|  TPWD News Releases Dated 2004-06-28                                    |
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[ Note: This item is more than 13 years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [TH]
June 28, 2004
Rowland's Record Trout Shows Texas Potential
AUSTIN, Texas -- While many anglers along the Texas coast were complaining about unusually poor catch rates during 2002, Carl "Bud" Rowland was enjoying a record year. While flyfishing the lower Laguna Madre on May 23, 2002, Rowland caught and released a spotted seatrout that measured 37 ΒΌ inches and weighed 15 pounds, 6 ounces -- a new line class world record and eventual Texas state record.
Ironically, those tough fishing conditions may have set the stage for banner fishing along the coast this year, including the potential for a new state record trout, according to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department coastal fisheries science director Mark Fisher.
Fisher said the reduced harvest in 2002 was not due to a lack of fish. "It was an unusual year," he noted. "For some reason the fish changed their usual patterns. They were still out there, just not in the same places anglers were accustomed to finding them."
TPWD biologists confirmed this during recent gillnet surveys that revealed an unusually high number of four-year-old trout in the system.
Early on this April and May, it looked like a record season, for trout in particular. Then the rains came.
"The recent rain has reduced gillnet catch rates in the upper parts of the bays, but that's short-term," said Fisher. "Long-term, that freshwater inflow will be a good thing, delivering nutrients that will result in greater productivity in years to come."
The rain is a temporary setback, Fisher said, the precursor to what should be an outstanding summer for coastal angling.
A case in point is the Upper Laguna Madre, which stretches from Corpus Christi Bay south through the land cut, about 20 miles north of Port Mansfield. TPWD spring gillnet sampling here indicates spotted sea trout abundance is the highest it's been since 1975, about 33 percent higher than last two years. And there are some really big fish.
"About half the fish we saw in our nets this year were between 16 and 23 inches, with a significant percentage over 24 inches, including one that was 33 inches and 11.5 pounds, the largest ever caught in the Upper Laguna," said Kyle Spiller, TPWD Upper Laguna Madre ecosystem leader.
"Recreational anglers should be expecting to catch more fish this summer because of the increases in the population we've seen and also have a better chance to land a trophy size fish," Spiller said.
Fisher said similar data were showing up coast wide before the rains.
"Our Aransas bay crew caught 15 fish in one set that were over 24 inches and one at 30 inches during the week of May 11, not a record but still a remarkable catch of large trout," he explained. "This is an example of what we're seeing everywhere along the coast-that we've got a lot of big trout in our various bays. Sabine had some early catches of large trout, but they got flushed out."
The bottom line, Fisher said, is that once the rains flush through, probably in mid to late July, biologists expect generally excellent trout fishing, with the possibility of some trophy trout, everywhere on the Texas coast.
Although admittedly a bit too soon to credit new regulations as the reason for the abundance of bigger fish in the bays, Ed Hegen, TPWD's regional director of coastal fisheries for the lower coast, believes trout fishing should only get better with the 25-inch maximum size limit on trout.
"We'd like to think the regulations will work, but not this quickly," he said. "We had a mild winter and a tremendous amount of rain, which has created an abundance of nutrients."
With a healthy ecosystem in place and an already abundant population of large trout, Fisher said it's conceivable that a new state record may be lurking. "I did some age and growth analysis and it's possible we could have a 41-inch trout out there," he boasted.
But, Fisher was quick to add, the only way a trout will have a chance to attain that size is if it's allowed to grow. It's conceivable the current state record trout is still out there, since Rowland released it back into the water two years ago. His decision to turn the fish loose almost cost the angler recognition as the state record holder.
Because of TPWD requirements in 2002 for certifying a state record catch, Rowland would have had to bring his fish ashore to have it weighed on certified scales. He preferred to weigh it on the water and return it. Texas requirements have been changed to permit the use of certifiable handheld scales to record the weight and then release the catch.
For the latest on what's biting where, check the Texas Fishing Report on the Internet (http://tpwd.texas.gov/fish/infish/reports/fishreport.php). Information is listed regionally here for the various parts of Texas, including a saltwater section covering 18 bay locations all along the coast (http://tpwd.texas.gov/fish/infish/action/reptform1.php?water=Salt&browse=Go).

[ Note: This item is more than 13 years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [NT]
June 28, 2004
Bat Viewing Offered Nightly at Old Tunnel
FREDERICKSBURG, Texas -- Old Tunnel Wildlife Management Area near here in the central Texas Hill Country is offering bat-viewing opportunities every night all summer through October.
The abandoned railroad tunnel at Old Tunnel WMA is home to about 3 million Mexican free-tailed bats and thousands of cave myotis bats. The bats emerge from the tunnel and spiral up into the sky each night around sunset. Nightly bat-viewing opportunities exist every night and educational presentations are given Thursday through Sunday from May 1 to Oct. 31. Emergence times vary per month and are as follows:
--May -- June, 8:30-9:15 p.m.
--July, 8-9 p.m.
--August, 6:30-8 p.m.
--September -- October, 5:30-8 p.m.
Visitors are advised to arrive well before emergence times. Seating for programs is on a first-come, first-served basis. Several educational exhibits with information about Mexican Free-tailed bats and the railroad history are located along the half-mile nature trail, and bats can also be observed flying within the railroad tunnel from this trail.
The bat emergence can be observed through two viewing areas. The upper viewing area adjacent to the parking area is free every night. Fantastic views of red-tailed hawks feeding on emerging bats can also be seen from this area.
The lower viewing area offering bench seating adjacent to the tunnel entrance, is open Thursdays through Sundays for educational programs and requires a fee. About one hour before estimated emergence time, an educational talk is given about the history of the tunnel, natural history of Mexican free-tailed bats, and general bat ecology. Excellent views of bat emergences are possible from this area, where flight patterns bring the bats to within a few feet of visitors. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis for as many as 70 people, and reservations are not accepted. Flash photography is not allowed during the bat flight at the lower viewing area. Entrance fees for educational programs in the lower viewing area are as follows:
--Adults, $5
--Children ages 6-16, $2
--Adults 65 and older, $3
--Children younger than age 5, free
Organized groups of as many as 70 people can make reservations to view the bat flight from the lower viewing area. Group viewing is offered three nights a week, Monday through Wednesday. Entrance fee for a youth group is $40 and $75 for a non-youth group.
Pets and alcohol are not allowed at Old Tunnel WMA. For the protection of the bats and visitors, entrance into the tunnel is strictly prohibited.
For more information about Old Tunnel WMA, estimated bat emergence times, and making group reservations call the Old Tunnel information line (830) 990-2860.
Old Tunnel WMA is operated by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, located in Kendall County on Old San Antonio Road (about 3 miles east of Fredericksburg on U.S. 290), approximately 13 miles north of Comfort, and 11 miles south of Fredericksburg.

[ Note: This item is more than 13 years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [KE]
June 28, 2004
Junior Boater Program Teaches Young Kids Water Safety
Extra! Read All Aboat It!
AUSTIN, Texas -- Though it is only two years old, a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department water and boater safety program reaches more than 10,000 children per year.
Junior Boater was started for kids younger than age 12 in an effort to reach those who are not old enough to be eligible for Boater Safety certification.
"We wanted to make children aware that the water is great fun but there are also dangers that kids need to watch out for and take precautions against," said Jack Dyess, TPWD's statewide boater education coordinator.
These precautions are taught by the program, which requires kids to succeed at four of the following tasks to attain Junior Boater certification:
1. Throwing a Personal Floatation Device (PFD) to a target.
2. Completing a PFD relay, where kids are on teams and try to find a PFD that fits them best, fasten it on, and then tag their teammate who does the same.
3. Identifying at least two items they should have when leaving shore.
4. Identifying water-related items as safe or hazardous and why.
5. Learning about weight distribution in a boat.
6. Identifying water pollutants.
7. Learning basic boating directions and terminology.
8. Being able to recognize the intended movement of a watercraft based on signals.
TPWD is hoping that leadership-type groups that take the class, like boy scouts, girls scouts and 4-H groups will fan out across Texas and teach the course to others. TPWD loans out all supplies, including life jackets and manuals with directions for instructors. All anyone has to do is request a kit and specify a time and place.
"Children have the ears of their families and friends. This is a way for us to reach a lot of people with basic safe water and boating messages," Dyess said.
For more information about how to set up a seminar, call (800) 792-1112, press 0 and ask for 4938.
Editors: There are pictures available of kids in PFD relays and completing a canoe exercise. To request one, call (512) 389-8046.

[ Note: This item is more than 13 years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [TH]
June 28, 2004
Passport Radio Series Reaches Record Audience
AUSTIN, Texas -- The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's signature radio series Passport to Texas, brings the state's vast outdoor world to listeners from El Paso to Nacogdoches--and seems to be everywhere in between.
The radio program that began in 1996 broadcasting on 50 radio stations is now heard on more than 100 stations and this year reached a record high of about 750,000 listeners each week, according to a 2004 audience audit by MQ&C Advertising of Austin.
With its trademark guitar intro music, insightful interviews and writing by Executive Producer Cecilia Nasti and Writer/Producer Lisa Wheeler, and the well-known voice of host Joel Block, each 90-second weekday episode of Passport to Texas covers cultural or natural resources. Topics include state parks, wildlife management areas, historic sites, hunting, fishing, environmental issues and travel tips. Block, who is internationally known as the voice of the Earth and Sky radio series, voices half of the episodes each year. In a new development this season, Nasti now hosts the other half.
The radio series, which is produced as a public service by the department, is made possible by financial support from the Federal Aid in Sport Fish and Wildlife Restoration program and Anheuser-Busch. Because of these sponsorships, TPWD is able to distribute the radio program free throughout Texas.
"We view our series partly as an educational venue to help people understand nature and the outdoors," said Cecilia Nasti, Passport to Texas executive producer. "But it's also an enjoyable and entertaining way to bring the outdoors indoors."
The program airs 132 times per day across the Lone Star State, usually during morning and afternoon drive times.
"When you're stuck in rush hour traffic, we try to bring in a little fresh air and open space," Nasti said. "We can't actually get you out of gridlock physically, but hopefully we can transport you mentally to places with green grass and blue sky through sounds and words, if only for a little while."
The program highlights numerous topics ranging from wildlife conservation efforts and state park recreational opportunities, to special issues such as habitat loss and endangered species.
The radio program's producers have plans to expand the show through targeted projects on natural resources and the state's cultural heritage. A series of episodes planned for the remainder of this year and next will focus on the value of wetlands, rivers, springs and groundwater, coastal estuaries and other water resources that sustain all life in Texas. A new series called "Telling Texas Tales," still in the planning stages, will offer stories of everyday Texans in their own words detailing their love of and experiences in the outdoors.
Complete information about the radio series, including a list of affiliate stations across the state and an archive containing past episodes saved as audio files, is on the Web (http://www.passporttotexas.org/). Anyone can also sign up to receive a monthly e-newsletter online or send e-mail to info@passporttotexas.org to inquire about sponsorship or affiliate opportunities or ask questions about radio episodes.

[ Note: This item is more than 13 years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [NT]
June 28, 2004
Scientists Seek Public Help To Track Black Witch Moths
AUSTIN, Texas -- Due to numerous daily reported sightings from Texas and other surrounding states, 2004 appears to be a breakout year for the black witch moth (Ascalapha odorata).
"The sightings this summer have been extraordinary," Mike Quinn, TPWD entomologist said. "They are truly off the charts. I wouldn't be surprised to receive a sighting report from Canada within three weeks."
Black witch moths are some of the largest moths in the insect world and the largest in the United States. It belongs to the family Noctuidae, the largest family within the order Lepidoptera, with more than 2,900 species in the United States and Canada.
"This dark brown moth with a six-inch wingspan often startles people when first encountered as it somewhat resembles a bat," Quinn said. He also commented that the female is distinguished from the male as she has a pale median band (or stripe) running through her wings.
Black witch moths are a migratory species found abundantly throughout the New World tropics. They migrate north from Mexico through Texas primarily in June and sometimes reach destinations as far north as southern Canada and Alaska.
Quinn has been receiving sighting reports almost daily since late May and sometimes as many as five sightings in one day. Black witch moths have been reported widely in Texas as well in Arizona, California, Louisiana, Nevada, and New Mexico. Two sightings have even been reported as far north as Kansas.
Most of the people reporting these sightings commented that it was the first time they had seen such an insect after living in the same location for many years.
These moths like to perch in open garages or under the eaves of houses during the day. They are also readily attracted to house and street lights, tree sap, rotting fruit and alcohol.
Black witches are not considered pests as their smooth gray caterpillars feed on woody legumes such as mesquite, ebony, acacia and cassia. Although harmless to people, they are sometimes regarded by the superstitious as a harbinger of death. According to folk legend, when there is sickness in a house and this moth enters, the sick person dies. According to more recent superstitions, if this moth lands above your door then you will win the lottery.
To help scientists better understand this year's breakout and migratory patterns, anyone who sees any black witch moths is urged to send a detailed report about the sighting, including date, location, condition of the moth, and number of individuals seen. Please include a comment on the prevailing weather conditions as well.
Send sighting information by mail to Mike Quinn, Invertebrate Biologist, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, 3000 S. I-35, Suite 100, Austin, TX 78744, e-mail mike.quinn@tpwd.texas.gov, or phone (512) 912-7059.

[ Note: This item is more than 13 years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [KE]
June 28, 2004
Stay Tuned
Information from Texas Parks and Wildlife is available on radio and television, as well as the newsstand.
Passport to Texas, TPWD's radio series of weekday, 90-second stories is broadcast on about 100 Texas stations. Airing the week of June 28-30, Kids are invited to bring their buckets, their shovels and their imagination to one state park. Plus we'll tell you how the human need for land is impacting aquatic wildlife's need for fresh water.
For more information, visit the Web (http://www.passporttotexas.org/).
Video News
TPWD provides video news reports that run in newscasts on numerous Texas stations, as well as on cable and satellite outlets around the nation.
"Texas Parks & Wildlife" is a weekly half-hour television series seen on PBS affiliates around the state. The episode that airs the week of June 27-July 4 includes nature and science at Wildlife Management Areas; escape the city at Cooper Lake State Park; sounds of the Great Blue Heron; creating natural habitat with Wildscapes; and the threatened turtle.
For more information about this week's programs and where they can be viewed, visit the Web (http://tpwd.texas.gov/tv).
Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine is always available on newsstands throughout the state and by subscription for $19.95 a year. To subscribe, call (800) 937-9393 or order online (http://www.tpwmagazine.com/).