Summary of Dec, 10 TPWD Town Hall meeting on the status of our Southern Flounder. University of the Mainland, TX City. By Chris Arceneaux
The meeting was chaired by TPWD Fisheries Division Upper Coast Regional Director – Jerry Mambretti, the presentation was given by TPWD Fisheries Biologist - Christine Jensen. Those of you that attended our July 2019 PACK meeting you may recall seeing Fisheries Biologist Nicole Carrillo, she was there too. Also in attendence on the stage was TPWD Galveston County Game Warden - Daniel Pope. There was probably 120 people in the auditorium.
The summary of Ms. Jensen's presentation is this: TPWD has acknowledged that Texas has a strong flounder fishery. They have been working to monitory the health of all finfish that is of interest to recreational and commercial fisherman as well as the those species that constitute the health of our bays. They use bag seines to capture juvenile fish, gill nets for larger fish*, and creel surveys. The seine and net surveys have been conducted since the early 80's using randon set locations to monitor all species, not just flounder. Creel surveys are conducted from 10 am to 6 pm at popular boat ramps, mainly in the warmer months.
* They noted that gill nets are not ideal sampling methods. Flounder will avoid a gill net once they bump into it, but they do have flat fish catches to record on consistent basis.
Some take-aways: 70% of the recreational flounder catch is from Galveston to Sabine. 80% of the commercial catch is from Corpus to Galveston. There are about 50-80 active, reporting Commercials. TPWD has bought back about 75% of bay and bait shrimping licenses in the last 15 years in order to reduce by-catch of flounder and croaker. It has taken more than 10 years to see vast improvement in simulating flounder reproduction at Sea Center Texas. With the help of a grant from Shell, they are enlarging the flounder reproduction section. Expecting triple numbers in releasable fry.
It is their findings that the warming of the Gulf of Mexico has lowered the number of juvenile flounder migrating back to the bays and marshes. That's why the “recruitment” 2-3 years after cold winters show good numbers, the trend is falling, more in the Lower TX Coast vs. the Upper Coast. Recruitment is the term used to gauge species numbers. Other indicators of a warming trend include the spreading populations of snook, gray (mangrove) snapper and black magroves taking over marsh grass.
Flounder need 61o to 68o F as an optimal temperature range to complete their three week metamorphosis from egg to eyes on both sides of the head transformation in order to survive. It is their observation that once this happens they are pretty hardy in regards to temperature and salinity.
There are no immediate plans to change the season, bag limits, or minimal sizes. After TPWD conducts these meeting, have more public comment in Austin, they will release their recommendations by late fall 2020. TPWD have projected increases in recruitment, by lowering the recreational (5 to 3) and commercial bag limits 30 to 15), increasing minimum size (14 to 15”) migration season closures or banning gigging.
The discussion: Guides who specialize in taking clients out for flounder fishing or gigging were present in great numbers. I don't know if any Commercial Fishermen spoke up. The guides included David Dillman, Scott Maxwell, Casey Friendly, Tom Milson and Anthony Corden. Also representing marinas was Eagle Point Fish Camp co-owner Eric Valentino. Here are some of their comments.
Been fishing for flounder for decades, seeing quality flounder in great numbers every night, TPWD take away more from the Commercials than the Recreationals and never give it back.
Sampling is flawed, don't sample where the flounder are living, don't sample at night.
If you ride with the guides, you will see the flounder. Each guide invited TWPD biologist to join them.
Check creel limits at night, boat ramps and walk-in spots.
Stake out, arrest and fine poachers. All said it's a big problem. Commercial and rod & reel.
Ship Channel dredging is killing flounder. Seen it!
Redfish, which are everywhere, eat too many juvenile flounder.
Increased numbers of snapper offshore eat too many flounder.
Dolpin eat too many flounder. (No mention of kayak fishermen or Lisa McGonigle)
We make our livelihood fishing, you ignore our input, take away the resource and never give back.
Don't pit Commercials vs Recreationals. That never works.
Other speakers included Bryan Treadway (PACK August Speaker), Glen Hotz, Travis Richards, Shane Bonnot (CCA). Some of their observations mirrored the guides. Comments:
Too many shrimpers dragging in the channels during the fall migration.
Change bag limit to 3 or even 2.
Create slot size of 15” to 21”
Police the bays, catch and fine poachers.
Do more work to tag flounder, monitor their migration patterns.
Use “citizen science” to report fish observation like they do with birding.
Is there cooperation among other Gulf States to manage flounder?
Do more to reduce shrimp trawl by-catch.
Make flounder a Game Fish like redfish and trout.
Ride with guides at night.
Maintain current regulations (in place since 2015)
New technology such as LED lights and better shallow boats = more flounder taken.
Illegal culling takes place.
For a copy of the presentation, notes from the meetings and to submit public content email:
email@example.com or call your favorite Fisheries Biologist.