Texas Moves to Save its Seatrout


The sprawling bays and flats of the Texas coast have long been considered some of the best fishing anywhere for giant spotted seatrout. This spring, with widespread support from the angling community, Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPW) has moved to protect that reputation by enacting stricter regulations designed to protect the fishery, and specifically big seatrout.

Long-time The Angler columnist Capt. Michael Okruhlik is one of many hard-core inshore anglers in favor of the regs changes. Okruhlik’s love of big Texas seatrout and redfish drove him to invent new lures to target them, and his company, Knockin Tail Lures, is dependent on a thriving fishery. He said Texas inshore fisheries are currently receiving more fishing pressure than they ever have.

“Over the past few decades, fishing for speckled trout in Texas has increased in popularity, which is evident not only while on the bays, but also in the increased sales of fishing licenses,” he said. “The surge since the pandemic has been exponential versus the steady increase over time. This coupled with widespread loss of habitat due to industrial impacts, hurricane Ike on the upper coast, several fish-killing freezes and so many other natural and manmade issues make these changes imperative to the future of our fishery.”

The new regulations went into effect on March 26 across the Texas coast. The daily bag limit per angler was reduced from five fish to two fish. The existing slot limit of 15 to 25 inches was tightened to 15 to 20 inches. The allowance for one oversized trout in that limit was also changed. Anglers used to be able to keep one fish longer than 20 inches as part of a limit. Now that one oversized fish must be at least 30 inches to be legal.

“The bag limits are only one part of the solution,” Okruhlik said. “Habitat restoration and industrial impact need to be addressed, as well. Bag limits on anglers is the easiest first issue to tackle, but it’s not the entire solution.”

An official TPW proposal, which was out for public comment in late March, has been floated to eliminate the oversized trout allowance in the daily limit until a tag system can be implemented for the next license year, which begins Sept. 1.

This tag would allow anglers to harvest one spotted seatrout greater than 30 inches with the purchase of a saltwater fishing license or endorsement. In addition, the proposed rule would also implement a $3 Bonus Spotted Seatrout Tag and a $3 Exempt Angler Tag (for individuals who, by law, are exempted from license requirements) that would allow for the retention of one oversize spotted seatrout per license year.

TPW estimates these changes could bring a 27 percent increase in spawning stock biomass over a seven-year generation of spotted seatrout. The benefits would be magnified over time the longer these regulations remain in effect.

“There are multiple kill tournaments every weekend along the coast that encourage anglers to keep large trout for a few hundred dollars,” Okruhlik said. “The new regulations may not reduce the number of tournaments, but it will protect the number of big trout being weighed in.”

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