the hatchery folks that she loves, trying to reach out to everyone and send them the news in the Hatchery Happenings, their quarterly newsletter.

With 20 years of service, Michele Nations.

From the State Parks Division, Vanessa D. Swearingen, Administrative Assistant III, Bastrop, Texas, with 20 years of service. Vanessa began her career with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in February 1987 as a custodian at Bastrop State Park. In 1993 she was promoted to Park Ranger I and then to an Administrative Technician in 1999. Since 2000 Vanessa has been the Registration Office Manager at Bastrop State Park. During her tenure at Bastrop State Park, Vanessa has seen many changes in the park, including the draw system for reservations to online reservations.

She has seen many movies filmed at Bastrop, including Lonesome Dove, Hope Floats and Pair of Aces, where she met Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson. And fortunately she survived that meeting. Vanessa has enjoyed the staff park hosts and the visitors she has met over the years. And we've enjoyed having her work with us.

With 20 years of service, Vanessa Swearingen.

From the Inland Fisheries Division, Deborah E. Wade, Natural Resource Specialist V, Athens, Texas, with 20 years of service. Deborah Wade began her career with TPWD in March 1987 as a fisheries biologist at the Dundee State Fish Hatchery. In January 1992 she transferred to the Tyler State Fish Hatchery, where she worked until it was closed in 1997. She is currently stationed at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens, where she is in charge of the water quality and genetics laboratories and the facility's additional duty safety officer.

Deborah Wade, with 20 years of service, Inland Fisheries.

From the State Parks Division, Kelly L. Grissom, Park Specialist I from Goliad, Texas. Kelly Grissom began his career with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department on February 3, 1987, at Lake Texana State Park. Kelly was commissioned a park peace officer on January 4, 1990. In 1991 he transferred to Matagorda Island State Park as Assistant Park Superintendent. In 1996 Kelly transferred to the regional office at Rockport as Regional Interpretive Specialist. In 1998 Kelly transferred to Goliad State Park as an interpreter.

With 20 years of service, Kelly Grissom.

Commissioners, ladies and gentlemen, the Dallas Safari Club is an organization that we work with and have worked with for many years. Dallas Safari Club is an autonomous, international, nonprofit education, conservation and sporting organization, serving the interests of wildlife, habitat, youth, sportsmen and sportswomen worldwide. The Club's charity arm, the Dallas Ecological Foundation, serves as a grant and funding medium for public and youth education in wildlife conservation projects around the globe. The Dallas Safari Club and Dallas Ecological Foundation conduct and fund numerous youth education activities, as well as an outdoor education program in public secondary schools.

Since forming in 1972 Dallas Safari Club and Dallas Ecological Foundation have contributed millions of dollars to programs benefiting wildlife habitat people in the sporting community. Specifically since 1999 Dallas Safari Club has provided numerous contributions and grants to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Foundation and the TPWD Desert Bighorn Sheep Program in an amount exceeding $116,000.

This morning we have with us Dallas Ecological Foundation Chairman Roger Hooper, and Dallas Ecological Foundation Trustee Tommy Caruthers to make a presentation to the Agency.

Roger, Tommy.

MR. HOOPER: Commissioners, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for allowing us to be here today. As Bob mentioned, the Dallas Safari Club is a 3,000-member strong, of which about 70 percent are Texans luckily. We have over the years contributed substantial amounts of money to wildlife conservation causes, including Parks and Wildlife. I'm very proud to say that our partnership has been excellent over the past many several years, especially the last 15 years that Bob Cook has been here. He always works in a true spirit of cooperation.

Bob, Thank you.

We have, as I mentioned, several different programs in the Dallas Safari Club, Dallas Ecological Foundation. One of these is the life insurance program that we cover Texas Game Warden Program. Unfortunately we recently had a murder of a Texas Game Warden. His beneficiary, his wife, will be receiving that policy proceeds. As an aside, right now we were looking at increasing the amount of that coverage from the current amount to double or triple that amount. Today I'm pleased to present a check to the Desert Sheep Program for $101,000, which represents the net proceeds of the desert sheep permit we auctioned off at our January convention.

I might add here and challenge other conservation groups. The actual sales price of the permit was $101,000. And 100 percent of that is coming back to the Desert Sheep Program. We're just thrilled to death to partner with Parks and Wildlife and with other programs we have going right now.

MR. COOK: Roger gave me a smaller check this morning. I want you all to know I gave it to Mary.

Thank you. Thank you very much.

Tommy, thank you, sir.

In the year 2000, the National Wild Turkey Federation developed an awards program to recognize top state, federal and provincial officers who have demonstrated a high level of professionalism and dedication to wildlife resources. This marks the fifth year that the Texas State Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation has honored a deserving Texas Game Warden. The 2006 Texas Wildlife Officer of the Year nominated by the Texas State Chapter of the Federation is Kenneth Hand.

Warden Hand is a 32-year veteran of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Law Enforcement Division. Kenneth graduated from the Texas Game Warden Training Academy in June of 1975. His first duty station was Mount Pleasant, Titus County, which is in the northeast corner of the state. His performance is consistently stellar; his duties are performed professionally. Kenneth has conducted enforcement efforts pertaining to wild Eastern turkeys, including a number of notable investigations. One investigation involved the taking of an Eastern turkey during the deer season. After a three-week investigation and working with only bits of information, Kenneth was able to apprehend a violator who was fined $500 plus $881 for civil restitution to the state. In 2004 Kenneth transferred to Red River County, where his enforcement efforts have had a very positive impact on the wild turkey population.

Currently Kenneth continues to patrol that area of the state. It is consistent job performance and positive results like these that give me great pleasure in recognizing game warden Kenneth Hand as a National Wild Turkey Federation 2006 Texas Wildlife Law Enforcement Officer of the Year.

And I'd like to introduce and have come forward Paul Ferrell, who is the regional director of the Texas Chapter of the Wild Turkey Federation to join me and Kenneth so that we can take a picture.

Thank you, Paul.

Thank you, Kenneth.

Today we're fortunate to have one of our very best friends to be here for a small recognition that we want to give. State Park Partners and Volunteers constitute approximately one-third of our State Park workforce. Think about that just a minute before I go any further. State park volunteers contribute over 460,000 hours of labor annually, which is equivalent to 230 full-time equivalents and approximately at a very reduced price, I might add ‑‑ you can do the math yourself ‑‑ an approximate value of $4.5 million in personnel costs.

Volunteers come to us in the form of grassroot support organization, advisory committee members, park friends groups, volunteer organization, park hosts and good-hearted individuals in general. Some parks and historic sites would not be able to operate without the dedicated assistance from park partners and volunteers. Today we honor our non-paid workforce and community partners by recognizing them for their outstanding efforts to help us provide an outstanding experience for all of our guests. All state parks and historic sites in our system will receive a certificate of appreciation to proudly display during the National Volunteer Appreciation Week celebrated this year from April 15 through April 21.

Here to accept this token of our appreciation today, as I said, one of our very best, one of our best friends, Beth McDonald of Texans for State Parks.

Beth, thank you for being here. Would you like to say anything?

MS. MCDONALD: Thank you very much. I appreciate this for all of the volunteers. As he told you it's a great group of volunteers. And I'm proud to represent them as their president of Texans for State Parks.

MR. COOK: Thank you, Beth. We couldn't do it without you.

On March 17, 2007, Game Warden Justin Hurst lost his life in the line of duty. It was his 34th birthday. Game Warden Hurst personified all of what Texas Parks and Wildlife Department represents. He was passionate about wildlife, a pillar of his community. And he cared deeply for his family and was a faithful public servant. His death was a great loss to all of Texas. Justin Hurst began his career with the Department as a wildlife biologist in August 1995 after graduating from Texas A&M with a degree in wildlife sciences. During this six-year tenure at Peach Point Wildlife Management Area Justin's passion for waterfowl and the marsh habitat was evident in everything he did, whether it was banding mottle ducks or working up alligators.

He had a great reputation for his can-do ethic and extensive knowledge about waterfowl, developed no doubt during his teenage years as a goose guide on the coastal prairies of Texas. It came as a surprise to everyone who knew him, including his wife Amanda, when he announced his intention to become a Texas Game Warden. But Hurst saw an opportunity to make a difference in another aspect of wildlife resource conservation and became part of the 48th Texas Game Warden Academy. While at the Academy Justin shared his knowledge about waterfowl with fellow cadets and actually taught duck identification techniques to those cadets.

Some of his classmates referred to Hurst as super cadet, because of his diligence and drive. After graduation in August of 2002 Justin was stationed in Brazos County, close to his alma mater, which he and his wife both loved and attended. He was stationed there for about a year. And when a game warden slot came open in Wharton County he was transferred there. His expertise in waterfowl made Hurst an ideal candidate for that area, and he did us a great job. With his transfer to El Campo, Justin Hurst was able to return to the landscape he cherished and quickly developed relationships with area landowners, hunters and the community. He was as dedicated as he was passionate about his job.

Justin Hurst is survived by his wife Amanda and son Kyle Hunter, age four months; his parents Allen and Pat Hurst of Bryan; a brother, Greg Hurst of Denver; and his in-laws Larry and Jeanie Wilcox of Denton. If you would I would like for you to join me in a moment of silence in honor of our fallen colleague and friend, Game Warden Justin Hurst.


MR. COOK: Thank you very much.

COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thanks, Bob. On that note [inaudible].

Okay. With that we'll move on to item one, approval of agenda. Do I have a motion for approval?




(A chorus of ayes.)


(No response.)

COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Hearing none, motion passes. Okay item 2, action item license fee and structure changes.


MS. DUDISH: Good morning. I'm Kim Dudish, License manager. I'm going to present to you a summary of the recommendations made by the License Reassessment Committee which require Commission action. As approved at the January meeting these recommendations have been posted in the Texas Register, and public comment has been taken.

The first recommendation is to combine the Resident Commercial Fishing Boat License with the Non-resident Commercial Fishing Boat License. This is to create one single new license, no resource or management issues. Second, we would like to recommend combining the Resident Freshwater Fishing Guide with the non-resident Freshwater Fishing Guide. These licenses are both priced the same.

The next recommendation is to rename the Resident and Non-resident Saltwater Fishing Guide License to the Resident and Non-resident All-Water Fishing Guide License. The name reflects the actual activities authorized by the license.

Our next recommendation is to split the Special Resident Hunting License into two: one, the Senior Resident Hunting License that will be authorized for senior residents, and the second for the Youth Hunting License for youth. This will help our constituents understand which license to purchase. We would then like to delete the Resident July/August Fishing Package. This license does not accomplish what it was originally set out to do.

Next we would like to split the Special Resident Fishing License into two: the senior resident fishing license for our seniors, and a Special Resident Fishing License for the Blind. And in this license we will waive the saltwater and freshwater stamp requirement.

We would then like to combine the Resident Day plus and Repurchase Fishing Licenses. There are six licenses. And we would like to combine that into one for a one-day, single license for $10 for residents. We feel this will really help the constituents.

We would also like to do similar with the Non-resident Day plus and Repurchase, and combine those six licenses into one for a price of $15. We would like to recommend a fee of $3 to obtain the Bonus Red Drum Tag. This will help recoup our expenses to issue that.

We received public comment. Six responses were given. Four are in agreement. One says, It makes sense to eliminate the administrative cost, but still gather the information. And we had two that disagreed. One said the fee was too low for the Non-Resident Commercial Boat License.

And the other said that they felt that the Bonus Red Drum should be added to the existing license. Staff would like to recommend Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopts the license fee and structure changes to 31 TAC Chapter 53 as published in the February 23, 2007, issue of the Texas Register.

COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Kim. I don't believe we have anyone signed up to testify on this one. Any questions from the Commissioners for Kim?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you very much. I commend you and your staff for the work that's continued to streamline our license and regulations. I particularly like to comment about eliminating something that was not meeting its original objective.

That's the sort of clear thinking we like to see. And thank you very much.

Do we have a motion on this item?



COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Moved by Bivins, second by Parker. All in favor, aye.

(A chorus of ayes.)


(No response.)

COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Hearing none, motion passes.

MS. DUDISH: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Kim, for your work.

Next up, item 3, statewide hunting and fishing proclamation.

Ken, will you start us off?

MR. KURZAWSKI: Good morning, Commissioners. My name is Ken Kurzawski, Inland Fisheries Division. And I'm going to go over the regulation proposals that we've had at public hearing and give you comments of the summaries from those hearings and from all other means of comment.

The first one is on Lake Texoma. The current regulation there concerns striped bass. The daily bag is ten. The possession limit is also ten, which is twice the statewide daily bag, not the Texoma daily bag. We have a proposed change there to move the possession limit to 20, which would be twice the Texoma daily bag.

That will alleviate the angler confusion over that possession limit. We don't believe it will have any biological impact on the striper population. There will still be some minor differences with Oklahoma due to our definitions of final destination.

But we think this will help alleviate some of that confusion and move us a little bit closer. We did receive some comments on that. All these comments that we received were through our website, that we did have a public hearing in Sherman.

We didn't receive any comments on this proposal at that time, and had a few additional comments: another four for it and one against it since the preparation of this slide. The next proposal we had is to extend the legalization of bow fishing for catfish.

As you recall we implemented that for one year at the last year's April Commission meeting. We have been collecting some information through game warden contacts and survey of bow anglers. However most of the bow-fishing activity was concentrated during the spring and summer, prior to this change being implemented in September 1, 2006.

We'd like to extend that for another year to continue to try and collect some information on this change and any possible impacts on the population. We did receive a number of comments. All of these except one were on website.

We did receive at one public hearing one comment against it. And we've had a few additional public comments both for and against since then. Those are all the proposals Inland Fisheries has. If anyone has any questions, I'd be happy to ‑‑

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Any questions or comments from the Commissioners?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: No? If not ‑‑ yes, go ahead, Commissioner.

COMMISSIONER PARKER: I still have a problem with the bow-hunting ‑‑ [inaudible]

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Any other comments from any Commissioner?

(No response.)


Mike, I believe you're next.

MR. BERGER: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. I'm Mike Berger, Director of the Wildlife Division. And I'm here today to discuss the proposals in wildlife for changes in the statewide regulation. The first of these regards the spring Rio Grande wild turkey season. Two years ago we simplified this season by adding a week to its length and by combining an old north and south zone to make the season uniform statewide. And that's what that season looks like there today. That's the season we're engaged in right now.

The proposal was to add the zones back or reinstitute the zones; we knew that the 44-day length was right, but that we had missed some opportunity by doing this. So this is to improve hunter opportunity. The proposal was to take the south zone and move the opening date two weeks earlier, which would be the Saturday closest to March 18, and in the north zone to put off the season a week, delay it by one week to make it open the Saturday closest to April 7. There was public comment on this issue: 75 people in favor and 114 against. And the reason it was against was primarily some people said the north zone should open two weeks earlier. Many people wanted the north zone to remain as is. And they felt it was better gobbling opportunity and better hunting opportunity with the season the way it is now. So our staff recommendation would be to change our proposal and leave the north zone season as it currently is: starting the Saturday closest to April 1 and running for 44 consecutive days.

The south zone would still be opening two weeks earlier than now, to start at the Saturday closest to March 18. The next item is a mule deer housekeeping item. Two years ago we adopted rules to eliminate double tagging, where hunters are no longer required to use a tag off their license, if they're also using an MLD LAMPs special drawn hunt permit tag or some similar.

When we propose and adopted these rules we inadvertently failed to include the general antlerless mule deer permits on this. So this proposal would help us eliminate double tagging of antlerless mule deer taken under the authority of the general antlerless mule deer permit. There were 58 in favor of this and 17 against. The folks who were opposed to it generally are opposed to the MLD in philosophy. Also as part of mule deer housekeeping we implemented a mule deer MLD program two years ago. And we inadvertently failed to make provision for the archery mule deer season when we did that.

So this proposal would make the MLD permits valid for the archery season with archery equipment only. And that proposal was supported 90 to 14. Again the people who opposed that were opposed to the MLD program in general. For archery white tails we've had continuing dialogue with the archery hunting community. And they saw an opportunity for an additional five days between the end of the current archery season and the opening of the general season. And we think this is a legitimate request and it was not a resource issue. And it was put out for public comment. And that extension was overwhelmingly supported: 144 to 42. The opponents thought that the deer needed time to settle down between the two season before the gun deer season opened. But it was widely supported otherwise. Lesser prairie chicken, this proposal is to give increased opportunity and encourage more participation in the managed lands lesser prairie chicken program by landowners.

Most of the landowners in the program or who might like to be in the program are already doing some habitat management activities already. And the requirement of five habitat management practices is a little overly restrictive and could be reduced to three and still encourage more people to come into the program. And also because of the different habitat types that lesser prairie chickens use in their life cycle for nesting or feeding or booming grounds, all these are less likely to be found on single landowners. So they scatter their activities among several landowners. And because of variability in landownership sizes, it can make issuing these permits challenging. So we would like to have the opportunity to make the harvest up to 10 percent of the population, instead of up to only 5 percent.

And we feel that this would allow our biologists to make issuing these permits more equitable for landowners in the region and encourage greater participation in that. And that was supported as well. Fifty-five agreed, and eight disagreed. Those who disagreed felt like the was a benefit to wealthy landowners only, primarily. Next item is javelina. Earlier this year we were petitioned by a private landowner to allow more hunting opportunity on javelinas by increasing the seasonal bag limit.

At the last meeting we were authorized to publish this. It would allow javelina hunting under a managed land's permit program, very similar to that which is widely in practice for white-tailed deer. Under this proposal participating landowners would be required to collect population and harvest data and do habitat management, just as they are required to do under the white-tail program. This proposal was supported by a margin of 58 to 46. Those in opposition thought it was special treatment for large landowners or that it would in fact constitute a depredation permit for those who would engage in this. And that is where our javelina seasons are right now. The blue is a year-round season. And the red is a half-year season. The last proposal has to do with the taxidermy record-keeping requirements. Taxidermist currently is required to keep records of taxidermy work two years following the date of completion of that taxidermy work.

And since sometimes the clients don't pick up that work right away, we would like to have the two-year cycle run from the time the recipient picks up that taxidermy work and keep those records for two years. That was supported as well. I'd be happy to answer any questions about these.

COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any questions for Mike? We have a number of people signed up we'll get to after Larry's presentation. Any questions for Mike on the wildlife proposals? We'll get our testimony here in a minute.

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER: Thank you, Mike.

Larry, make your presentation.

DR. MCKINNEY: Yes, sir. Mr. Chairman and members. For the record I'm Dr. Larry McKinney. I'm the Director of Coastal Fisheries. I come to you with a series of proposals as we discussed in the workshop yesterday. The first proposal dealing with an increase in minimum size from 12 to 15 inches on sheepshead as we discussed the reason for that yesterday.

In public comment summary we had 32 for and 11 against; concerns being of course as noted here. Diamondback terrapins, proposal for no-take provision, as we again discussed yesterday. On that no changes from the recommendation from yesterday. Public comment in that matter was 29 for and 4 against. Regarding the tarpon proposal, we looked at two options in the recommendations: catch and release and one fish, 90-inch minimum. And as we discussed yesterday where we're going, I want to make it clear that one of my goals for dealing with tarpon is to eventually get to a catch-and-release fishery.

When you look at these 90-inch fish, we're talking about fish there that are 55 and 60 years old. These are significant resources. And none of us want to lose those. But this time we're just not where we need to be. When we move that direction I need the full cooperation of Louisiana and Mexico and those groups and of our tarpon fishermen.

In working with them we tried to elicit their input as to how best to proceed. And of course these are some of our comments again, good support for catch and release at this time. But in working with that fishery I felt that until we can make sure we have a standardized catch-and-release approach and work with these other states, that they didn't want to be put at a disadvantage. And I understand that. So we were able to visit with one of the top scientists in tarpon research in the world right now, Dr. Jerry Ault, and come up with a recommendation on a length that would be protective of these fish but also allow the establishment of the state record. In doing that our recommendation would be at this time to allow a one-fish bag limit with a minimum size set at 85 inches, which is an increase from 80 inches for now, and then move forward in the future. You will see me back up here at some point moving that one forward, because that's really where we need to go with this fishery.

Spotted seatrout management, let's talk about that for a second. We discussed this yesterday, so I don't want to spend time there ‑‑ just to make the point that we have tried to make sure that we had many opportunities for our folks to express their opinions on this matter and make sure that all of our state leadership was informed. And I think we've been successful in that. Again, for most of our audience, we've seen these graphics before ‑‑ our concerns over the population there. Just a special note, we have moved into this year for the first time our catches of spotted seatrout in Lower Laguna Madre drop below the statewide average, which of course has continued to increase our concern.

The spawning stock biomass. The basis of that population again continues to decrease, and we see no turn around for that, unless we do take some action. And when we look at the frequency distributions we see that in the last several years, since our last set of regulations, the fact that the fish recruit well. We have plenty of fish coming into the population. But once they hit that 17-, 18-inch length, they begin to disappear, which is a classic sign of a fishing pressure driven issue. So our recommendation in the Lower Laguna Madre would be for a bag and possession limit of five fish per day.

Looking at where that would be in effect, of course we're recommending a northern boundary at Marker 21 in the lower part of the Laguna Madre, and all of the coastal or saltwaters of the Laguna Madre. To make that clear we're talking about all waters within the saltwater or the coastal boundary to the west. The seaward boundary would be along the western margin of Padre Island itself, to exclude the jetties. We don't want to get out onto the jetties, but just to the inside of that to make sure that was clear. That's a little bit of a change, as we noted from our original proposal.

The main reason being is that we didn't want to get into confusion with folks fishing on the jetties, where they could keep five or ten or whatever. We'll just make it clear in that way. As far as our public comment, we've had input from Port Mansfield Chamber of Commerce and the fishing tournament. They sent us letters. I told them 398 in opposition: the Coastal Bend Guides Association, similar letters, 707 in opposition; the Port Isabel Chamber of Commerce, a resolution in favor of the regulation; and the Lower Laguna Madre Foundation in similar support; internet petitions in favor of the proposed regulations, coming in around 2,097 individual names and addresses.

And then some of those folks they expressed some preferences, as you see there, of anywhere from three, four, five and seven fish. Overall our public comment summary is: for it, 2,256, and against 1,137. We received a number of comments today and yesterday, in roughly the same proportion, more letters, but not much different in the totals. But we have gotten a few more, even as late as this morning. I will come back as we finish up this and talk about the spotted seatrout and some of the public comments that we received. But preceding with red snapper at this point, we had three recommendations: one dealing with lowering our length limit to match some of the federal regulations; use of circle hooks; and then mirroring federal commercial regulations and state regulations.

As we discussed yesterday, until the federal agencies kind of settle on an option we don't want to put our inshore anglers at a disadvantage. So we were asked that we go through a process whereby the Commission would delegate to the Executive Director the authority for rulemaking, should we need that. And I want to make that clear. If we can work this process through the normal Commission process, we will do that. And we'll have full hearings and all those type of things. But in case we get in a bid with the Feds, we want to make sure that we can move as quickly as possible.

So we would ask the Executive Director to be delegated this authority for a rulemaking process in case we need that. We continue to recommend adoption of use of circle hooks only for taking of red snapper. In discussions with Commissioner Parker and others we have to be careful in our definition to make sure we really are using circle hooks, and that it's clear and as easy as possible for our law enforcement to follow that. But we're kind of stepping on ahead of this. Federal agencies and others are going to go there. So we're going to take the first step. So we'll have to learn a little bit. And we may have to come back to you to clean this up a little bit, to make sure it's effective. But it's a good first step.

And the questions of just make it clear that what we're talking about that the circle hooks applies to natural bait, not artificials. And as a practical matter ‑‑ in reality though when we say circle hooks for red snapper we really mean offshore. If you're going to go offshore you'd better be using circle hooks for fishing. You're going to catch snapper. So we just might as well go there at any rate. And of course this applies only to pole and line. Of course spear fishing and other activities are not affected by this proposal. We do certainly recommend that we mirror the federal regulations regarding IFQs and commercial fisheries in our state waters, again to give our law enforcement folks the option to pursue these cases in whatever way that they may be the most successful.

So that's a tool we want them to have. Of course support for this was strong as well. A series of general recommendations. Again as we discussed yesterday looking at the idea of using air boats, jet-driven devices and others to pursue, harass or harry fishes, we want to expand that to all vessels, because of the proliferation of shallow-draft boats these days. But we do want to try to clarify some concerns that folks raised in our public comments about what "pursue" and so forth means. So at this point we would recommend adopting something that says, It is unlawful to use any vessel to harass fish, because we know what harass is and we use it as a common law enforcement term.

And we'll take a look at this as we go through our Sunset process eventually to make sure it's still functional. But at this time we want to leave that tool with our game wardens, but look at it carefully as we go along. Again for exempting offshore aquaculture permitted facilities for bag and size limits. If we're going to allow this industry to develop offshore, as we have put rules together for them, we do have to allow them to harvest their product and bring it ashore.

Of course those will be in larger numbers than recreational bag limits. So we have to give them that opportunity. And this is what this proposal would do. Some of the opposition was concerns over harvest of wild fish and so forth. I think we've addressed those in our aquaculture rules to make sure the opportunity for that would be minimized. So that answered most of those concerns, I believe. Another one is to allow the use of freshwater catfish heads in crab traps.

We discussed this briefly yesterday. But I did want to clarify ‑‑ I was asked to do that; I meant to do so yesterday ‑‑ we're not talking about any freshwater catfish. They have to come from the aquaculture farms and have paper trails that can find where they're coming from. So it's from aquaculture sources that they can use these catfish heads. That's what we're talking about there. And again a final kind of clean-up item is to get some consistency between statutory language and our proclamation language.

When we talk about coastal boundaries in one and saltwater boundaries in another, make sure it's one term so we can force that. That's coastal boundaries. That's all saltwaters that we're talking about the same thing, no real opposition there.

What I'd like to proceed to is talk about some of the responses and comments on the spotted seatrout issue. We had many. I tried to go through and summarize a few of those ‑‑ just a few key points, and try to give you some background on that, kind of where our responses would be. Of course you'll hear comments today from all sides, I'm quite sure. There's a group of comments that I've grouped in this way: one, that there was some concern over the possession and bag limits. And where we're making a proposal here is that bag and possession be the same, five fish.

In other parts of the state you could have 10 and 20. Typically it's twice the daily bag limit. But here, to make sure we can enforce this thing equitably and make it very straightforward, our proposal is bag and possession would be the same. If you're on the water you'd better have only five fish per angler out there. That's what that means. If you're onshore and that type of thing, it's a whole different thing. But this is what we mean by that. There were a number of concerns over regionalization. And we've talked about this in briefings, but not much. What we're proposing is a pretty dramatic change from our standard approach to managing coastal fisheries, where we've tried to maintain uniform regulations up and down the coast.

And the fact is we're just to a point in regulation of fishing and fishing pressure that we need to move away from that take advantage of situations ‑‑ I use the analogy of, when you have a flat tire on a car, you don't go out and buy four new tires to fix it. You fix that flat tire and move on. Really the plus thing is we're really in a fortunate position here in the State of Texas with the status of our fisheries that we can afford to do that. And we can begin to take a look at some of these issues and address them ahead of time, and not react to crisis situations. And that's what we're talking about here. We can try to move things in a right direction before it becomes a real difficult situation. Nonetheless there's always concern with any kind of change like that. And many of the expressions of that was the fact that some people said, No, we don't like regionalization at all.

Let's just apply all rules statewide. There was concern that if you apply a regional rule in one place, will that drive fishing pressure to other adjacent areas and hurt our fisheries there; what would happen there. And just a concern that if we do regionalization here we might come and do it some other place in the state in the future. And my response to that last one is, yes, that's a possibility. It's not something we want to do necessarily, and don't see any particular place on the horizon where we'll be coming back to you to propose that. But that's a tool in our bag that we want to maintain, because our monitoring program, which all this is based on and we've been working on for 30 years, is designed to do just that. It's a powerful tool. And it's one that we want to make full use of to make sure our fisheries are the best that they can be. And then economic impacts of course was a concern. And you're going to hear plenty from that. I won't speak to that. You'll hear both sides of that here and make your own judgment there. My general response to folks who raise it is just this.

When I look at those trends and overall populations, spawning stock biomass ‑‑ the things that we're looking at ‑‑ and I talk to my biologists. Unless we do something they don't see those trends changing. So the point I kind of make is: you can either basically pay us now; we can take a small step now, or sometime down the road it could be a much more severe step. You do not want to get into a situation where other states have had to go ‑‑ and Florida's done that ‑‑ where they've had to close seasons for example. Our options can get where we do not want to go. We want to take advantage of a small step here to turn the direction a little bit and improve it, so we don't have to go there. But again you'll hear more on that from speakers I am sure. Let's take a look at a couple of specific comments. One kind of a general comment that came out at some points was that the science on which the recommended regulation is based is not adequate. The sampling's not sufficient.

The [inaudible] said, My observation of being there on the site and the observations of my associates seem to indicate that there's really no problem there at all. The general response to that is this ‑‑ in fact it is a good point ‑‑ that fishing for spotted seatrout in the Laguna is really almost as good as anywhere else in the state right now. Now, our statewide trends ‑‑ everyplace else on the coast, every other bay system is headed up, right where we want to go. This is the one place where it's headed down. So you might not notice anything right now, compared to any place else, but you sure could in the future.

And as we noted for the first time of this year our catch rates fell below statewide averages in the Laguna. And that shouldn't be the situation in the Laguna. Laguna Madre should be the number one spotted seatrout fishery in the world. It's thought of that way, and we want to keep it that way. And that's where we're going. Of course the concern is that we're looking down the future, that it's the foundation of the fishery, that spawning stock biomass, the thing that supports it is what we're really looking at.

We do not want to be in a situation where we have, for example, a freeze like we had in the '80s and have to try to recover from that. Our spawning stock biomass is about half of what it was then. So our recovery time could be significantly worse. So we do not want to be in a position to have to deal with that, because those situations will occur. Hope not, but they will occur. As far as our database, I think it's quite extensive. The information on which we've based our recommendation comes from 1,980 gill nets, 2,640 trawls, 4,628 bag seines.

We have talked to a lot of people down there: 32,000 anglers over a period of some 2,926 days. We have a very significant database on which we're basing our recommendations. In addition of course, not only have we done that at Mr. Cook's direction ‑‑ and certainly with our support ‑‑ but we went through a very extensive review of our procedures and processes. A science review over 2002 and 2004 brought in nationally recognized experts, peer-reviewed, to take a look at our procedures.

And basically, although they always have some improvements we can make, they basically come back and say, This is a national model. This is what everyone should do. So I can tell you not only that this is sound science, it is the best science that's available, on which we can manage our fisheries. I notice a question that said basically: the justification for lowering spotted seatrout bag limits is only a hypothesis. Other management options, like taking away professional fishing guide limits were hypotheses and really made no difference in creel counts. Again certainly I would beg to differ with that. Of course, yes, the proposals we brought forward to you are based on models that we use our data to generate. But that's what you have to do in these regulations.

As I said, in fact our models would suggest that to be most effective we should probably look at a three-bag fish limit ‑‑ Bob keeps reminding me of that ‑‑ a three-bag fish limit, rather than five. But five seemed a reasonable first step.

And one of the reasons that we can make that step is that, as our models predict we'll see the benefits of this process within ‑‑ about 50 percent of the benefits in the first year, and over 80 percent by the second and third year. So we'll see if we're making progress pretty quickly. The fix, if you will, is long term. But we'll see progress. We'll see if we're doing well. Of course we know these things work. For example, in 2002 when we eliminated the guide bag limit, you can see that these regulations do have an effect. When you put them into place you can see that the numbers for the guides have declined ‑‑ guided trips on boats have declined, because we took that limit away from the guides. So they do have responses that show up. Environmental issues of poor water quality and/or the lack of water circulation is what's causing the problem.

Parks and Wildlife needs to address those issues first, rather than restricting fishing. Certainly we have been much involved and have been since my career and before that on dealing with issues in the Laguna Madre. Before you, we put together a three-page summary of what we've been doing over the years in the Laguna Madre, from dealing with issues of dredging the Intercoastal, shrimp farms, water quality in the Arroyo Colorado, brown and red tides, and restoration of the Bahia Grande.

These kind of issues are a challenge and moving forward with them. And they're a long-term solution. I would tell you that because of the work of our biologists from all divisions working down in the Lower Laguna Madre area, and working with our partners at TCEQ and the General Land Office and the cities surrounding the Arroyo Colorado, we're on the edge of making some really dramatic moves to help protect water quality in Laguna Madre. And we've been working on it for a long time and endured some challenges. But we're making some progress, and I'm pretty happy with that. But the challenges are there of course long term. When I look at our data though, is what is the health of Laguna Madre, well, we see some species are declining.

It says some are increasing, and some are about just average, kind of staying on an even keel. Basically we're not seeing those environmental issues that are affecting our fishery down there. The Laguna Madre is a healthy body of water. Now, does it mean there's not potential problems there that we just can't detect? There's always that issue. And we're always going to continue to look under those issues. But the key issue is that even if there is undetected environmental problems, even if there's something that comes up in that perspective, we still have to manage the fishery that's there.

Whatever that fishery is, we have to try to make sure it's sustainable under whatever conditions occur. So we're going to have to do that no matter what if we try to address these other issues. But from us, when we look at all these factors, as we talked about in the data here, there's only one known predator that takes spotted seatrout when they start hitting about 17 or 18 inches and don't take them out before. That's us. So fishing pressure is a part of this issue and a key part of it. And that's where we certainly have focused on that regulation.

Water circulation in Laguna Madre, talk about that for a second. As you can see from the diagram here, inputs to water from the land cut coming south, from the Brazos Santiago Pass going north, Mansfield Pass, and of course the Intercoastal Waterway, which has frankly been a plus there in helping circulation in that regards, and that's what occurs. And there's been some testimony in writing that if we could open the Mansfield Pass that it would solve the problem. And the whole issue of these natural passes along the Texas coast is a problematic one. We have so altered the water landscape of the State of Texas with about 3 million acres of surface reservoirs, the Intercoastal Waterway that runs 400 miles up and down it, the diversion of water.

We have significantly altered the hydrology of the coast. And it has affected these passes and not in a positive way for the most part. So we do have to work to maintain them, and it's a difficult issue. The opening of passes is a positive thing. We need them open, and certainly we support that. But the way we have to do it these days, the expense and the cost is very problematic. And you really have to weigh very carefully your cost benefits from doing that, and will you get the benefit of the cost that will come. In this situation when we looked at it, and looking at Mansfield Pass and looking at the data we have, when we looked again at our spawning stock biomass ‑‑ just using that as an example graph ‑‑ one recognized the fact that the Port Mansfield Pass has been on a two-year maintenance dredging cycle until 1999 when that cycle ended and of course money dried up.

It's been dredged over all that period of time and kept open until then. And of course since '99 it's begun to close up. And it's a serious issue. Don't get me wrong. I'll make this point very clearly. I'm talking about ecosystem issues here. The fact that the Pass is closing up and restricting boating and access is a serious issue for that port, and we need to help them as best we can. But when you look at the impact of that opening on our situation we're talking about here, the Pass has been open while that fishery has been declining. Additionally, as I've mentioned earlier, when we look at the recruitment ‑‑ and recruitment of course is an issue of the small fish coming into the population ‑‑ our recruitment for spotted seatrout is good. Better in fact in the last five years than it's been previously.

We have sufficient numbers of young fish coming into the population. That's not where they're disappearing. Another species that certainly is dependent on circulation, the red drum. Spotted seatrout reproduce within the bays and within the passes themselves. But the red drum as we all know gather up in the fall, move offshore and spawn. And then the larvae and eggs drift back in on the currents and distribute themselves. So they are absolutely dependent on adequate circulation for distribution. Well, red drum, both adults and sub-adults are at record numbers in the Laguna Madre, giving me an indication that our circulation, at least from an ecosystem level, is sufficient for those species.

There was some concern about bait fish, what's the status of bait fish in relation to these circulations. Well, I picked out two: Atlantic croaker and white striped mullet, the two main food fish for spotted seatrout. And the long-term trends in both species are positive. And they do vary year to year. But on the long-term those forage fish populations are positive. Let me back up just a little bit. With that I think that's kind of a summary of my responses to some of the general questions that are there. And it's what kind of gives you a base of what has moved us to make that recommendation, that the one place we can be effective in sustaining this population is in our fishing regulation as we have proposed.

With that, Mr. Chairman, we do have the recommended motion for the statewide proclamation here in front of you. I know obviously there's comment and so forth. I'll be available to answer questions at your direction, sir.


We do have quite a few folks signed up for public comment. So let's get to that. And then if the Commissioners have any questions for the staff that are prompted by that testimony, we'll call you back up and do that.

Let's get started with Mike Forstner. And Bruce Shuler be ready.

MR. FORSTNER: Good morning. There's an aspect of the proposal that wasn't specifically addressed by Dr. McKinney just now. And that was, there's a proposal to ban or make unlawful diamondback terrapins in take. I'm here to speak in support of that. I am an associate professor at Texas State University. I've been working on turtles in the state for about the last 20 years. And I've been a member of the Gulf Coast Terrapin Working Group for the last eight. My work in the state on terrapins began in '97.

And all available evidence would agree with the recommendation that we regulate or prevent take of those animals. I make one comment to the Commission. And that is that we also need to look at a very serious impact that is done on those taxa as bycatch in crab pots. And we've heard about crab pots as ghost pots. In one occasion we collected the remains of 37 adult terrapins in one pot that had probably been abandoned for several years. The technology exists ‑‑ just like we went through with the shrimp fishery ‑‑ we worked with the shrimp fishery to exclude turtles from their trawls. And the same technology exists. It doesn't impact the crab fishery to modify their crab pots in order to exclude the adult females that are critical. And with that I thank you for your time.

COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you very much, Doctor, I appreciate that. Any questions for staff?


COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Larry, do you want to speak to that?

DR. MCKINNEY: I appreciate those comments. And of course in summarizing our visit on terrapins, that was one of the issues we talked about at the very beginning. What really drove us to take a look at that is the concern over crab traps. In talking with the doctor before the meeting ‑‑ we're going to be visiting with him about some of those technical fixes on crab traps to see what they have, and see what we can work with.

COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: And certainly the work you've done in cleaning up the abandoned crab traps, that's a big impact.

DR. MCKINNEY: That's a big one. It's huge.


MR. MCCARTY: 22,312.

COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Now if Gene McCarty said that I might believe it.

DR. MCKINNEY: Whatever my boss says I agree.


MR. MCCARTY: 22,312.

COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: All right, Mr. Shuler. And then we'll have Scott Murray be ready.

MR. SHULER: Good morning, gentlemen. My name is Bruce Shuler. Along with my wife, we own and operate Get Away Adventures Lodge in Port Mansfield, Texas. As a Port Mansfield business owner, guide and concerned sportsman, I fully support the spotted seatrout proposal as submitted by Dr. McKinney. Coming from Port Mansfield I can assure everyone these proposals have generated strong opinions in our community as well as along the coast. But I would much more prefer to have our limits reduced now than to have restricted limits after a catastrophic event, to the point that it may be a catch-and-release fishery.

Businesses in Port Mansfield and our local chamber of commerce are concerned lowering our limits will have a negative impact on their bottom line. However my business operations the last three years, I've asked our guests to limit their trout to no more than five, nothing over 22 inches. During these three years my business has continued to increase an average of 8 to 11 percent per year, prompting me to raise my rates by almost 20 percent this year. Subsequently my bookings continually show a growth over last year at this time. But a lot of anglers on the Texas coast don't understand the Lower Laguna Madre is unlike any other Texas bay that generally has deep water reefs and structures. The Laguna Madre is a shallow-water system, very similar to the Florida Keys.

We sometimes affectionately call it the Texas Keys. The unique nature of the Lower Laguna Madre is what attracts fishermen to our end of the coast, not to fill an icebox. I think we're missing, as a state, a real opportunity not to market our uniqueness to out-of-state anglers who go to Florida to fish the same types of water we have with even much more restrictive limits. These out-of-state anglers could make up any lost revenue if ‑‑ and I say, if ‑‑ anglers choose not to come south in Texas to fish our waters. I personally feel we would not see reduction in anglers coming south to fish our end of the coast.

In closing I'd like to point out to the Commissioners, myself and many others in this room make 100 percent of our livelihood from a public resource. It's a crying shame many don't fully understand that it's a privilege ‑‑ and I repeat that word ‑‑ a privilege and not a right to make a living from a public resource. With that being said, myself and many others are going to do everything we can to assure that we protect and leave the fishery in a better state than we found it. It's just a shame too many other folks don't share our feelings and only look at things in the short term. I ask you, please, help keep the Lower Laguna Madre the jewel of South Texas, our own Texas Keys. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. Shuler. We certainly appreciate your commitment to the resource. Next up Scott Murray. And then be ready, Everett Johnson.

MR. MURRAY: Honorable Commissioners, management and staff. My name is Scott Murray. And I live on Baffin Bay near Rivera, Texas. In recent years I've spent a considerable amount of time towards spotted seatrout conservation. I'm sure that many of you attended at least one of the many spotted seatrout public scoping meetings that were held over the past six months. You probably heard many of the same concerns and comments that I did, comments such as, maybe the decline is caused by water quality issues.

Maybe it's the Mansfield Pass showing up. Maybe the bio just aren't sampling the right places. The bottom line is, regardless of the cause, the effect is very evident. The trout population is declining in the Lower Laguna Madre. Therefore regardless of the cause or causes something must be done to protect the resource. And a good start is to reduce the harvest through lower bag limits. Let's take a closer look at the Texas Parks and Wildlife data and the probable cause for this decline.

Catch rates for trout in the Lower Laguna Madre have shown a steady decline since 1985. During the spring of '06 the Lower Laguna Madre had its lowest catch rate since 1985. Trophy trout have declined as well. From 1982 through 2000 it was about an 80 percent decline in trophy trout catch per hour in the Lower Laguna Madre. Recruitment of young fish into the fishery is excellent. And the trend to 14- to 16-inch fish is upward. However it is clear from the data that a large percentage of these young fish are disappearing quickly because they're caught. Therefore the spawning biomass of those collected females that are capable of spawning continue to decline. One might conclude that the probable cause of this decline, pure and simple, is fishing pressure on a very targeted species.

Coast wide, including the Lower Laguna Madre, combined private and party boat fishing pressure is almost double from 1984 to present. Fishing pressure on spotted seatrout is not unique to Texas. Other states, such as Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia, have experienced fishing pressure to the point of over fishing their spotted seatrout fisheries. Based on available data three of these states anticipate a total reevaluation of their management goals for spotted seatrout. Regionally our Texas bays and estuaries differ ecologically as well as the fishing pressure they receive, including variances and game fish population dynamics. With one set of regulations governing saltwater game fish for the entire coast it is extremely important that we are sensitive to the fact that the best management plan for fisheries in one bay system might not necessarily be the best plan for others.

I along with many other interested stakeholders salute the Commission and especially Dr. McKinney and his Coastal Fisheries staff for getting out ahead of the curve in developing and providing a regional- or ecosystem-based management plan for spotted seatrout in the Lower Laguna Madre. And also as a matter of information, I have for the record two mid-coast letters of support from the Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Program and the Coastal Bend Bays Foundation and many of the members such as Chamber of Commerce and the Port of Corpus Christi support this as well. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you very much, Mr. Murray. We appreciate your support and your commitment to the resource. Next we have Everett Johnson. And Leonard Ranne be ready.

MR. JOHNSON: I would like to thank the Commission for this opportunity to speak here today. My name is Everett Johnson. I reside at Seadrift, Texas. I am a fishing guide and the publisher/editor of the Gulf Coast Connection Texas Saltwater Fishing Magazine. My purpose here today is to encourage your support of regionalized regulation for the management of our spotted seatrout fishery. The Texas coast is a vast and wonderful environment, ranging from an uncommon river mouth estuary on the Sabine to the only hypersaline lagoon in North America on the south. Recreational angling, as you well know, is a very popular pastime here in Texas and has been growing on a seven-year average of nearly 2,000 new anglers per month. Spotted seatrout are enormously popular. And the recreational angling community, equipped with the absolute best tackle gear and boats we have ever seen, are applying greater pressure than ever before.

Years ago following the elimination of the commercial harvest for seatrout here in Texas it was widely believed that sport fishermen could never hurt this resource. That belief was based entirely upon angling pressure as it was understood up to that time. Evidently much has changed. We have not experienced a killer freeze here on the Texas coast since 1989. Yet the population survey data compiled by the Coastal Fisheries Division clearly points to continuous decline in the Lower Laguna Madre during that period.

Our current spotted seatrout management regulations date to a time when there were far fewer anglers, far fewer guides, stronger freshwater inflows and some bays with freer, flowing passes. Soon you will decide whether the historic one-size-fits-all management schemes are still the best for Texas. Or perhaps it is time to adopt more regionally specific plans. Through my publishing and guiding efforts I am in a very unique position to acquire feedback. When we began what has become a now widely supported and subscribed campaign of Just Keep Five for spotted seatrout, many people predicted we would fail. We would not only fail to spread that plan and its popularity among anglers, but we would fail as a business. Texas saltwater fishermen just aren't going to buy in to catch and release or taking less than a full limit, we were told.

I would submit, given the success of this publication over the past six years, those critics were wrong. Some will try to discredit the Coastal Fisheries data. Others will call for habitat enhancement rather than changing fishing regulation. Yet meanwhile by all signs available the decline will continue. To any who would disagree, I will say as I said here before, if by some chance this data could be flawed and we could be led to make a mistake, we will at least have erred on the side of conservation. It is my hope and my dream that by encouraging greater stewardship of the spotted seatrout resource we will not see no-keep regulation in our lifetimes, and we will pass this resource to future generations in better shape than we found it.

COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. Johnson. I appreciate your commitment putting conservation first. I enjoy your publication. You do a good job of getting conservation information out there.

All right, Leonard, how are you? Good to see you. And next up after Leonard, be ready Brandon Shuler. Again? Different Shuler, maybe.

MR. RANNE: Mr. Fitzsimons, Commissioners. I'm proud to be here with you all. I'd like to talk about the bow-fishing issue. I've had questions here about what's the difference. Actually when you look at what the difference would be, it's resource management. When you're there fishing it takes the basic knowledge of where the fish are, where their migrating patterns are, where their breeding grounds will be, what type of bait or lure you use to present it with. You throw the lure out and present it to the fish. He has a choice of taking it or not. But if he does take it and you feel it and you set the hook, the hook can slip out of his mouth. You can hang him up in it. You can hang him real good. And he can get fighting around, get tangled up in the brush and break off. Or you can bring him to the surface.

As you reach down to get him out of the boat, he jumps in swinging around trying to get away, and you can lose him. But the most important thing is, you have this fish here that took the Good Lord many years to probably produce it. You can make a decision, is this fish more important for you to kill or to release for somebody else to catch where he can reproduce. We're talking about managing a resource. If the fish is an illegal fish, naturally he'll be turned loose.

Now, let me see if I can go at it this way. Years and years ago with our deer population spotlighting was a big problem. So the Commissioners passed a law against spotlighting. When you look at migratory birds as they fly through the country it's against the law to feed them. Now, as it stands right now there's nothing here to protect these catfish. The stuff I sent you all here, was catfish pictures. I took catfish at the Athens Fishery. The fish weren't feeding. They'd been fed. They were laying there dormant. We took a double handful of shrimp and cut it into small pieces. We put it in the water, and you can see what kind of action you had here. Those fish started in a feeding frenzy. For the man with a bow and arrow there, I could probably shoot four or five of them at one time, they were so thick put together.

I've heard stories here already about three people have gone fishing with a bow and arrow or hunting with a bow and arrow, and they killed their limit each day. That's 175 fish caught. There's a danger here of poaching, because those fish can be taken and sold.

But the most important thing here is we've got a valuable resource. The catfishermen are just coming like the bass fishermen. They're working to realize the importance of their sport, of their fish. They're doing catch-and-release tournaments. Gentlemen, we have a resource that's been worked and built over the many years. Our bass population and our catfish population didn't happen. It was done with management. It was done with the support of the fishermen. If we fail to do something about this, we could put in jeopardy the second most popular fish in the State of Texas. The fish should be caught. They shouldn't be slaughtered like pigs. Thank you, gentlemen.

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Thank you, Leonard. And we appreciate your interest in the resource and the input.

The next speaker, Brandon Shuler, with Darren Jones as a backup.

MR. SHULER: Thank you, Commissioners for your time. And yes, I am the other Shuler. My father's Bruce Shuler. I'm Capt. Brandon Shuler for the record of Get Away Adventures Lodge in Port Mansfield. What I really want to do is talk about legacy. I'm 34 years old. As a guide in the State of Texas that makes me fairly young. I've got about 30 more years in guiding behind my belt. I left a lucrative career as an investment banker with Met Life as a pension manager to become a fishing guide.

I was an Olympic coach before that. My life has been dedicated to numbers. If I sat with an athlete or sat down with one of my investment clients and told them that their stock portfolio has gone from $625,000 down to $375,000 over a 20-year period, they'd boot me out of the room. Something needs to be done. What I looked at ‑‑ there's been a lot of people say that there is not an issue of pressure, it's an issue of water quality. I actually took these numbers, and there was an eloquent saying yesterday from one of the Commissioners talking about our beloved red-eared sliders, that pressure cannot maintain sustainability. These are taken directly from Texas Parks and Wildlife license sales numbers in the five coastal counties from Kenedy down to Cameron County. One of the issues facing us is the expansion ‑‑ there's three roads that come into Port Mansfield ‑‑ well, basically one, 186.

1420 and 77 fill those roads, fill 186. They're expanding one, 1482, right now to maintain the traffic and help the traffic flow into Port Mansfield. And they're also extending 77 into the 69 corridor, which is going to make accessibility to Port Mansfield a lot easier.

In those five counties ‑‑ Brooks, Cameron, Hidalgo, Kenedy and Willacy ‑‑ there were 20,283 licenses sold alone. To that if you cut down a linear mileage on the Intercoastal Waterway that breaks down to roughly 18 miles to the land cut, 32 miles south to South Bay.

That's 390 anglers per one linear mile in the Lower Laguna Madre. This is the basis from the 550 square miles. With that said if you break it down to the 550 square miles with those license sales on there, that's 36.8 anglers per square mile, 12.8 boats per square mile if you say three angler to a boat. This is not counting the additional traffic that comes in from San Antonio and your western-most counties. Going on a little bit more with the guide pressure, 18.3 percent of guide licenses sold in the State of Texas are sold in the Lower Laguna Madre, 173. That breaks down to 3.23 guides per linear mile on the Intercoastal Waterway and 0.326 per square mile. Now, one thing that Texas needs to do in looking at this ‑‑ and I call it the Kevin Costner rule, Field of Dreams ‑‑ if you build it they will come.

I compared our license sales to Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama. Louisiana has 16 percent non-resident license sales to the resident license sales. Mississippi and Alabama are roughly close to 20 percent. Texas comes in at a whopping 4 percent. Florida is at 40 percent. Our fishery is very close to Florida. We have the four main species that are fished in Florida: snook, tarpon, red fish and speckled trout. Why are we not marketing this? Why are we not moving it?

What we can do is by decreasing fishing limit to a bag limit of actually three, create a thriving fishery, we can turn our $1.6 billion a year in fishing revenue and 25- to 30,000 jobs and try to mirror Florida, which makes a whopping $5 billion in income from fishing and produces 60,000 jobs a year. If we lower our reduction in limits, it is going to help us build a fishery that's going to bring people in the Kevin Costner rule. I appreciate you all listening. And I appreciate the efforts of Dr. McKinney.

COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. Shuler. Thank you very much.

Darren Jones, with Jim Smarr as a backup.

MR. JONES: Thank you all for your time, gentlemen. I am a recreational angler. I don't have any prepared speeches or numbers or anything like that for you. I'm coming at your straight as a guy that was born and raised in Corpus Christi, lived in the Rio Grande Valley.

And I've fished everywhere from Nueces Bay to South Bay. The five-trout rule is something I want to support, and so is regionalization. I've spent most of my life on the Texas coast. The only time I was away was when I spent ten years in the Marine Corps. That's the only time I've been away from Texas. I've seen a lot of things change in Texas. One of them is the amount of fishing pressure on the Lower Rio Grande Valley. We have an emerging middle class down there, a lot more flat boats on the water.

And as you can see, the numbers are down. There's no way to deny it. One thing I would like to see that you all take into consideration ‑‑ as I know there seems to be a lack of common sense these days in a lot of things that we do ‑‑ I just don't want to see a knee-jerk reaction to the rest of the state. If we go to five trout, if the rest of the state doesn't need it, then don't do it there. That's the whole thing about regionalization. Make sure that the numbers support it. And I say that you all give the Lower Laguna, give it three to five years to see if this really works before we go and do it to Corpus or Rockport or anywhere like that.

So just keep that in consideration and apply some good common sense principles to our management. I support this. And I could go on and on about why we need to support it. But that's just coming from a recreational angler. I've got little kids. I want them to enjoy the same times that I had down there wade-fishing and just enjoying being on the coast. It's not about catching fish and putting them in the box. It's about going fishing and spending time on that beautiful piece of water. Thank you for your time.

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Thank you, Mr. Jones. And Thank you for your interest in the resource.

Mr. Smarr. And as a backup Mike Stapelton.

MR. SMARR: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. I'm Jim Smarr. I'm State Chairman of the Recreational Fishing Alliance. We initially opposed the regionalization. We were quite vocal about it. But Dr. McKinney and his team have put together some serious background information and supplied it to us and to you Commissioners over the last couple of months, that have changed our mind. We at RFA support the regionalization plan. We also still stand by the water quality issue. And we think that fighting for freshwater is a noble cause. But humans will win. And I've talked to several of the Commissioners here about this. But I think that we need to build a coalition between TCEQ, Parks and Wildlife, the Land Office, the hunting and fishing support group, CCARFA, SCA. And we need to apply for grants to open these coastal fish passes. Coast Harbor Engineering ‑‑ as you all know; they've helped you before ‑‑ let them do some studies.

And let's try and get in and solve ‑‑ the easiest way to solve some of the water quality problems is to open up the historical passes. Matagorda is closed. Mansfield we feel will be shortly. Recreational offshore yachts are having to move 40 miles in one direction or the other. So it's drying up these coastal communities. And it will be beneficial. And Dr. McKinney said it would be. But on the regionalization we'd like to support that and keep it localized there. I think if we have this large a problem ‑‑ and from I've heard the numbers were a little lower than what we first saw.

I would strongly suggest the Commission look at any tournament south of the land cut that deals with trout. And if it's not a catch-and-release or live weigh-in tournament, I think it should be restricted immediately. We at our RFA don't want to see a resource in trouble. And we at first thought this when there were other issue that we could get around. But the numbers are overwhelming. And we support Dr. McKinney, Coastal Fisheries and the Commission's efforts. We would pray that the Commission would set the ship in motion to go forward with entertaining the thought of dealing with several of the key coastal passes and make that a ten-year plan or seven-year plan to visit those.

We would be happy to give you whatever input we could on that. I thank the Commission for their work and Dr. McKinney and staff. So I am Mr. 180 today.

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Thank you, Mr. Smarr, for keeping an open mind. And certainly you've got some great ideas that I'm sure staff will follow up on.

MR. SMARR: When the numbers are there we don't have a problem.

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Yes, sir. Thank you.

Mr. Stapelton, followed by Dennis Lugg.

MR. STAPELTON: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. My name is Mike Stapelton, and I'm on the board of the Recreational Fishing Alliance Texas and Texas Gulf Coast Stewards. First I'd like to say I'm pleased to hear that there's been some more studies done in the Lower Laguna. It's been a heated issue and a very emotional one as well. I know I've been called a few choice words along the way. If the trout though are in as bad a shape as we say that they are, I want to echo Jim's sentiment. And I think we need to take a serious look at trout fishing tournaments in the Laguna Madre.

The fish that are targeted in these tournaments are guys in 60-, 70-mile-an-hour boats, who do this for a living. They're professionals, and they are after the big fish. Those fish are our brood stock. Those sows lay a lot of eggs. And we spend millions of dollars on hatchery upkeep and hatchery maintenance and hatcheries in general. We need to protect those fish. We've got a problem. I find it ironic that one of the larger conservation groups in the Gulf states has been relatively silent on this issue. And the reason being is that they came out in favor of the five-fish rule in good faith. They would have to remove trout from their summer-long tournament. So I think we need to pay attention to the rhetoric. And I will say the things nobody else wants to say about it.

So with that being said ‑‑ I had to tear up my fire-and-brimstone speech last night when I found out there'd been some new studies. I have to say that I agree with Jim along the water quality lines. Our passes are closing rapidly. Years ago Governor Connally implemented the Texas fishing license for the sole purpose of maintaining our coastal passes to ensure the health of the bay systems and wetlands. And right now I feel like we're at a crossroads where the passes are either closing or closed.

Freshwater inflow laden with fertilizers that chock up oxygen supplies and introduce toxins into these ecosystems is a problem. And if we look at the Laguna Madre, the inflow from the Arroyo Colorado, that has been diverted out for agriculture use and then put back in again, carries those toxins and it depletes the oxygen supply. And we have reduced water flow as well. We've got a hypersaline-based system by nature. And you couple those things with a the very shallow, average depth of the bay system and the searing heat of our summers, and you have the makings of a catastrophic problem.

And I think we need to address those things. We see similar situations in Cedar Bayou, St. Charles Bay. And we're looking at enormous growth again along the coast. And we need to be proactive rather than reactive regarding our bays. I've had recent discussion with policy advisers and commissioners at TCEQ. The RFA will be meeting with them in the next couple of weeks. And I would urge you guys to take a leadership role amongst all the agencies involved. I know it's a mess, and I know it's a lot of trouble. But I'd like to see Parks and Wildlife step up and take the leadership role and apply for the grants and do something to protect the ecosystems.

We can play with fish numbers all day long. But we've got to start looking at habitat, or it is going to come back to bite us. And I feel very strongly about that. I also have one other thing, kind of on a personal note. I think the rhetoric along with this issue has been something that has really bothered me and a great number of other people. Even today I'm finding people that have been staunch advocates of the five-fish rule the whole way. And we know the problem is fishing pressure, based on what we've been told today. Yet at the same time they will stand here and talk about marketing these fish to the rest of the world, thereby increasing fishing pressure.

So I think we all need to have a gut check and use a little more common sense from here on out. And maybe we can do something to protect our resource. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Thank you, Mr. Stapelton. Very interesting and very good comments.

Mr. Lugg, followed by Michael O'Dell.

MR. LUGG: Good morning. I'm Dennis Lugg. I am vice president of the Coastal Bend Guides Association. I grew up in the Rio Grande Valley. I fished at Lower Laguna Madre my early years. I live in Aransas Pass. We, as the Coastal Bend Guides Association, do oppose the regionalization, any change in bag and the retention limits on there. The main thing is we do believe there are issues with water, of course fertilizer runoff, the shrimp farms, numerous issues down there. Granted, fishing pressure is a problem. But just lower the bag limit alone is not going to cure this problem.

You're going to have to address the other issues: the closing up of the Port Mansfield Pass. There are quite a few things there. Of course there's new information coming in at all times. We are told at these scoping meetings and the public hearings one thing, when some of us get up and present other facts and figures. We go to the next scoping meeting or public hearing, it's been changed by the folks in Parks and Wildlife. It seems like they're kind of defending their position, instead of really having all their facts in front of them at the time.

So this is kind of throwing the question up, how accurate is all this information. We agree. There needs to be management. But I don't think just strictly the bag and possession limit is going to cure it at this time. Again I totally agree, if you're going to have a tournament, you should not be able to kill those fish. Again, don't market. That becomes strictly a money thing, not a management thing, if you're going to market our trout down there, our fishing area. So we need several things to improve this fishing.

On a personal note, I'm a retired state trooper, here in Texas. I've gone to many of these meetings. And it kind of bothers me to see our Parks and Wildlife people doing a 180 or twisting around and not just standing straight forward and say, Here's the facts. Here's our stuff to back it up. It's kind of, Well, we're going to run this through one way or the other. I don't think you all are actually getting all the full information either. This is my personal opinion, not the Guides Association. Like I say, being a police officer I see a lot of things that I don't like at these meetings. I want to see improvement done. I don't think the five-fish bag limit's going to be the answer. Again it's going to be numerous things that have to be done. We ‑‑ I live in Aransas Pass now ‑‑ I say, we ‑‑ all of us that fish, not just guides, friends. I've got a lot of friends in San Antonio because that's where I work out of. And with the fuel prices they're saying, Man, we're going to have to cut back. We're not going to be able to come to the coast as much. It's going to have a major economic impact. A lot of them are saying, Hey, with the fuel costs we're not going to drive all the way down to the Valley and fish very often. They're going to go some. But they're not going to go as often. Same thing is happening to us there at Aransas Pass, Rockport, Ingleside, Portland. There is a major economic effect taking place. Thank you for your time. Please look at this, especially the tournament part.

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Let me assure you that staff, just like any investigator, as you're acquiring facts, you're inputting them into the system. To the extent that new facts surface, new studies our new data is furnished to us, obviously staff is going to consider that so don't feel that staff is not doing their work. They're doing their best. And I can assure you they're very professional and follow up on that.

MR. LUGG: It seems that these facts always come up after the hearings, the additional information, which we don't get to analyze ourselves during the hearings. That's why I brought that up. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Any other comments from the Commissioners.

COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: I know it's a controversial issue. But I would like to defend our staff, because I've worked closely with them and developed the scientific principles. They really work hard to make sure that our policies are based on sound science.

If your association has a very specific objection, or you ‑‑

MR. LUGG: This is my personal opinion.

COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: However you want to raise the charge. But if you see information you believe is incorrect, partly correct or based on poor science, we certainly want to hear it. But I think an unfounded, broad suspicion or charge is one that is not consistent with my experience or my judgment.

I think the rest of the judgment of the Commission, we do rely on the information. I think they give very good information. I think you should expect information to change. As you raise arguments they should answer them. That's what they should do. And they should bring that forward. You will see new information just as Donato was saying. We want them to do that. So that should not create suspicion. It should create trust that they're responding to you.

MR. LUGG: I agree. One quick example. Our seagrass issue around there. We were promised by the Parks and Wildlife people at all these hearings, we're going to put run lanes in. We're going to do this; we're going to do that. How do you get an accurate assessment when you implement a law that went into effect last May 1 ‑‑ they were going to do flyover, take pictures for the prop scarring.

Guess what? That was just done about a month and a half ago or two months ago, we were told. How do you an accurate assessment? We were also told these run lanes. Now we're flat told, We're not going to put them in. This is what we're dealing with out there.

COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: I don't know the answer on that one. I can't speak to it. You should be able to count on what you're promised, if you in fact were promised. So I'd encourage you to talk to them and as them to clarify exactly what was promised and what the schedule for implementation is. And you're owed a response to that.

But I don't think that affects the seatrout issue. And I would hope it wouldn't take away your confidence in the information or the professionalism of our group. You may disagree with their opinion. But I think they're highly professional. And we certainly rely on the information, and we trust them.

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Any other comments from any Commissioner?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Okay. Mike O'Dell with Nancy Day as backup.

MR. O'DELL: Good morning, Commissioners. Number one I'm a professional fishing guide out of the Coastal Bend. I fish north of this area. I stand opposed to regionalization and the five-trout limit because we're not addressing all the problems down there. As I've attended over seven of these scoping meetings, all but one of the biologists in there says this is not the answer. This is not going to solve it. As Dr. McKinney said awhile ago he wants to make a trophy trout area back down there.

Well, let's put a trophy trout area all the way in Texas. Let's figure out what is going to cause all the problems out there. As has been brought to you previously today if you're going to do this, stop killing trout. Stop the tournaments that are down here. The only way they can bring a trout in for weigh-in is if it's a live trout and can be released. If we're going to stop the trophy fish and save that brood stock, let's save it. Let's just not swat at the net and eat the elephant here, guys.

Let's address these water problems. And Dr. McKinney's brought some things up that we've been bringing up in the scoping hearings today. But one of the problems he didn't address down in there is shrimp and the crabs. Both counts are down for the Lower Laguna in there. And when you've got biomass stock of the 14- to 16-inch fish, and you look at the fishing pressure and the size fish caught, where's all the big fish going? They're not dying; we'd find them. The people down there would find them.

So let's look at this whole situation out there and see if there's not some more problems we can address at this same time in it. I thank you all, because I get to make a living in the outdoors, enjoying this resource. Number one, I'm not a meat hauler. A lot of people are. And I don't. I'm out here to entertain clients and to teach them the resource, see what's there and protect it for the generations to come. And I know management changes have got to be made out here. We need some help out there doing it. Let's just take the whole ball and play with it, not just play ping-pong. Thank you, gentlemen.

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Thank you very much.

Ms. Day, followed by Ellis Gilleland.

MS. DAY: Thank you, gentlemen. My name is Nancy Day. And I'd like read the statement that has been previously submitted on behalf the Coastal Bend Guides Association. "The Coastal Bend Guides Association is strongly opposed to regionalization of the Texas Gulf Coast and to lowering the bag limits for spotted seatrout in the Lower Laguna Madre. Regionalizing the Texas Gulf Coast is to provide a special interest group satisfaction that the Lower Laguna Madre will provide them with trophy trout. The management options presented by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for the justification for the regionalization and lowering spotted seatrout bag limit proposals is only a hypothesis. It is an assumption that if limits are lowered to a specific number, that the results will be what TPWD stated. In the past, management options were presented to the public to argue that the numbers of spotted seatrout would increase if a variety of measures were taken, such as: only taking one trout over 25 inches per angler per day, and taking away the professional fishing guides' limits.

"Those management options were nothing more than a hypothesis, as there has been no marked difference in the creel count since they went into effect. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department biologists have not proved there is a significant evidence of a fishing pressure problem with the trout population in the Lower Laguna Madre. There is evidence that attention is greatly needed for better water quality. Biologist Randy Blankenship wrote, 'Because of the lack of freshwater inflow, little rainfall and high evaporation, the salinity of the Lower Laguna Madre often exceeds that of seawater.'

"According to the Texas Water Development Board the Lower Laguna Madre is the only place on the Texas Gulf Coast where it has had nothing but negative water flow for 30 years. Lowering limits will not solve the issue if the main problem is not remedied. Opening and maintaining the jetty and the channel at Port Mansfield will allow necessary positive water flow needed for cleansing the bay system and allowing bait fish to prosper. Without the food needed for trout to exist they are migrating to better bay systems to forage.

"There has been a marked increase in trophy trout being caught in the Upper Laguna Madre. The opening of Packery Channel has provided a marked increase in the water flow. The bait fish are flourishing, and trout are migrating into this area. Not only will the trout migrate due to the lack of a food source, but the anglers will also. They will take their business and boats into other coastal waters where trout limits will be higher. Redfish Bay's seagrass is protected. More boats mean more chances of seagrass being uprooted. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's education efforts have been meager by any standard. In fact TPWD has marked only one of the ten run lanes promised in the protected seagrass area.

"It's a major effort by those fishing Redfish Bay on a regular basis to do the education of others in order to keep the Bay system from being shut down to propel boats. It is easier simply for TPWD to lower bag limits than to actually solve the real issues that need attending. Help to support our thriving fishery. The simple fact is that whatever problems do exist, they can be remedied without taking away from the anglers and area's revenues."

Thank you.


Any comments from any Commissioner?

COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: I wonder if Larry could speak to the tournament issue.


COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Tournament size. Everybody's raised the question, Larry, we're taking the big fish. And they've also raised questions about the tournament. Could you speak to those, please?

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: You could also, Larry, speak to the migratory issues that she raised.

DR. MCKINNEY: Tournament issues, actually, that's something we can take a look at. But in reality those tournaments fit into our normal management pattern. We take those into account. People can take whatever the limit is, and that works into our process. But we'll look at those types of things. Anything that can help we'll take a look at, absolutely, just to see, because more and more tournaments these days are trying to go to catch and release, as we know. I know those folks that do participate in tournaments and support them, they can't have them unless they have the fish.

So they're going to do what they can. So we'll look at that.

COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: I'm trying to understand. I don't see how the tournaments ‑‑ other than putting more fishermen out there, I don't see how ‑‑ I'm missing where there's a change, if they've got to follow the five-fish limit like everybody else.

DR. MCKINNEY: For example, if it was localized ‑‑ or they could have concern that there be a localized pattern or something like that.


DR. MCKINNEY: But we've looked at tournaments. We'll look at them. Absolutely. I'm sorry, Mr. Commissioner, you had ‑‑

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: There were issues that were raised or questions raised on the migratory issues with the spotted seatrout. I just wanted you to talk to that a little bit. And also could you just give us a broad overview of our modeling processing and how we develop these hypotheses?

DR. MCKINNEY: Spotted seatrout don't migrate. In the studies that we have available, even our own studies show that for the most part ‑‑ these are tagging-type studies ‑‑ that they don't move a great deal, if at all. So there's not really a migratory issue. Now, I think the point made is when you open passes up to fishing you'll attract bait fish, and they attract trout from the local area or something like that. But we don't see any evidence of migrations. They don't have that there.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: I just wanted that to be clarified. And also just how we go through the modeling process and some of the scoping procedure that we went through as well.

DR. MCKINNEY: I'm trying to think how to summarize our model. Of course we use our database, 30-year-old database, to develop the basis for our models. We use models that have been developed in conjunction with other states and fisheries and so forth, and use the data ‑‑ I'm trying to figure out how best to ‑‑ it's more complicated than probably you want to know ‑‑ if you're just trying to get at the answer of how confident we have in everything.

I guess we could come at it this way. The models in themselves of course is the issue of junk in/junk out, which you have to worry about. That's always the concern with models. And we have concerns with various models and red snappers. We've expressed those types of things. But nearly all the issues with those models comes with what data you have to put into those models and what assumptions you have to make. And that's where we feel very confident in the model approaches that we use.

It's that our database is so expensive and our biologists so careful with making sure our data sets are as complete as possible, that the information going into them are quite good. And then we test those models, obviously with passing regulations as I showed you in the graphic when we dropped the guide bag limits, we can actually see those. So our predicted outcomes have historically followed the reality. So that gives us confidence that those models are as reflective as models can be of what will happen. I'm not sure that's getting what you want.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: That's good. And also just in terms of the age distribution, the age structure which we're really trying to shift to the right ‑‑ when you went through the modeling process, the 15- to 17-inch fish, the above 13, if we have a bag limit of three versus seven, give us the sense of the sensitivity analysis and the time in which we'll see a change in that age distribution.

DR. MCKINNEY: Well, if we were to use a three-fish bag limit, basically we reach the same in form, but we reach it more quickly. I think I'm going to be wrong on this, but I'll get you the exact numbers. We had them in those models, didn't bring them here. Where we will see the benefits of the five: 50 percent in the first year, 80 percent in the following year. We followed the 70 and 90 or something like that. So if we shifted that way we'd move more quickly.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: And a bag limit of seven?

DR. MCKINNEY: We'd move it the other direction. It's a very strict one-to-one relationship as you move across there. The more restrictive the bag limit, the faster you get ‑‑

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Based on that model we may not see a change for a few years.

DR. MCKINNEY: Yes. Typically if we were going to the full effect of this thing, you have to go through a complete life cycle. That's six to nine years for spotted seatrout. So full impact of this regulation, six to nine years is what we're talking about. That's just the life cycle of the fish. That species has to go through a complete life cycle to all be subjected to this regulation before you see it. But we'll begin to see impact before that. So that gives us some encouragement.

So the downside is it could six to nine years to get us where we want to go. But we'll see if we're on the right track in the first couple of years, if that's what you're getting at. I'm sorry I was going around and around with you there. I didn't understand your question.


COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Commissioner Brown.

COMMISSIONER BROWN: Dr. McKinney, it seems to me in each presentation that we've had today I think the people do admit, and our studies certainly support a declining resource in the Lower Laguna Madre. But several people have also really stressed the water quality as being a driving force versus maybe ‑‑ to me it's indisputable that we do have a declining resource. The studies do support it. And if we're going to raise that resource we're going to have to take some action. But also the water quality, in the testing and various things that you continue to do and monitor there, what is the nature of the water quality there? And what impact do you think ultimately opening Mansfield Pass up ‑‑ going back in and dredging ‑‑ what impact is that going to have on the Lower Laguna Madre?

DR. MCKINNEY: Right now the best of our indications of all of our data that we have, the health of the Lower Laguna Madre is in good shape overall. Now, issues were raised about the Arroyo Colorado and inputs there. And those are issues that are of great concern to us, because that whole valley is changing. As some of those that witnessed here the growth there is phenomenal. It is one of the fastest-growing areas ‑‑ urbanization. Big parts of that region are going over from open ranch land to more concentrated farms. So there are more releases. There's two or three points along, the Laguna Arroyo being one. And there's another ‑‑ the name is escaping me right now ‑‑ where most of the irrigation water from South Texas actually goes now. So there's a lot more fresh water carrying whatever chemicals are there.

So there are concerns. We have the brown tides and all of those types of issues. But at this point with all those pressures coming, Laguna is still sufficiently healthy and dynamic that it's absorbing those concerns. Our concern is that it might not be able to do it much longer. So we're working and have been working with TCEQ and others down there to say, Let's not let this get into a situation where we're having to restore it. Let's try to get ahead of the curve. It was a difficult fight, a difficult issue for some years.

We had shrimp farms that came in there. And those were issues that were a tremendous challenge. As I told some folks, there are not many instances where our staff would put their jobs on line. But in that case, when we were in the Legislature trying to raise those issues of the impact of shrimp farms, there were those kinds of things that we're happening. So they've been there.

Back on the track of it is, we've got challenges we want to look at on water quality. And we want to keep track on it and keep moving, because the challenges ‑‑ they could be there. And there may be something we're not detecting. We can't say that we're not seeing something there. But at this point, no. Following up on your discussion with the pass, as I presented at this point we can't ‑‑ because of the recruitment is so good for spotted seatrout ‑‑ our data shows there's good recruitment for there.

Other species are coming through those passes as well, and the fact that that pass has been open mostly for a period of time when the declines occurred, I can't make a relationship between the status of that pass and the health of that system. But there's no doubt that having those passes open and more so is a benefit. And we support those efforts and want to do that. We have to be real careful as an agency to try to look at a cost benefit from that type of thing from the resource itself.

There's no doubt that Port Mansfield and others need those passes dredged for their economic development and support. And we're behind that. And where we can find evidence that there was an issue related to the water circulation, water quality, we have addressed it and will do so. We're going to be right on that from now on. We haven't stopped, and we will not stop. I don't know if that gets kind of where you're going. I've kind rambled there a little bit.

COMMISSIONER BROWN: I think you've covered the point. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Commissioner Montgomery.

COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: To close Commissioner Brown's thought I'm glad you raised that. In your judgment is there any way to deal with the population decline, help restore the fishery, using any tool other than allowable catch in the near term?

DR. MCKINNEY: In the near term, no. That's the only tool we have available. Now, we are working and will continue to work. And we appreciate and look forward to the support of the Recreational Fishing Association. I appreciate Jim's statement here today, because we have had those disagreements over this. And I appreciate their openness to look at it. And we're going to work with them on that and others. So we thank him for that. But we will look forward to their support, Recreational Fishing Association, and the Coastal Bend Guides Association in dealing with maintaining that water quality health of the Lower Laguna Madre and becoming involved in that, which they have not at this point.

But we'll welcome them on board. We need all the help we can get.

COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: And in your judgment do you believe that the catch restriction will in fact have a direct population impact, and the higher level is probably one of the primary causes, if not the primary cause, of the decline?

DR. MCKINNEY: Every bit of information we have available to us indicates that that's the case. And that's what I believe.


COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Commissioner Parker.

COMMISSIONER PARKER: Dr. McKinney, has staff been doing any monitoring of the impact of the fishing tournaments?

DR. MCKINNEY: No, we have not. We have done some quick surveys of where they are. We don't have a good handle on that, because there's really no way to track them, other than through papers and advertising. There's no requirements for permits or anything like that.

COMMISSIONER PARKER: I understand that. In the actual monitoring of those fishing tournaments on site, is there any way to collect data?

DR. MCKINNEY: Well, we can collect data on them. It takes resources to do that. But we'll take a look at what we can do and report back to you.

COMMISSIONER PARKER: Very good. I would really like to see some monitoring data from fishing tournaments in that area.

DR. MCKINNEY: We will do that.

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: I have one question, Doctor. Just so the record's clear, in your job, in your profession, do you customarily rely upon data and models such as the one that you've done here to reach the conclusion that you've reached? I mean, the modeling is not something that you just did for this particular project. I mean, you do this day in and day out and have done it for years.

DR. MCKINNEY: It's a standard procedure for fisheries management to predict regulation impacts and what regulations may or may not work and options. Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Yes. And the opinions that you've expressed here and your recommendations are based on that modeling that you've employed for years in your job.

DR. MCKINNEY: Solely based on those recommendations. Yes, sir.


COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: In fact you might ‑‑ since we're doing it ‑‑ go ahead and talk about the vetting of the methodologies we're using. I don't remember if it's the National Academy of Sciences that did the coastal methodology or what the team was.

DR. MCKINNEY: The American Fishery Society is the agency that we have asked and brought in experts in a peer review mode and had them go through everything that we do, and report independently back what their opinion was.

COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: So the leading authority in the field has reviewed our methodologies and approved them.

DR. MCKINNEY: Found them exemplary in their terms.

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: And just so it's clear for the record, obviously this is only the beginning. And we're going to continue to study the issues and the impact. That's what I'm saying.

DR. MCKINNEY: Absolutely. It's an ongoing issue. There were a couple of issues raised about the seagrass and where we are on that. And I have proposed a briefing for you all in May. Last year you passed the regulations in May. We thought that would be an appropriate time. So we will have a briefing for you on what we're doing on seagrass and try to address the concerns that were raised here in front of you.


Any other comments from any Commissioner?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Okay. Mr. Gilleland, and the backup, Christopher Voors.

Thank you, Larry.

MR. GILLELAND: Ellis Gilleland here speaking for Texas Animals, an animal rights organization on the internet. I've given you a handout, two pages. The first page is from the 2nd of March, the Texas Register, having to do with javelina, Chapter 65, Wildlife.

The second page has to do with bag limits at Choke Canyon State Park last year, specifically on javelina. Going back to the first page you'll notice marked in yellow you say in the Texas Register there's a downward trend in javelinas. So it defies logic; it defies biology; it defies everything I can think of to increase the quota bag limit, when the resource is going down. And I've been telling you that for years anyway. And apparently you haven't listened.

I'm quoting from the underlined, the yellow paragraph at the bottom. "By establishing a finite resource-dependent harvest quota the Department is assured that harvest will not exceed biologically acceptable levels." That's pure bull. In stronger terms it's just simply fraud, because you have never enacted any biologically controlled limits that I'm aware of that have been published or unpublished on javelina. At Choke Canyon State Park the normal population is 40 or 50, and they're down to three the last time I counted.

Now, if that's biologically accepted there's something twisted in this Department's mind. And of course a wildlife management program on javelina is just absolutely ridiculous. There's going to be nothing to manage, because you're going to kill ‑‑ like the shrimper just want the last shrimp in the Gulf, you people want the last javelina in Texas. Going to the second page in Choke Canyon State Park you established a bag limit of two javelinas, but you did not abide by that. You just shoot them up all you want, because you intermix ‑‑ if you go to the harvest report ‑‑ and you can ask your people to report this ‑‑ to give you a harvest report on Choke Canyon State Park, you will not see javelinas reported. No, sir.

You establish a quota, but then you turn your back on it. There's no limit. You have a column in your harvest report for exotics, a generic term. And then your own people put feral hogs and javelinas into the exotics column. You will not find javelina reported in the harvest. So with malice of forethought your people are eradicating javelinas. So why don't you publish that. It's an objective of Parks Wildlife Commission to make these animals extinct. You have methodologically concentrated on doing that. Get the harvest report and read it yourself, if you think I'm lying to you. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Any comments from any Commissioner?

(No response.)

My only comment is that the harvest is going to be based on a Department-approved management plan.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Next up is Christopher Voors, followed up by Bruce Cartwright.

Mr. Voors.

(No response.)

Bruce Cartwright, and followed by Joey Park.

MR. CARTWRIGHT: Thank you for the time here today. As always I want to thank the Commissioners and their staff for the serious effort they go into managing the natural resources of the State of Texas. I don't represent an organization any longer. I don't represent a group. I appreciate all the speakers here today coming from around the state and talking about what is either good or bad for the Lower Laguna Madre and the Port Mansfield area. I appreciate the comments about the tournaments and lack of input or input that the Parks and Wildlife get in those statistics. I'm sure it's a difficult thing to measure and quantify, since over the entire area that we're discussing here today, from the land cut at least to the Arroyo Colorado, there isn't one human being that lives on that area of land.

There isn't one property owner, aside from the King Ranch and other ranch owners, except for some people that reside in Port Mansfield. Every fishing tournament that takes place in that region is headquartered in Port Mansfield. The effect of those fishing tournaments ought to be a pretty handy thing to measure. Trout in Texas has been a well-known commodity. A lot of new data coming out now to create laws that are going to be more restrictive to the fishermen and most helpful to the fish. Nobody can ever argue with that. I will say that I would have liked ‑‑ I guess I had the opportunity somehow to get you the input the people that live ‑‑ or I should say rent property in Port Mansfield, since every piece of real estate again in the whole bay system is a leasehold with the Willacy Navigation District.

I did a little demographic analysis of the population to help you gentlemen evaluate your socioeconomic impact upon the community. There's 210 people that make up the population of leaseholders in Port Mansfield. Fifty of those are members of the sport fishing club. So again it should be pretty easy to get those specific numbers. Bob Kemp, a very important fisheries manager in the State of Texas, he said he just tried to make things happen. If one thing didn't work, he'd try something else. The only time the public gets really behind improvements in fisheries is when they believe something new and better is going to happen. 1929 ,studies were published by Pearson and Miles in 1950 that told the State of Texas everything they needed to know about a spotted seatrout.

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: If you could wrap it up, we'd appreciate it.

MR. CARTWRIGHT: That's okay.

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Thank you, Mr. Cartwright. Thank you very much.

Any comments from any Commissioner?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: If not, Joey Park, followed by Tim Cook.

MR. PARK: Good morning, Commissioners, my name is Joey Park. I'm here on behalf of Coastal Conservation Association Texas, representing over 50,000 members with chapters across the State of Texas. I'm here today to voice our support for the proposed regulation changes to your coastal fishing regulations. We appreciate the Department's hard work, effort of the staff to continue to support and protect our coastal resources here in the State of Texas. I just want to say thank you. I had one other comment. And I appreciate Dr. McKinney's making a note.

As we move forward, if and when our offshore aquaculture facilities take shape, appreciate keeping an eye on those things to watch out for pollution, escapement, diseases and those kind of things. That's something we're certainly concerned about, if that starts to occur in our outside waters.

Commissioners, thank you very much. Appreciate all your hard work you've done.

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Mr. Park, thank you. CCA does a tremendous job, and your membership is very dedicated to the resource. And we appreciate your support very much.

Any other comments?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Mr. Cook, followed by Kirby Brown.

MR. COOK: Good morning, Commissioners, Director Cook. Thank you very much for the opportunity to comment. My name is Tim Cook. I'm the state conservation director for the Texas Bass Federation Nation. We're the grassroots arm of the Bass Anglers Sportsmen Society here in Texas. I'd like to speak briefly on the proposed regulation for allowing bow fishing for catfish. We are opposed to this regulation. Mr. Ranne made some very valid points earlier. Part of the thrill of fishing is not knowing what you're going to catch.

I think allowing bow fishing for the number two freshwater species in Texas kind of goes against management strategies established by the Department. I don't think it's good for fishing in general. I don't think enough data's been collected to see what the true impact is going to be on the catfish population. So if you are insistent upon approving this regulation, I would ask that you grandfather it at the end of this next year, allowing Phil and his staff to properly evaluate it, collect creel surveys, get some kind of idea what the size of fish is being targeted by this very small group, and give this some serious consideration.

I thank you all. I also want to thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve on the Freshwater Fisheries Advisory Board starting this year. I think you should also take into consideration the fact that I believe there's four members of that board who are going to speak in opposition to this regulation as well. Thank you all very much.

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Thank you, Mr. Cook. As you well know, last year there was much discussion on the issue. So we appreciate your comments.

Any comments from any Commissioner?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Kirby Brown, followed by Robert Singletary.

MR. BROWN: Commissioners, my name is Kirby Brown. I'm executive vice-president for Texas Wildlife Association. Our members own or control over 35 million acres of land in Texas, and are conservationist hunters and landowners and land managers. I'm here to state support for the staff proposal in the wildlife area. Our members in the north zone were overwhelmingly wanting to keep the zone same. And the staff did in the end do that. And we appreciate that. We think that is an overall increase in hunter opportunity by having two zones that are staggered like that. And I think that works very well for turkey hunters. We continue to support the managed lands programs and the opportunity for landowners, who are managing those properties, to do good things for habitat and all wildlife species.

Under lesser prairie chicken we think that's going to work very well. We would love to see that increased up there in the numbers of people that are participating. But it's good to see where it's going right now. Also on javelinas, we also think this is a reasonable approach. You have a wildlife management plan. And you have people out there looking at the resource again and managing that resource on site. So thank you very much for your time. We appreciate it.

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Thank you, Kirby. And thank your membership for their support. You all are great partners with us.

MR. BROWN: Thank you, sir.

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Any other comments?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Mr. Singletary, followed by Ed Parten.

MR. SINGLETARY: Thank you, Commissioners. My name is Robert Singletary. I'm a member of the Two of Us Houston Bass Club, member of the Texas Association Bass Clubs and Texas Black Bass Unlimited. I appreciate what you all do as commissioners of the court and the director of our Texas Parks and Wildlife and what the staff does to protect and conserve our state resources. Also I respect the right of other sportsmen to participate in managing and harvesting our natural resources. And that's the bow hunters. But we do object to the bow hunters hunting catfish. We feel like it's a regulation that is possibly difficult to enforce.

We feel like also that if you have an undersized catfish, you shoot him with a bow and arrow, it's an animal that is lost forever at that point. We do hope that you all consider this regulation a little closer. I have visited with several bow hunters in the Dayton/Liberty area that hunt the gar and carp on the Trinity Watershed. And they, to a certain extent, have felt that this regulation would be an unfair regulation also. And they support us in opposing the fishing for catfish with a bow and arrow. Again we thank you for the time and the work and the thought that you all put into it, and especially the staff of Texas Parks and Wildlife. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Thank you, Mr. Singletary.

Mr. Parten, followed by Mr. Ellason.

MR. PARTEN: Thank you, gentlemen, Mr. Bob. I'm here representing freshwater anglers, bass fishermen particularly, sport fishermen. And we want to go on record as saying that we oppose the regulation that allows taking catfish with bow and arrow. I feel that it's an economic issue in so much that we do. I see no contributions on the economic side. I also feel that the resource is there for everyone, and everyone should be able to enjoy it. But there's enough rough fish in our public waters that these guys could take that would benefit our fisheries, instead of taking a sport fish that might hurt our fisheries.

If we look at the dollar and what they might take away versus what it could contribute, I think it would outweigh the contribution that would be made by allowing this to happen. Sport fishing in the State of Texas generates some $4.2 billion. I'd like to see that increase instead of decrease. And I know you would, too, through all the efforts of all the people that make our resources, our parks, our wildlife and our fisheries number one in the nation as far as I'm concerned.

You guys contribute to that. I think it would behoove you to look at this long and hard very seriously. And I would appreciate a positive step of restricting the catfish being taken by an bow and arrow. Thank you so much.

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Thank you, thank you, Mr. Parten.

Any comments or questions by any Commissioner?

(No response.)


MR. ELLASON: My name is Lindy Ellason. I drove in from Houston this morning to oppose the bow hunting of catfish. There's a lot of reasons that I say that. But most of them got out before you by previous speakers. So I won't bore you repeating those. My only comment would be a dead fish is a dead fish. There's no catch and release. Therefore I ask that you discontinue the bow hunting regulation for catfish. Thank you.


Are there any additional comments from staff, Larry, or anyone?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: No. Any comments or questions from the Commissioners?

COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: I'm wondering if we can make a motion for the entire regulatory package as one motion.

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: If there's no further discussion I would entertain a motion.

COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: I would like to make a motion that we accept the regulatory package as presented and recommended by staff.

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Do I have a second?


COMMISSIONER PARKER: I don't understand.

COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: My motion is to vote on the entire regulatory package ‑‑ on the proclamation by staff.

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: I have a motion by Commissioner Montgomery, and I have a second by Commissioner Holt to accept the recommended motion as posted there.

Commissioner Parker.

COMMISSIONER PARKER: Does that include bow hunting for catfish?


COMMISSIONER PARKER: The entire package.

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Yes. If you'd like some discussion I'll entertain some discussion. Go ahead.

COMMISSIONER PARKER: Is there any methodology that we can use to separate those items?

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: There's a motion and a second that the whole package be approved. Unless you have a different motion that gets a second I have to entertain that motion.

COMMISSIONER PARKER: Well, then carving out the vote with regard to taking catfish.

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Commissioner Montgomery made the motion. Do you accept the amendment or not?


COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Okay. Anyone call for the question as for lack of a second?

COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: I call for the question.

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: All in favor of Commissioner Montgomery's motion to accept the proposal as posted signify by saying, aye.

(A chorus of ayes.)



COMMISSIONER RAMOS: It was all ayes with the exception of Commissioner Parker. Thank you very much. The next item on the agenda is Item Number 4, the Repeal of the Fee for Proof of Ownership of Boats and Motors with Ms. Frances Stiles making the presentation. I tell you what. Why don't you wait; we're having an exit of people. Those of you that intend to leave, if you would do so at this point.

MS. STILES: Good morning, Commissioners. My name is Frances Stiles. I'm with the Administrative Resources Division. In January you granted permission to publish the repeal of the $2 fee for boat ownership reports in the Texas Register. This was done in order to proceed with the implementation of internet online services for these reports and boat registration renewals. This item is listed under the Texas Administrative Code, Title 31, Chapter 53, Section 16. This was published, and we did receive five comments in total. Four were positive; one was against. Two of the comments were from the Boating Trades Association of Texas and the Gulf Coast Yacht Brokers Association of Texas in favor of improving access to information for the boating industry.

Staff recommends that we accept this repeal.

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Any discussion by the Commissioners?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: If not I'll entertain a motion.



COMMISSIONER RAMOS: It's been moved by Commissioner Montgomery and seconded by Commissioner Brown for approval. All in favor say, aye,

(A chorus of ayes.)


(No response.)


Thank you very much.

MS. STILES: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Item Number 5 is Nonprofit Partner Rules, Ms. Ann Bright. Good morning.

MS. BRIGHT: Good morning, Commissioners. I'm Ann Bright, general counsel. The Parks and Wildlife Code authorizes the Commission and the Department to work with nonprofit partners, also authorizes the Commission to appoint an official nonprofit partner. And that was done several years ago. That's the Parks and Wildlife Foundation. Statute, including the Government Code and the Parks and Wildlife code requires that the Commission adopt certain rules regarding nonprofits: best practices, standards and safeguards, some guidelines for the official nonprofit partner and rules governing the relationship between the agency and our employees and donors.

Under these rules we categorize the nonprofit partners into three groups: the general nonprofit partners, closely related nonprofit partners. And these are usually our friends groups. They're associated with a specific facility or program, and then the general nonprofit partner. I think I went backwards. The official nonprofit partner, the closely related nonprofit partner and the general nonprofit partner. The general nonprofit partners are really just any kind of nonprofit that we have any kind of relationship with.

In coming up with our best practices we came up with very general requirements for a general nonprofit partner. Basically if they're complying with nonprofit laws then they're going to be in compliance with our rules. We also have more involvement with our closely related nonprofit partners and the official nonprofit partners. So we have more requirements in these rules. We have best practices in the proposed rules governing general best practices. Those are things like proper incorporation. Best practices regarding officers and directors. And those are primarily aimed at making sure that the officers and directors are informed. Fund-raising and sponsorship best practices are mainly designed to make sure that the Department is involved. I should also point out ‑‑ and I mentioned this yesterday ‑‑ that nothing in the rules prevents unrestricted cash donations.

We also have rules that address just general requirements and then our procedures. We received several comments. We distributed these to a number of our nonprofit partners prior to publication. We made some changes. We published them in the Texas Register. We received comments from a couple of people. One just supported them without stating a reason. And the other person had some specific suggestions, which we thought were very good. As a result we're requesting changes to the rules as proposed.

If a nonprofit partner is going to be using one of our facilities we want it to be pursuant to a written agreement, rather than just an agreement. If a facility has several closely related nonprofit partners associated with it, we'd like for them to inform each other and cooperate in terms of meetings. Then throughout the rules there are some requirements that some of these nonprofits adopt policies and procedures. And we're willing to develop model policies that will make it easier for them. And with that there's a recommendation before you to adopt the rules as published in the Texas Register, with the changes noted. And I'd be happy to answer any questions.

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Any comments of questions from any Commissioner?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: If not I'll entertain a motion.



COMMISSIONER RAMOS: It's been moved by Commissioner Montgomery and seconded by Commissioner Parker. All in favor say, aye.

(A chorus of ayes.)


(No response.)

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Motion passes. Thank you very much, Ann.

The next one is a non-action item. It's a briefing on the Toyota Texas Bass Classic, something that's coming up real quick and very sensitive and great for Texas.

Phil Durocher and Lydia.

MR. DUROCHER: Commissioner Ramos, Commissioners. My name is Phil Durocher. For the record I'm with Inland Fisheries. Ms. Saldana and I want to spend a few minutes with you this morning talking about a very special event that we have coming up here in the next couple of weeks, the Texas Bass Classic. And what is the Bass Classic? The Bass Classic is a bass tournament with a different format that's ever been fished anywhere in this country. And we're real excited about the opportunity to host that here in Texas. I need to give you a little background how all this started.

It really started with a fishing trip taken by Commissioner Ramos about two years ago in Lake Fork. He had the opportunity to fish with a professional fisherman, Kelly Jordan, who's also a member of the Professional Anglers Association. Kelly lives on Lake Fork and fishes there as a guide. He's very passionate about Lake Fork. So he worked Mr. Ramos over and told him that something that we needed to do is have ‑‑

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: He put me on some huge fish.

MR. DUROCHER: That helped when you and your son caught the biggest fish you'd ever caught. But he worked Mr. Ramos over and told him we needed to do something to promote Lake Fork. It was about the 25th-year anniversary of that lake. And he wanted to see if there was a way for us to have a professional tournament on Lake Fork to promote that fishery. Mr. Ramos got Commissioner Friedkin involved. We began to have meetings with the Professional Anglers Association and Gulf States Toyota. And anyway we ended up with kind of a unique partnership with the PAA and Gulf States Toyota and the Parks and Wildlife and developed what we think is a unique event. I was excited about what the vision and the purpose was going to be of this event.

The partners, we developed this common vision and purpose together. First of all was to build a sustainable vehicle to promote fishery management that takes place by Parks and Wildlife. Of course that's good for my business, find a way to promote good fishing in Texas ‑‑ not only in Texas but around the country. And they wanted to build and execute a premier fishing event that is sponsor focused, nationally televised, with a superior on-site experience, something different than what normally happens at bass tournaments. And they wanted to do something that was supportive of our conservation efforts and youth fishing programs and children's charities.

What we were looking for was to make an annual event, sort of like the masters of bass fishing to be held here in Texas annually. Well, we decided to do it at Lake Fork. Why Lake Fork? Lake Fork is well-known around the country as one of the premier bass, trophy bass lakes anywhere in the country. But Lake Fork is a product of modern fishery management. One of the things that makes Lake Fork unique is also something that has prevented in the past some of these large tournament organizations from coming to Lake Fork to put on an event. And that's the very unusual slot limit that we have there: the big high slot, 16 to 24 inch. The fish in the slot cannot be brought to the weigh in on Lake Fork. They could not be without some sort of exemption. Unfortunately that's the fish that most people win tournaments with. So the tournament organizations never wanted to come there because they never could get credit for the most numerous fish in the lake. Also why Lake Fork? Lake Fork is nationally known, and it's very economically significant.

We did a survey in 1996. And the estimate then was $27 to $28 million of direct expenditure at Lake Fork annually. That is probably twice as much as any other reservoir anywhere in Texas. Even the large ones like Toledo Bend and Raymond don't come near this kind of economic impact. So it's well known, and it's used, and also because Lake Fork sets the standard for quality fishing. To give you some statistics about why Lake Fork is so important, the state record of course that's been held since 1992 comes from Lake Fork at 18.1 pounds.

The six heaviest bass ever caught in Texas were caught at Lake Fork. Thirty-four of the top 50 bass caught in Texas were caught at Lake Fork. Fifty-four percent of all the sharelunkers caught in the state were caught at Lake Fork. And we've had a survey we've been doing with the locals around Lake Fork for the last three or four years. And the estimate we have is that over 15,000 bass, seven pounds or better, are caught at Lake Fork every year in 27,000 acres of water. So it's a very, very popular lake, and it's a good lake. Now why do we think this tournament is unique? Because of the format that was developed it's going to be the first major professional bass tournament held on a high-slot limit lake anywhere in the country. It promotes a conservation-minded image. The bass fishermen like the PAA because they're going to have to release most of the fish that they catch immediately after weighing. It maximizes public impact. Most bass tournaments are adult-oriented.

What we're going to do here at Lake Fork is a family-oriented thing on national TV, so we can draw a lot of people, a lot of families, a lot of kids. And of course another benefit to us is it's going to support management efforts. We have a commitment from the Texas Bass Classic Foundation to donate $250,000 to support fishery programs and kids programs for the Parks and Wildlife. It's a unique tournament. And it has some really unique scoring procedures.

First of all they're going to fish under a team concept at Lake Fork. And this is the first time this has ever been done. Most of these professional bass fishermen are very individual. They fish by themselves. They don't like to tell people what they're doing. In this event they're going to be forced to fish in a team concept. There's going to be 40 four-person teams fishing. And there's going to be an official observer in each of the boats. We've got some volunteers that are going to be trained to work in each of these boats. And what they're going to do is help by weighing and measuring and releasing immediately all the fish that are caught by the anglers. There's also going to be two fishing sessions and weigh-ins per day. There's going to be 40 teams of four people per team.

Two members of that team is going to fish in the morning and come to a weigh-in at midday. Then they're going to get together and have a strategy session with the other two members. And those other two members are going to fish in the afternoon. So it's going to provide some unique opportunity for these anglers when they're not fishing to mingle with the public and to work with the sponsors and be there so they can sign autographs and do whatever it is. We're going to televise these strategy sessions. It's going to be kind of like reality fishing. When the guys get together they're going to come in the tent and strategize. And this is going to be televised. And there's a strong emphasis on carrying and handling the fish.

This is going to be our involvement, Parks and Wildlife. We're going to have staff there helping these guys take care of the fish, to make sure that any fish that does come into the weigh-in is going to be released alive and in good shape. Now, also a very unique purse for this event. The purse is over $1 million. It's the largest prize package for any no-entry fee tournament that's every been held in the country. The winning four-man team will win $250,000. The prize for the largest bass will be a Toyota Tundra, Lucchese Edition, valued at about $48,000, with the pair of Lucchese boots, with the Texas Bass Classic logo embroidered on them.

That's what everybody's going to want is the boots. And then if that big fish happens to be a new state record, they get the Toyota Tundra and the boots. And they also get a Skeeter bass boat and $100,000. I hate to say this, but I would love to see them give that away. We think this thing is a benefit to us. I mean we're excited about this event at Parks and Wildlife. We don't often have these opportunities to go and promote our business. It's very good for publicity and information about Texas, to get people to come to Texas. We believe it's good for our constituents and tournament angling. Tournament angling is a big part of our business, whether it be marine or freshwater. They have to follow the same rules as everybody else. They have to have a license.

We support tournament angling. The innovation from this new format we think keeps Texas in the lead in innovation and how we manage our fisheries. And of course there's also going to be a benefit for the proceeds that we get to benefit our programs. Let me just give you a quick schedule of what's going to happen. This thing starts next week. Monday through Wednesday the professional anglers will be there to practice at Lake Fork. There will be a pro-am pairing party.

I hope some of you are going to get an opportunity to fish. It's going to be Wednesday afternoon. Thursday for four hours there's going to be a pro-am tournament. Friday is going to be the first official round of the event. Saturday there's going to be the second round. And the family fun zone is going to open that day with all the activities for the kids. There's going to be a free concert Saturday night. And also Saturday at the end of the last weigh-in the event's going to be cut down to five teams. So there will only be five teams competing. The five top teams will be competing Sunday in the final round. And Sunday of course will have the family fun zone again open and the awards ceremony. And there'll be a closing concert by Tracy Lawrence that evening.

So we're looking for a really big event. We're real excited. And I hope we get to see some of you there. Now I'll turn this over to Ms. Saldana to talk about all the PR that went into this.

MS. SALDANA: I'm Lydia Saldana, Communications Director. And we're really excited, getting excited about next week. Actually an excuse to get us out of Austin on odd-numbered years is a good thing. What I'm going to be talking about here for the next couple of minutes is how we've worked with Gulf States Toyota to promote the event, and also how we're partnering.

And we're going to make a significant outreach opportunity as part of the tournament, which really makes it unique. Besides the conservation-minded approach that Phil went into detail with, I think one of the things that really sets us apart is the family focus. And we worked very closely to provide essentially a mini-Expo opportunity as part of the tournament. We think this is going to be very popular with families. We think this is going to be something that will really increase attendance and is an opportunity for Parks and Wildlife to get our conservation message out.

We're calling it the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Family Fun Zone. And you'll see a lot of the events that you see at Expo. Certainly there's going to be an emphasis on fishing. We'll have the casting kids out there. We'll have angling stations. And we'll be able to deliver those conservation messages. We're also partnering with Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation. And there will be an opportunity for Anglers Legacy to have a presence.

And if you don't know about that program, that's a program to encourage anglers to take another person fishing and to get them involved in the sport. So I think that's going to be really good. Also we'll have not just fishing events, but we'll have archery opportunities for the kids. Again some of the more popular things that we do here at Expo will be on the ground there at the tournament. There'll be state parks displays. There'll even be a state parks store hopefully to sell some merchandise. Operation Game Thief will be there as well, as will the big sharelunker display from the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center.

And then finally we'll have a lot of wildlife displays as well. The Wildlife Touch, Feel and See will be there. And as with Expo we're really going to be depending on volunteers. We will certainly have some Parks and Wildlife staff there. But we're depending on a great deal of the local volunteers. And we can't say enough about the Wood County Electric Co-op and the Farmers Electric Co-op as well, because they're providing a lot of the on-the-ground volunteers that are going to make this event really, really sing.

I want to talk a little bit on how we've communicated and worked with Gulf States Toyota on communicating. The Parks and Wildlife Magazine has played a really critical role in this. And certainly we've had a lot of coverage in the magazine. Gulf States Toyota has had an increased ad schedule as well to promote. But we did do something particularly special. In February we promoted an upcoming special section that then appeared in the March issue. And what this was was a special eight-page insert that was all about the Bass Classic.

We also marketed it to a lot of other advertisers that haven't advertised in the magazine before. I hope you all saw this in your March issue of the magazine. It included coverage of the tournament, history of Lake Fork, and then also heavily promoted the event. Now, what was interesting about this was it didn't just go to our magazine subscribers, which is right now about 125,000. We did bonus distribution of this. This I think was kind of interesting. We did almost an additional 100,000 bonus distribution of the March issue of the magazine.

And that went to two additional audiences. One, we pulled all Supercombo license holders in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and North and Central Texas. But the second piece of it was very interesting. And I want to brag a little bit on Randy Brudnicki, who's our publisher, and also ‑‑ you may not know ‑‑ an avid bass angler, and has also fished in bass tournaments. And if you've noticed in the last couple of years more bass covers on the magazine, there's definitely a relationship there. But what Randy did was he pulled the boat registration file. And he went through and pulled out every bass boat owner in Texas.

So they also received this. So we really wanted to target this to exactly the audience that we thought would be interested in it. Now, we certainly hope that in addition to promoting the tournament, this is also going to promote additional ‑‑ hopefully we'll pick up some subscribers to the magazine who hadn't had our magazine before, and we hope will become long-term subscribers.

We also did significant web promotion. We've got it on our home page of our website and then another splash page that also directs people to the Gulf States Toyota, the Bass Classic site as well. We've done particular targeted email to those folks who have signed up on our website to receive fishing-related information. So again we're targeting the audience very carefully. We also worked with Gulf States Toyota on a poster that we distributed to all state parks in the area, law enforcement offices. And every public place within the Parks and Wildlife infrastructure we also promoted the event there. Finally we also did quite a bit of video support and radio support. Our Passport to Texas radio series covered the upcoming tournament in March. We also did significant video support as well. One of the neat opportunities about this was they've got the big Jumbotrons that will be on the ground.

We're expecting an audience, we hope, of 15,000 people a day. So it's a significant opportunity to communicate about conversation as well. So we produced three different PSAs: one that promoted the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center, one that's promoting the Sport Fish and Wildlife Restoration Program. And we never want to miss an opportunity to get the Water for Wildlife message out there. So we produced another PSA that will be shown throughout the day on those big Jumbotrons. I think that's really cool. We will also have of course our own crews out there covering the event to put in the season next year on our PBS show. And then we produced a video news report that went out earlier this month. So we'll go ahead and play that. And you all can listen to me for another couple of minutes here.

(Whereupon, a video is played.)

MS. SALDANA: And again we're all excited about getting started next week. Phil and I will answer any questions if you have any.

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Well, first of all, Lydia, you and Phil as usual do a tremendous job. But I would be very amiss if I wouldn't give credit to fellow Commissioner Dan Friedkin, because Dan grabbed the baton and ran and ran and ran and is still running. But for Dan Friedkin, Commissioner Friedkin, and Gulf States Toyota this would never have happened. Plus we also have to recognize Commissioner Holt. Caterpillar is a sponsor and a strong supporter. And what's interesting about this whole program, it's a totally different approach, with an emphasis on a family, emphasis on the opportunity to catch huge fish with the youth being involved. So anyway I just want to congratulate all of you.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: I'd also like to add the rest of the Commission. All the Commissioners have been involved in it. John Parker especially has been involved.

And we appreciate everything you've done.

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Yes. And I did not mean to exclude everyone.

And John, it's your backyard. Certainly you've done a lot.

COMMISSIONER PARKER: I want to remark I've made two trips to Whitman and Wood County. The entire Wood County representation of political deployments within that county is so excited about this tournament, down to the city fire departments, the local in-county volunteer fire departments, they have all stepped forward. All of the leadership of Wood County have stepped forward. And they can't wait for the second week in April.

MS. SALDANA: Neither can we.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: I just want to add my personal thanks to everyone at Parks and Wildlife who's been a part of it.

Lydia, you and your group have done a tremendous job. You've been great partners.

And Phil and Inland Fisheries, Ken and your group have been terrific. And we really, really appreciate it. We're very excited about it. Thanks.

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: One other thing I'll add. The idea behind this is this would be an annual event. So this first one is going to be a historical event. And there's many, many other fisheries in Texas that need to be recognized. And it's a tribute to Parks and Wildlife. Phil, it's a tribute to you and the dedication and the patience and the commitment to have the fisheries to have the fisheries that we have. This is merely a first step to something that, God willing, will be here for many years. Thank you. All right.

That was a non-action item. The next item is Item Number 7, Land Donation, Brewster County, Black Gap Wildlife Management Area. Mr. Ted Hollingsworth.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Good afternoon, Commissioners. My name is Ted Hollingsworth. I'm with the Land Conservation Program. This item pertains to a transaction of land, one of a stream of transactions made possible by our partnership with the Texas Bighorn Society.

The Society working with staff have been identifying high-quality big sheep habitat at Black Gap Wildlife Management Area and other state-owned properties. And in this case they're helping us to identify inholdings and adjacent properties of high biological value. And they have been raising funds and making those available for the acquisition of those tracts and donation of those tracts to Texas Parks and Wildlife. We're looking at two 40-acre tracts today and recommending that you authorize the Executive Director to accept those as donations.

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Any discussion by the Commission?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: If not I'll entertain a motion.



COMMISSIONER RAMOS: It's moved by Commissioner Friedkin, second by Commissioner Holt. All in favor say, aye.

(A chorus of ayes.)


(No response.)

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Motion passes. Item Number 8, Acceptance of Land Donation, Bastrop County, Bastrop State Park. Mr. Corky Kuhlmann.

MR. KUHLMANN: Good afternoon. My name is Corky Kuhlmann. I'm with the Land Conservation Program with Parks and Wildlife. This is a donation at Bastrop State Park. It is a 36.245-acre donation. The donation site is the triangle you see in red at the northeast corer of the main body of the park.

The staff recommends you adopt motion before you. I'll answer any questions.


(No response.)

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: If not I'll entertain a motion.



COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Moved by Commissioner Bivins and seconded by Commissioner Brown. All in favor say, aye.

(A chorus of ayes.)


(No response.)

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Motion passes. Thank you. Action Item Number 9, Grant of Access Easement for M.D. Anderson, Bastrop County, Buescher State Park.

MS. BRIGHT: Commissioners, for the record I'm Ann Bright, general counsel. Back in 1967 the Legislature transferred a property from Buescher State Park to M.D. Anderson. They built their Smithville Science Park where they do cancer research. They have requested additional easements from us to increase access and safety. They have also agreed, as part of that, to allow us to review their plans and to make certain changes that they were able to make. Also they've agreed to certain construction limitations.

Staff is recommending that the Commission approve the motion to grant additional easements, subject to conditions acceptable to the Executive Director. And I should also point out, this is also going to be on the agenda for the Board of Regents, I think, in May.


(No response.)

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: If not I'll entertain a motion.



COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Moved by Commissioner Brown. Second by Commissioner Friedkin. All in favor say, aye.

(A chorus of ayes.)


(No response.)

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Motion passes. Item Number 10, Land Purchase, Presidio County, Big Bend Ranch State Park. Corky again.

MR. KUHLMANN: Again for the record my name is Corky Kuhlmann. This represents an inholding purchase at Big Bend Ranch, Presidio County, Texas. We've been trying to acquire a lot of inholdings. In this case the owner has contacted Parks and Wildlife, wanting to sell this property.

The 40-acre inholding is in a high-priority acquisition area. It's represented by the star, which is centrally located in Big Bend Ranch. Staff recommends that you adopt the motion before you.


(No response.)

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: If not I'll entertain a motion.



COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Moved by Commissioner Holt, seconded by Commissioner Brown. All in favor say, aye.

(A chorus of ayes.)


(No response.)

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Motion passes. The next one is Item Number 11, Acquisition of Outstanding Property Interests, Tom Green County, San Angelo Fish Hatchery.

MS. BRIGHT: Commissioners, this has to do with a fish hatchery. And I'm using that term loosely, because it's not a fish hatchery any more. But it's some property that's located in Tom Green County. You can see there within the City of San Angelo. We acquired this property in 1928. The predecessor to Parks and Wildlife received it to construct a fish hatchery. There was a deed restriction however that said that if we stopped using it for a fish hatchery it reverted.

In 1997 as a result of inadequate water we stopped using it as a fish hatchery. We have offices located on this property. We need to make some improvements. But we don't want to do that unless we have clear title. It's been appraised at about $247,000. We have over the years acquired by donation ‑‑ we have located most of the heirs and have acquired by donation most of the interest of three heirs. So we own a portion of it already. The estimated value of the outstanding interest is $180,000.

In accordance with our policy we provided public notice on March 2. And we also published notice in the local newspaper. We've received no comments. Actually we did receive a comment by someone who thought we were wanting to sell the property. I informed him that was not the case. And this is the motion before you to allow the Agency to move forward with acquisition of these outstanding property interest. I'd be happy to answer any questions.

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Any discussion by the Commission?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: If not I'll entertain a motion.



COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Moved by Commissioner Parker, seconded by Commissioner Holt. All in favor say, aye.

(A chorus of ayes.)


(No response.)

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Motion passes. And the last item is Item 12, the Granting of an Easement, Nueces County, Mustang Island State Park. Mr. Ted Hollingsworth.

MS. HOLLINGSWORTH: Good afternoon, Commissioners. My name is Ted Hollingsworth; I'm with the Land Conservation Program. This item pertains to the granting of an easement to AEP, an energy company with a high voltage overhead line across Mustang Island State Park. The easement runs the length of the park about four and a half miles. Currently the line runs down the middle of the park. It's through some very environmentally sensitive areas. They would like to relocate the easement along the highway. Staff is in favor of that. The exact terms and conditions are currently under negotiation. The General Land Office will be issuing that easement, and has been very, very good about allowing us as an agency to negotiate those terms and conditions prior to the issuance of that easement.

The motion before you will allow the executive director to proceed to negotiate terms and conditions we think are in the best interest of the resource at the park and communicating those to GLO prior to their issuance of that easement. The staff recommends the following motion.

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Any discussion by the Commission?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: If not, I'll entertain a motion.



COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Moved by Commissioner Friedkin, seconded by Commissioner Bivins. All in favor say, aye.

(A chorus of ayes.)


(No response.)


Mr. Cook, is there any other business to come before the Commission?

MR. COOK: No, sir, there's not.

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: I declare us adjourned. Thank you all very much for being here.

(Whereupon, at 12:25 p.m., the meeting was adjourned.)

In official recognition hereof, we hereby affix our signatures as approved this ___ day of ____________ 2007.

Joseph B. C. Fitzsimons, Chairman
Donato D. Ramos, Vice-Chairman
Mark E. Bivins, Member
J. Robert Brown, Member
T. Dan Friedkin, Member
Peter M. Holt, Member
Philip Montgomery III, Member
John D. Parker, Member


MEETING OF: Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, Commission Meeting

LOCATION: Austin, Texas

DATE: April 5, 2005

I do hereby certify that the foregoing pages, numbers 1 through 147, 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.


(Transcriber) (Date)

On the Record Reporting, Inc.
3307 Northland, Suite 315
Austin, Texas 78731