Saltwater Fishing Regulation Changes for 2023-24 License Year

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AUSTIN – Starting Sept. 1, changes to saltwater fishing regulations will take effect for the 2023-24 license year.

Changes include the required use of specialized devices on reef fish exhibiting signs of barotrauma, returning to previous bag and size limits for spotted seatrout on the coast, lowering the bag limit for cobia and adding shortfin mako sharks to the list of prohibited species.

Texas regulations now require all commercial and recreational anglers to use a venting tool or rigged descending device on reef fish exhibiting signs of barotrauma. Barotrauma is a pressure-related injury fish experience when reeled up from depths of approximately 50-feet or greater. Some fish species are prone to barotrauma from shallower depths.

Research shows that properly releasing reef fish, such as red snapper, reduces mortality. This new regulation is like the 2022 federal DESCEND Act which also requires that descending devices and/or venting tools be present on boats fishing in federal water. TPWD is partnering with organizations like Return’em Right to encourage anglers to learn more about the effects of barotrauma and how to properly use descending devices.

Spotted seatrout regulation changes, which lowered the bag and size limit in bay systems south of FM 457, expired on Aug. 31. Recreational anglers may now keep five spotted seatrout between 15-25 inches in all Texas saltwater. Any further changes to spotted seatrout bag and size limits must go through the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission’s rulemaking process.

Other regulation changes include lowering the bag limit to one for cobia and adding shortfin mako sharks to the list of prohibited species. If caught, these sharks must immediately be released as they have a bag limit of zero.

Check out the Outdoor Annual for a full list of all fishing and hunting regulation changes for the new license year.