|  TPWD News Releases Dated 2006-04-10                                    |
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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 ] [SL]
April 10, 2006
TPWD Adds 40 Counties to Special Buck Harvest Rules
AUSTIN, Texas -- Deer hunters in 40 counties in East and Central Texas will be under new special buck harvest regulations this fall as part of changes to this year's hunting and fishing regulations adopted by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission.
In addition, the commission legalized bowfishing for catfish on an experimental basis for one year, directed staff to create a habitat-based voluntary management incentive program for upland game birds and eliminated the trophy tarpon tagging requirements. All hunting and fishing related regulatory changes will take effect Sept. 1.
Antler restriction regulations currently in effect in 21 counties in the Oak Prairie ecoregion have been effective in improving the age structure of the buck herd, increasing hunter opportunity, and encouraging landowners and hunters to become more actively involved in better habitat management, according to state wildlife biologists.
Under the regulation, a lawful buck is defined as any buck having at least one unbranched antler or an inside antler spread of at least 13 inches. The bag limit in the affected counties would be two lawful bucks, no more than one of which may have an inside spread of greater than 13 inches.
Counties affected by this regulation include:** Bell, Bosque, Bowie, Burleson*, Camp, Cass, Cherokee, Comal (east of IH 35), Comanche, Coryell, Delta, Eastland, Erath, Fannin, Franklin, Gregg, Hamilton, Harrison, Hays (east of IH 35), Hopkins, Houston, Lamar, Lampasas, Leon, Marion, Morris, Nacogdoches, Panola, Rains, Red River, Rusk, Sabine, San Augustine, Shelby, Somervell, Titus, Travis (east of IH 35), Upshur, Williamson and Wood counties.
Additional alterations and new regulations include:
--Although not a regulatory change, a voluntary Managed Lands Upland Game Bird Program was approved that will create opportunities for private landowners who actively manage for upland game birds (Rio Grande turkey, quail, pheasant, lesser prairie-chicken, and chachalaca). For this effort, the commission instructed the staff to continue to develop a habitat-focused program to encourage landowner cooperatives and conservation and habitat development on large scales, provide assistance in obtaining support through federal Farm Bill programs, promote use of specialized habitat management equipment, and recognize good upland game bird stewardship.
--Creating a minimum length limit of 80 inches in place of the current tarpon tagging requirement. This would allow retention of a potential state record tarpon, while protecting fish that fall below the current record.
--New alligator hunting regulations. Outside of the 22 counties in southeast Texas where alligators have traditionally been hunted, there will be a recreational season from April 1 -- June 30, during which alligators may be taken on private property under a general hunting license. The bag limit is one alligator per person per year and the use of firearms would be legal; however, firearms may not be used from, on, in, across, or over public waters. Additionally, hunters upon harvest would be required to complete and submit to the department a hide-tag report and purchase a department-issued alligator hide tag at a cost of $20. Regulations in the 22 southeast Texas counties will remain unchanged.
--Consolidating Upton County under a four-deer bag limit.
--Prohibiting harvest of largetooth sawfish to eliminate confusion in distinguishing between the federally-protected smalltooth sawfish
--A change similar to the new tarpon rule will allow a person to keep one black drum of greater than 52 inches in length per day.
--Reducing the possession limit for flounder taken under a recreational license to match the daily bag limit of 10 fish.
--Naming tripletail (Lobotes surinamensis) a game fish and create a minimum size of 17 inches and daily bag limit of 3 fish (6 in possession). This rule is similar to what other states have adopted and since tripletail females reach reproductive maturity at about 17 inches; this would provide protection through at least an initial spawning cycle."
--Increasing minimum length limits on largemouth bass in 250-acre Marine Creek Reservoir (Tarrant County) to 18 inches. The change is necessary because Marine Creek Reservoir is involved in the Operation World Record research project where coded-wire tagged largemouth bass are stocked and their growth monitored for a minimum of five years. The stocked bass are ShareLunker offspring and are valuable, considering the limited number that will be produced and their importance to the project.
--Adding baitfish restrictions in Kinney County identical to those in 17 other counties in that area where bait fish are restricted to common carp, fathead minnows, gizzard and threadfin shad, golden shiners, goldfish, Mexican tetra, Rio Grande cichlid, silversides (Atherinidae family), and sunfish (Lepomis). The restrictions were promulgated to protect endangered pupfish (Cyprinodon) in the western Texas. The change also protects the Devils River minnow, which only occurs in Val Verde and Kinney counties.
Hunters and anglers are urged to check the specific rules for these changes in the upcoming 2006-2007 Outdoor Annual, available in August.
* Correction, April 10, 2006: The original version of this news release failed to list Burleson County. The correct number of added counties is 40, not 39. (Return to corrected item.)
** Correction, April 11, 2006: The original version of this paragraph began "Additional counties being considered under this regulation ...þ". That portion has been edited for clarity. The regulation has been adopted. (Return to corrected item.)

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[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [RM]
April 10, 2006
Once-Maligned Carp Coming On as Coveted Catch
AUSTIN, Texas -- Pity the lowly carp no more.
Maligned by serious sports fishermen for decades as a trash fish, the common carp, or "sewer trout" if you will, may some day rival largemouth bass as the most popular sport fish in Texas, according to carp aficionados. That may be a bit far fetched, but at the very least, the common carp could be part of the answer to hooking the urban masses on fishing.
That was the question posed by Phil Durocher, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department inland fisheries director, when he briefed the Texas Parks & Wildlife Commission about "Fishing for Common Carp -- Is This the Future for the Urban Masses?" on April 6.
Durocher called carp fishing a "growing phenomenon" in Texas and the United States, whose devotees often invest up to $3,000 for fancy carp fishing rigs to try to land what fly fishing enthusiasts on the East Coast call the "golden bone," a reference to the coveted bonefish.
It turns out there's some serious money in dem' bones. If you don't believe it, just ask Denton native Al St. Cyr.
On March 30, St. Cyr, who lives in Austin, reeled in a 43.18-pound carp from that city's Town Lake during the Texas Carp Challenge. That state record-setting feat earned St. Cyr a $250,000 payday from the American Carp Society, the largest prize ever earned by a carp fisherman in the U.S. Contestants came from 19 states and as far away as England and Romania.
Historically speaking, the Asian fish species was swimming in European waters by the 13th century. Since then, Europeans have come to regard the lowly carp as highly as Texas anglers do the rabidly pursued largemouth bass. It has been said that the common carp is the world's most popular freshwater sportfish.
The common carp was first introduced to the U.S. in 1877, and to Texas in 1881. According to Durocher, Texas' first fish hatchery was established at Austin's famed Barton Springs to raise, you guessed it, carp to stock Texas lakes and rivers. Today, Austin's Town Lake ranks as one of the nation's two world-class carp fisheries.
Durocher said there are avid carp anglers and carp organizations dedicated to promoting carp fishing as a popular sport. One is the Carp Anglers Group that boasts 746 members, including the president who's a Texan.
Those who carp about the oft-derided species cite its proliferation in polluted waters and its tendency toward overpopulation, which increases water turbidity that restricts sunlight and negatively affects bass, crappie and other sport fish. And, its detractors point out, the carp, which comes in many varieties, is a non-native.
But, Durocher pointed out that the carp is one of the most widely distributed fish species in America. They are fast-growing, he said, and can live for more than 40 years. The world record carp -- tipping the scales at 82.3 pounds -- was landed in Romania.
Almost all carp anglers fish from banks, not boats, which means easier access to fishing opportunities, especially for people living in major population centers. In addition, Durocher noted that carp, which spawn from March through September in Texas, respond well to chumming and bait-and-hook presentation.
"The potential for carp fishing is considerable," said Durocher, TPWD's Inland Fisheries Division director. "We need to be prepared in Texas if the sport takes off."
To prepare for that possibility, Durocher says fisheries staff members are meeting with carp fishing groups to see what the agency can do to help promote carp fishing. Fisheries biologists also are looking into carp fishing tournaments in Austin to try to get a handle on what kind of economic impact potential such tourneys present in Texas.

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[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [RM]
April 10, 2006
Coastal Forecast Offers Few Excuses for Not Catching Fish
AUSTIN, Texas -- Coastal fisheries biologists say conditions are looking good for coastal anglers looking to hook their limit of red drum, black drum, spotted sea trout, and even an exotic visitor to coastal waters, the mangrove snapper.
A recent analysis of fish sampling data and fishing activity shows the number of hours that anglers spent fishing in 2004-2005 dropped slightly from the prior year along the Texas coast, but despite the drop in effort, coast-wide landings increased 2 percent to 1.5 million fish and catch rates were up 3 percent.
"Our fishing forecast is for another outstanding year," said Larry McKinney, Ph.D., in a briefing to Texas Parks & Wildlife Commission on April 6. "There is no excuse. The fish are there and if folks go down to the coast to catch them, they should have good luck."
McKinney based that projection on data received from recent angler and gill net surveys. Catch rates for red drum, statistics show, remain at a 10-year record high. Based on last fall's and this spring's gill net surveys, the number of 20-to-24-inch red drum are "abundant" coastwide.
He also reported that record numbers of red drum (redfish) are being caught in all bay systems, from Sabine Lake to Lower Laguna Madre and Baffin Bay. McKinney said that gill net catch rates for red drum in 2005 doubled that of 2004.
2006 gill net surveys also showed an abundance of 19-to-30-inch spotted sea trout up and down the coast, continuing an upward trend noted from 2004 to 2005. Coastwide, there was a one percent increase in landings with 646,000-plus spotted sea trout caught.
Southern flounder, on the other hand, remain a concern coastwide, according to McKinney. Nonetheless, he pointed out that 2006 gill net surveys show above average numbers of 14-to-20-inch flounder.
In addition, catch rates (the number of fish caught per hour of effort) for all species combined increased by 3 percent from .279 fish per hour in 2003-04 to .288 fish per hour in 2004-05.
McKinney told the commission that the Texas coastal fishing outlook projects that spotted sea trout and red drum numbers in all bays will equal or exceed long-term averages, promising another great year. Galveston Bay, for example, should be an excellent fishery, especially since there was no hard winter, thus increasing forage fish already available in good numbers.
More temperate winter weather also has resulted in an increase in the numbers of mangrove snapper that are migrating along the Texas coast, as far north as San Antonio Bay, presenting improved fishing opportunities for those without access to a boat. "It's a great resource for youth because mangrove snapper can be caught from a pier and put up a good fight," McKinney said.
The fishing forecast for the Coastal Bend calls for fewer, but bigger, sea trout in Aransas Bay and catch rates for red drum continuing at a six-year high in Corpus Christi Bay. Statistics show that sheephead levels have increased in Corpus Christi Bay three-fold since the 1980s.
In Upper Laguna Madre and Baffin Bay, black drum are "all over the place," McKinney said.
On a less positive note, marine biologists in the Lower Laguna Madre report that brown tide is still present, but is diminishing in some areas. However, brown tide is having little impact on sportfish populations, with natural baits proving more effective in hooking fish at present.
Questioned about the state of freshwater inflows coming down rivers into estuaries, McKinney expressed concern about inflows into all the bay systems due to the state's continued population boom and increased demands for water. Nonetheless, the coastal fisheries leader said, now is the "best shot I've ever seen" at finding solutions to the freshwater inflow dilemma.
McKinney also informed the commission that new seagrass rules take effect May 1 and reported on the crab trap removal program. Despite inclement weather, volunteers recently removed 1,339 crab traps from coastal waters. Since 2002, he reported that more than 1,600 volunteers have removed 19,347 crab traps.
On the Net:

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[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [TH]
April 10, 2006
Prop 8 Funds Set for Rita Repairs, State Park & WMA Projects
AUSTIN, Texas -- About $18 million in bond funding for critical repairs to Texas state parks, wildlife management areas, fish hatcheries has been approved, the latest installment of about $101 million in Proposition 8 bond funding approved by Texas voters in 2001.
The Texas Legislature approved debt service funding for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in the last legislative session to cover issuance of the latest $18 million round of Prop 8 bonds. This had been a top priority legislative request from the department.
Steve Whiston, TPWD Infrastructure Division director, told the TPW Commission April 5 that an important part of the latest Prop 8 bond package would pay to repair 11 sites damaged by Hurricane Rita, which ripped through East Texas in September 2005. The estimated cost of repairs needed is $3.1 million.
The department is working closely with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to recover the costs for repairs at TPWD facilities. Prop 8 funds will be used to pay for these repairs up front, with hopes to receive FEMA reimbursement later.
So far, FEMA has approved projects and determined them eligible for reimbursement at Martin Dies Jr. State Park, Sea Rim State Park, Sabine Pass Battleground State Park and Historic Site, Village Creek State Park, Lake Livingston State Park, Lake Houston State Park (currently being transferred to the City of Houston), Mission Tejas State Park and the Jasper Fish Hatchery.
FEMA approval is still pending for TPWD funding requests to repair three wildlife management areas hit by Rita, including J.D. Murphree WMA, Lower Neches WMA, and Tony Houseman WMA.
Whiston also updated commissioners on progress to date with Prop 8 funding. In 2003, TPWD got the first $36.6 million issue of Prop 8 bond money. This funded 118 repair projects at state parks, wildlife and fisheries sites statewide, including many big-ticket water-wastewater systems, almost all of which are now complete. As projects have been finished, savings accumulated that allowed TPWD to add another 19 repair projects funded by the 2003 issued bonds, some of which are ongoing.
In the original Prop 8 legislation, five specific state park sites were earmarked for renovation or improvements, including the San Jacinto Battleground, Battleship TEXAS, Admiral Nimitz Museum (transferred earlier this year from the state park system to the Texas Historical Commission), Sheldon Lake Environmental Learning Center at Sheldon Lake State Park, and Levi-Jordan Plantation.
For 2004/2005, TPWD sought but was unable to obtain debt service funding to issue Prop 8 bonds.
For the current 2006/2007 biennium, the department is moving ahead with the latest $18 million bond package.
For 2008/2009, TPWD will seek legislative support for debt service to fund the remaining approximately $46 million in Prop 8 bonds, including additional bond funding for critical statewide repairs.
Below is the list of 37 sites where repair projects will be funded beginning this year with the current round of $18 million in newly approved Prop 8 bonds.
Water/Waste Water System Renovations
--Brazos Bend State Park -- repair water distribution system and electric system
--Caddo Lake State Park -- Conduct engineering study (PER) for water connection
--Elephant Mountain Wildlife Management Area -- Renovate water/wastewater system
--Garner State Park -- Replace and repair water distribution system
--Lake Colorado City State Park -- Complete wastewater system improvements
--Lake Livingston State Park -- Replace wastewater system
--Lake Somerville State Park -- Birch Creek Unit -- Replace wastewater treatment facilities
--Lake Somerville State Park -- Nails Creek Unit -- Replace wastewater treatment facilities
Major Repairs to Facilities
--AE Wood Fish Hatchery -- Repair reservoir and reservoir liner
--Cleburne State Park -- Replace campsite facilities and restrooms
--Dundee Fish Hatchery -- Repair pond and pond liners
--Fort Leaton State Historical Park -- Conduct asbestos abatement study
--Garner State Park -- Replace two restrooms
--Goose Island State Park -- Replace two restrooms and one comfort station
--Huntsville State Park -- Replace three restrooms
--Huntsville State Park -- Upgrade utilities services for all campsites (to 50 Amp)
--Inks Lake State Park -- Replace three restrooms
--Jasper Fish Hatchery -- Repair facilities damage caused by Hurricane Rita
--JD Murphree Wildlife Management Area -- Repair facilities damaged by Hurricane Rita
--Lake Brownwood State Park -- Replace one comfort station
--Lake Houston State Park -- Repair pavilion damaged by Hurricane Rita
--Lake Livingston State Park -- Repair facilities damage caused by Hurricane Rita
--Lake Whitney State Park -- Replace one restroom
--Longhorn Cavern State Park -- Repair electrical system
--Lower Neches Wildlife Management Area -- Repair facilities damaged by Hurricane Rita
--Martin Dies Jr. State Park -- Repair facilities damage caused by Hurricane Rita
--Mission Tejas State Park -- Repair pavilion damaged by Hurricane Rita
--Parrie Haynes Ranch -- Repair guest house
--Perry R Bass Marine Research Station -- Repair HQ brick façade
--Perry R Bass Marine Research Station -- Repair/improve ponds and harvest kettles
--Sabine Pass Battleground State Historical Park -- Repair facilities damage caused by Hurricane Rita
--Sea Rim State Park -- Repair facilities damage caused by Hurricane Rita
--Tony Houseman State Park/Wildlife Management Area -- Repair signs damaged by Hurricane Rita
--Tyler State Park -- Remove CCC swim platform
--Tyler State Park -- Replace two restrooms and one comfort station
--Village Creek State Park -- Repair facilities caused by Hurricane Rita
Americans With Disabilities Act Renovations
--Galveston Island State Park -- Replace six restrooms for ADA

[ 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 ] [SL]
April 10, 2006
Bragg Named NWTF Wildlife Officer of the Year
AUSTIN, Texas -- Brian Heath Bragg, a six-year veteran Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Game Warden, has been named 2005 Texas Wildlife Officer of the Year by the Texas State Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation.
Bragg was recognized during the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission public hearing on April 6.
The award was created in 2000 by the NWTF to recognize top state, federal and provincial officers who demonstrate a high level of professionalism and dedication to wildlife resources.
"The job Heath has done to protect our state's wildlife resources and ensure future generations have the opportunity to hunt wild turkeys is greatly appreciated," said J.B. Wynn, NWTF Texas Chapter president.
Bragg's law enforcement efforts while stationed in Tyler County resulted in a number of significant cases involving game law violations on eastern wild turkeys, including an investigation and ultimate conviction of a man for taking a mature eastern gobbler during closed season.
Bragg also assisted Stephen F. Austin University researchers in a three-year cooperative agreement tracking eastern turkeys. He radio-tracked eastern turkeys with transmitters and recorded data, determined mortality and health and geographically plotted movement.
In his current duties in Angelina County, Bragg focuses his patrolling efforts on enforcing laws against poaching and hunting from public roadways.