|  TPWD News Releases Dated 2005-12-19                                    |
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[ Note: This item is more than 11 years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [AR]
Dec. 19, 2005
TPWD Announces Catch and Release Record Category
AUSTIN, Texas -- Beginning Jan. 1, 2006, Texas anglers will no longer have to kill a fish to have it considered for a state record.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has established an additional awards category in its angler recognition program -- a catch and release category that requires only a total length for certain fish.
TPWD Angler Recognition Awards Program Coordinator Joedy Gray said the new category is in addition to the existing weight-based records, which will be continued.
The new category was inspired by real-life events, beginning with Capt. Scott Graham's 87-inch tarpon in 2002. Then, in July of the same year, Fabian Morales caught an 89-inch tarpon on a fly rod followed by Allan Reiter's 90-inch tarpon in June 2005. None of the men had purchased the $120 tarpon tag currently required to legally possess a silver king.
The official state record for tarpon was set more than three decades ago with a fish that measured 86.25 inches and weighed-in at 210 pounds.
Reiter, who had been fishing for king mackerel between the Port Aransas jetties, fought his fish for more than 4 hours.
"I had a scale put in an acrylic cast, and I have articles from the (Port Aransas) South Jetty and the Corpus Christi Caller-Times. That's about it," Reiter said.
"All I could do was give these guys an outstanding angler or big fish award." Gray said. "I had to do something. I think this will increase participation."
Gray said that, in the case of a tie, the first fish reported will hold the record.
Other requirements for the category include a photo of the fish next to a clearly marked tape measure or measuring stick and a photo of the angler with the fish. Another person must witness the live release.
Another way to catch and release a state record fish is to weigh it boat- or dock-side on hand-held scales certified by a commercial scale calibration company or the International Game Fish Association. The state began accepting such record applications in September 2002.
While any fish may be released after weighing, only fish currently eligible for a Big Fish award will be accepted in the new Catch and Release State Record category. The non-record Catch and Release certificate will be discontinued.
Also new in 2006, TPWD has dropped the requirement that freshwater species be weighed in order to be eligible for a Big Fish award.
"The catch and release ethic has made a significant contribution to fisheries conservation, and this approach is one way of recognizing that," said Larry McKinney, Ph.D., TPWD Coastal Fisheries director. "It makes a lot of sense for us to have found a way to recognize anglers' achievement in a way that promotes conservation."
For a complete list of freshwater and saltwater fish eligible for the new Catch and Release State Record category -- and for information on how to practice catch and release -- please visit the TPWD Web site.
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[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [AR]
Dec. 19, 2005
Coastal Fisheries Data Show Texas Bay Warming Trend
CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas -- Texas bay waters have warmed by an average of about 1.5 degrees Celsius (nearly 3 F) over the past 23 years. The trend, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department scientists said, is consistent along the middle and lower Texas coast.
"The only way you can do something like this is having this 30-year data set that's unprecedented anywhere," said Jim Tolan, a TPWD coastal fisheries ecologist who is authoring a paper on the warming trend. "We have just tons and tons of measurements -- not just from one spot, but from all the bays in Texas."
TPWD's Coastal Fisheries division celebrated 30 years of continuous resource monitoring in a two-day symposium in Corpus Christi Nov. 17 and 18. The information scientists have collected has been called the largest coastal fisheries data set in the nation, and possibly in the world.
The resource monitoring program, which includes bag seine, trawl and gill net collections as well as records of various water quality indicators, was implemented in 1975 to compliment creel surveys begun the year before.
"When the founding fathers sat down and designed it, I'm sure they had no idea some of the things it would yield," said Mark Fisher, Ph.D., TPWD coastal fisheries science director. "They just said collect everything. The salinity data alone, with water being such a key issue, is extremely valuable. We have a longer record of salinity and other water quality parameters than anyone in the state and we didn't even mean to."
Tolan decided to look at water temperatures after biologists noticed that gray snapper -- a semi-tropical species -- was showing up more often on the middle and upper Texas coast.
To find out if and how much bay waters were warming, he looked at 4,506 individual temperature records taken from random locations in San Antonio Bay from 1982-2004 and averaged the temperature readings for each month. These averaged temperatures created a record of 276 points in time and showed a clear trend of increasingly warm average temperatures.
Only Galveston Bay and Sabine Lake are not growing consistently warmer, Tolan said, and if they are removed from the coast-wide averages the trend on the middle and lower coast grows to 1.75 degrees Celcius.
While the bay warming trend generally tracks with global warming data, TPWD scientists warned that it is far too early to draw conclusions as to why average temperatures are increasing.
"I'm not ready to jump out there and say: 'Here's the reason for it,'" Tolan said, citing possible long-term climate cycles.
David Buzan, TPWD coastal studies team leader, said the temperature changes particularly appear to be occurring in winter.
"It isn't so much that this long-term trend toward warmer temperatures is occurring because of hotter summers, but rather warmer winters," he said.
Even though scientists may not fully understand why bay waters are heating up, they say it is important to know that it is happening.
"Temperature certainly does play a role with regard to the distribution of species," Buzan said, citing the expansion of the gray snappers' range as one example.
Native black mangroves also have expanded northward, and stands of red mangroves -- seawater-loving shrubs more common in southern Florida and tropical Mexico -- have established themselves as far north as Port O'Connor.
The TPWD coastal fisheries database was generated from approximately 40,000 bag seines, 60,000 trawls, 40,000 dredge samples, 20,000 gill net sets and 250,000 angler interviews collected over a 30-year period. The effort is ongoing.
Information in the database has been the basis for resource management decisions and regulations that affect recreational fisheries with an annual direct economic impact of almost $2 billion in Texas. The information also has been used in successful efforts to secure freshwater inflows and to protect water quality in estuaries.
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[ Note: This item is more than 11 years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [LH]
Dec. 19, 2005
Budweiser Sharelunker Program Offers Prizes for Fish Number 400
ATHENS, Texas -- Catching a Budweiser ShareLunker -- a largemouth bass weighing 13 pounds or more -- is its own reward, an accomplishment shared by a relative handful of anglers.
The person who catches the 400th qualifying entry into the program will receive the largest prize package the Budweiser ShareLunker program has ever offered. "In addition to the usual prizes of a Budweiser ShareLunker jacket and a fiberglass replica of the fish, the lucky angler will receive a cash award of $400 per pound of fish and a G.Loomis rod with Shimano reel valued at a total of $600. If the angler is a Texas resident, he or she will also receive a lifetime fishing license," said Allen Forshage, director of the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center.
Prizes will be awarded at the annual Budweiser ShareLunker banquet to be held at TFFC June 3, 2006.*
With the 400th fish worth a minimum of $5,200 in cash, ShareLunker program managers expect the prize package to generate considerable interest. The current count of entries stands at 393; fish 400 could be caught fairly soon.
"ShareLunkers have been caught from 53 lakes and 12 bodies of private water spread all over Texas, and it's not uncommon for more than one fish to be caught on the same day," said Forshage. "If more than one fish is caught on the same day, the time we receive the calls from the anglers to pick up the fish will determine which fish is number 400. Furthermore, as stated in the ShareLunker program rules, fish must be turned over to TPWD alive within 12 hours of capture to qualify."
The final determination of whether a fish will be accepted will be made by ShareLunker program manager David Campbell.
Anglers are advised to consult the TPWD ShareLunker Web pages for complete rules and tips on caring for lunker bass.
The number to call to enter a fish into the program and arrange for pickup is (903) 681-0550. Anglers may also leave a message or numeric page, including area code, at (888) 784-0600.
Anglers may either donate the fish to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department or elect to have it returned to them at the end of the spawning season. TPWD uses the big females for spawning in an attempt to improve the size and growth rates of largemouth bass in Texas waters.
Prizes will be funded by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation, Anheuser-Busch and G.Loomis.
The Budweiser ShareLunker program is made possible through support from Anheuser-Busch, Inc. Since 1991, Anheuser-Busch, in partnership with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation, has contributed millions of dollars in funding to support conservation causes and fishing, hunting and outdoor recreation programs in Texas.
The G.Loomis GLX Jig and Worm rod will be personally inscribed to the angler at the factory. The rod features high quality cork grips and nickel/titanium alloy recoil guides that flex with the rod and have no ceramic ring.
The rod will be outfitted with a Shimano Chronarch 50MG reel, a low-profile magnesium-framed bait-casting reel weighing only 5.9 ounces. The reel holds 70 yards of 14- to 17-pound monofilament line and has a 6.2:1 retrieve ratio. It features anti-rust bearings, a drilled spool for light weight and Shimano's "super free" spool technology.
* Correction, Feb. 15, 2006: The banquet, originally scheduled for May 27, has been rescheduled for June 3. (Return to corrected item.)
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[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [AR]
Dec. 19, 2005
Middle-Schooler Sets New State Fly Fishing Record for Snook
AUSTIN, Texas -- He broke a six-year-old state record with a 25-yard cast on a rod he built himself. And he's just 13.
Sugarland, Texas, eighth-grader Nick Rizopoulos topped the existing state fly fishing record for common snook with a 29-inch, 6.5 pound fish he caught in the Brownsville Ship Channel Nov. 25.
It wasn't the first of the 10 snook he caught during a two-day fishing trip with South Padre Island fishing guide Capt. Eric Glass, but it was the biggest.
"On that cast I got a big old hit and the snook just took off," Rizopoulos said. "I hadn't really grasped the size of the fish until we got it back to the boat. I was just really happy -- it's one of the best fish I've caught in my life."
Rizopoulos measured the fish and then weighed it on a hand-held scale before releasing it. The scale has since been certified by the International Game Fish Association, making the catch eligible for both a junior division and all-ages state fly fishing record.
Because snook are a semi-tropical species with a tenuous, if growing, toehold in Texas, current regulations allow only one fish per day between 24 and 28 inches.
"We had a big discussion before we went and said: 'If we catch a fish that's in the slot, what do we do?'" said John Rizopoulos, Nick's father.
His son's answer? Let it go, whether it's in the slot or not.
"I would have hated to kill that fish; it was so beautiful," Nick said. "It's so much better if you have the option to put the fish back in the water so it can live."
The relatively warm waters of the Lower Laguna Madre offer Texans the best shot at a snook, and fish that nudge the scales into double digits are not unheard of. But the hard-hitting gamefish are elusive and are rarely caught by accident.
"I personally have caught or watched people catch probably a thousand snook on flies," said Glass, who has guided anglers in the area for more than a decade. "I'd say they average maybe 17 to 25 inches. You probably have to catch 15 or 20 to get a 29-incher. It's not an average-size snook. I think it's an accomplishment for a 13-year-old to catch one that size on a fly."
Rizopoulos caught the fish on a gray and white mullet imitation tied by Glass
The snook isn't the angler's first record. In fact, Rizopoulos now holds six of the nine junior division fly fishing records currently listed on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Web site.
Rizopoulos said he realized more than a year ago that a number of the fly fishing records in the junior division were either wide-open or beatable. During a 2004 Thanksgiving trip to the southern tip of Texas he set records for red drum, ladyfish, jack crevalle and gray snapper.
The day before catching his record snook, he broke the existing spotted seatrout record with a respectable 22.5-inch, 3 lb., 6 oz. fish. And he's nowhere close to being done.
Rizopoulos said he is looking forward to coming out of the junior division at age 17 with a lot of experience and -- as he put it -- more money for better gear.
"This is just the beginning," he said. "It's going to get much crazier."
Glass said Rizopoulos is probably the most proficient young long-rodder he's ever fished with.
"He's a precocious kid," he said. "I've fished with him since he was 9. He's just one of those kids who's good at everything he tries to do. He's a great guitar player and an honor student. He decided he was going to become a really good fly caster and he has."
Rizopoulos' father, John, bought his son his first fly rod half a decade ago and watched him practice on ponds near their home. He credits his son's success in part to Glass' patient coaching, but also to Nick's dedication and determination.
"When he puts his mind to something, he likes to do really well," the elder Rizopoulos said. "He sets objectives and then he works really, really hard to achieve them."
Nick said that, while the records pursuit is fun, it's not the reason he fishes.
"If I didn't love it, I wouldn't be out there," he said. "The records are nice, but I can tell you: the best sound in the world is a screaming fly reel. Holding a fish that you've caught -- maybe after you've had a 'skunk' day -- it's the best feeling in the world."
Rizopoulos ties many of the flies he uses -- "Nick's purple crab" has proved surprisingly effective on red drum -- and he built his 9-weight rod from a Sage blank.
The only thing he said he doesn't like about the sport is the lack of friendly competition: "I think more kids should get into fly fishing because I'm kind of lonely here."
Not that the lack of company is likely to slow him down much. His next goal: a Texas tarpon. The fly fishing category for that species is currently wide-open, for both kids and adults.
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[ Note: This item is more than 11 years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [LH]
Dec. 19, 2005
Beloved Blue Catfish Splash Passes
ATHENS, Texas -- Splash, former world record blue catfish, died Tuesday at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens at an unknown age.
Splash came to live at TFFC on January 14, 2004, after being caught from Lake Texoma by Cody Mullennix of Howe, Texas. At 121.5 pounds, she was the largest blue catfish ever caught and held that record until a 124-pound fish was caught from the Mississippi River in 2005.
Splash is still the Texas state record blue catfish.
During her time at TFFC, Splash was responsible for a large increase in visitation. She was the star of the daily dive show during which she ate chicken, herring or mackerel from the diver's hand.
Splash was especially popular with children. On the first anniversary of her arrival at TFFC, nearly 800 people came to see her, and 133 children brought hand-made birthday cards. "You are my idol," one said. Many others simply said, "I love you."
Splash will be missed by the staff members of the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center and by untold numbers of people who regarded her as a very special fish. She is survived by thousands of descendants in Lake Texoma.
A life-size replica of Splash is being prepared for display in the record fish area of TFFC, and her skeleton will be preserved for display as well.
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