TITLE 31. NATURAL RESOURCES AND CONSERVATION

PART 2. TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT

CHAPTER 57. FISHERIES

SUBCHAPTER N. STATEWIDE RECREATIONAL AND COMMERCIAL FISHING PROCLAMATION

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission in a duly noticed meeting on May 21, 2020 adopted amendments to §§57.973, 57.981, 57.992, 57.993, and 57.997, concerning the Statewide Recreational and Commercial Fishing Proclamations. Section 57.981 and §57.992 are adopted with changes to the proposed text as proposed in the February 21, 2020, issue of the Texas Register (45 TexReg 1171). The rules will be republished. Sections 57.973, 57.993, and 57.997 are adopted without changes to the proposed text and will not be republished.

The change to §57.981, concerning Bag, Possession, and Length Limits for recreational fishing, and §57.992, Bag, Possession, and Length Limits for commercial fishing, implement a delayed effective date for provisions affecting both the recreational and commercial flounder fishery. The department proposed a closed season for all take of flounder from November 1 through December 14, to take effect September 1, 2020. The commission adopted the proposed rules but deferred effectiveness until September 1, 2021.

The amendment to §57.973, concerning Devices, Means and Methods adds a section of Brushy Creek (Williamson County) to the list of locations where game and non-game fishes can only be taken by pole and line and would limit anglers to the use of no more than two pole-and-line devices at the same time. The stream segment affected by the proposed amendment is from the Brushy Creek Reservoir dam downstream to the Williamson/Milam county line (approximately 50 miles). Brushy Creek Reservoir currently is subject to this regulation. A survey of anglers who use both the reservoir and creek waters determined that both waters are heavily used, and some anglers fished both in one day. The amendment standardizes regulations on the reservoir and the creek downstream, which should simplify compliance and enforcement. Additionally, the cities surrounding these water bodies recently have experienced rapid population growth and restriction of harvest methods to pole and line would serve to limit the harvest of some fishes such as sunfish, which could benefit the overall fish community and the angling experience.

The amendment to §57.981, concerning Bag, Possession and Length Limits, implements changes to harvest regulations for largemouth bass, crappie, and catfish on multiple locations.

The amendment to §57.981 modifies harvest regulations for largemouth bass on Moss Lake (Cooke County), replacing the current regulation (14-inch minimum length limit and five-fish daily bag limit) with a 16-inch maximum length limit and providing an exception for temporary possession of bass 24 inches or greater for possible submission to the department's ShareLunker program. Moss Lake is a 1,140-acre impoundment located in near Gainesville. The bass fishery at the reservoir currently consists of largemouth and spotted bass, but angler creel surveys indicate largemouth bass are the most sought-after species. While bass are relatively abundant in the reservoir, electrofishing surveys indicate that very few legal-size (14 inches) largemouth bass are present in the population. Although surveys indicate few legal-size largemouth bass, the reservoir does support some large bass, with a few exceeding eight pounds. Spotted bass are abundant, with few exceeding 14 inches in length and samples consist mostly of fish less than 12 inches in length. Spotted bass compete with largemouth bass for forage and contribute to an overabundance of bass less than 12 inches in length. Implementation of a 16-inch maximum length limit on largemouth bass would allow anglers to harvest the abundant smaller fish that potentially could be causing fewer bass to reach larger sizes. Since some anglers have difficulty in distinguishing spotted bass from largemouth bass, opening harvest to all small bass will allow anglers to harvest both species without differentiation.

The amendment to §57.981 also modifies harvest regulations for largemouth bass on Brushy Creek Reservoir and blue and channel catfish in the section of Brushy Creek (both in Williamson County) mentioned previously in this rulemaking. Harvest of largemouth bass in the reservoir is low. The current 18-inch minimum length limit is not benefitting the bass population and implementation of a 14-inch minimum length limit will have little impact. As noted previously in this rulemaking with respect to proposed changes to device restrictions, the standardization of regulations between the reservoir and Brushy Creek will enhance compliance and enforcement.

Additionally, the amendment replaces the current harvest regulations for blue and channel catfish for Brushy Creek Reservoir (12-inch minimum length limit and 25-fish daily bag limit) with a five-fish daily bag limit and no minimum length limit. This type of regulation is appropriate in high-use situations, such as smaller urban water bodies, to allow anglers to harvest some fish while distributing the available harvest to as many anglers as possible. Replacing the current regulation will result in standardization of regulations and beneficial harvest reduction.

The amendment to §57.981 also modifies harvest regulations for black and white crappie for Lake Nasworthy, which is a 1,380-acre reservoir in San Angelo (Tom Green County). The reservoir has a relatively stable water level for West Texas and abundant shoreline access. The crappie population in Lake Nasworthy has long been characterized by high abundance, slow growth, below average condition, and poor size structure. Slower growth results in fewer crappie reaching legal size, as most crappie die of natural causes before growing large enough to be harvested. The combination of these factors negates any advantages to the population structure that could be derived from the use of a minimum length limit (MLL). Understandably, anglers are dissatisfied with lack of harvestable sized fish in the reservoir and have expressed support for modifying harvest regulations to allow for some take of crappie less than 10 inches in length. An increased harvest of smaller crappie may reduce overcrowding, improve fish condition, and increase angler satisfaction.

The amendment to §57.981 also makes changes to the harvest regulations for blue, channel, and flathead catfish on Lake Texoma (Cooke and Grayson counties) and the Texas waters of the Red River from the dam on Lake Texoma (Denison Dam) downstream to Shawnee Creek. Harvest regulations on Lake Texoma, a 74,686-acre reservoir that straddles the Texas/Oklahoma border, are implemented cooperatively by TPWD and the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC). Currently, harvest regulations for game fishes are the same on both sides on the reservoir. However, some harvest regulations on the Red River below Lake Texoma differ from those on the reservoir and from Texas statewide harvest regulations. With the goal of standardizing regulations on both sides of Lake Texoma and the waters of the Red River below the Denison Dam while maintaining angling opportunities, the amendment alters harvest regulations for blue, channel, and flathead catfish in the Texas waters of Lake Texoma and the Red River from Denison Dam downstream to Shawnee Creek. For blue and channel catfish, the amendment eliminates the minimum length limit and allows the harvest of one blue catfish 30 inches or greater. For flathead catfish, the amendment eliminates the minimum length limit and impose a five-fish daily bag limit.

The amendment also eliminates a time constraint on a special regulation governing the harvest of alligator gar on Falcon International Reservoir (Starr and Zapata counties). The department conducted a comprehensive study at the reservoir in 2014 to obtain the biological information necessary to make management recommendations for alligator gar. In 2015, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission implemented a bag limit of five alligator gar on the reservoir, directed staff to monitor the alligator gar population to determine any negative effects of the five-fish daily bag, and placed an expiration date on the special provision of September 1, 2020. Monitoring data from the reservoir continues to support the determination that the Falcon Reservoir alligator gar population can be sustained under the five-fish daily bag. Therefore, the amendment continues the effectiveness of the special provision.

Finally, the amendment alters recreational harvest regulations for flounder. On the basis of pronounced downward trends in fishery independent data (bag seines, bay trawls, gill nets) which showed declines in catch-per-unit-effort (abundance), and declining commercial and recreational landings, the department has determined that measures must be implemented to protect and replenish spawning stock biomass in the fishery. Recent department fishery-independent gill net survey monitoring data for both the fall and the spring have shown decreases in catch rates of 60% or greater compared to historic long-term data trends. Additionally, other fishery-independent data (bag seines and bay trawls) also show similar declining trends. These independent data collections target flounder at different points in the life cycle and thus provide a measure of recruitment (bag seines), sub-adults (bay trawls) and adults (gill nets).

Lower levels of recruitment observed in fisheries-dependent bag seines may also be impacted by the warmer water temperatures experienced in the bays and gulf in more recent years. Research into the cultivation of flounder has shown that optimal larval survival of flounder is dependent on a very narrow range of temperatures from 16° C - 20° C (60.8° F - 68.0° F) for the first three weeks after spawn (usually in November to December). Current flounder harvest regulations consist of a 14-inch minimum length, a five-fish daily bag and possession limit for recreational take, and a 30-fish commercial daily bag and possession limit for commercial take, except for during the period from November 1-December 14, when there is a two-fish daily bag and possession limit for both recreational and commercial take. During the month of November, means of take is limited to pole-and-line only. The amendment increases the minimum length limit to 15 inches, effective September 1, 2020, and closes the season from November 1 - December 14 beginning in 2021 for both commercial and recreational harvest. At 14 inches, approximately 50% of female flounder are sexually mature. At 15 inches, over 90% of females are sexually mature. Reducing flounder harvest prior to and during the fall migration will increase escapement of adults to the Gulf and can increase the potential spawning population and therefore increase recruitment. Additionally, the increase in minimum size will allow more females to reach sexual maturity and spawn before being harvested. Since most of the flounder harvest is comprised of females and occurs during spawning, the amendment is projected to increase spawning stock biomass.

The amendment to §57.992, concerning Bag, Possession, and Length Limits, alters commercial harvest regulations for flounder, for the same reasons presented earlier in this preamble in the discussion of recreational harvest regulations for flounder.

The amendment to §57.993, concerning Commercial Harvest Report, clarifies reporting requirements. The department has determined that the rule as currently worded does not make clear that certain licensees are required to report all aquatic products taken under the respective licenses, not just the portion of aquatic product that is sold subsequent to landing. The purpose of the rule is to give the department accurate harvest data on various species, which is then used to inform the department's management decisions on those species. Obviously, if the entirety of commercial harvest is not reported the department's management decisions could be affected.

The amendment to §57.997, concerning Fishing Guide License Requirements, affects provisions concerning licensing requirements for the Paddle Craft All-Water Guide License. The amendment removes existing language concerning the successful completion of the "Four Star Leader Sea Kayak" training from the British Canoe Union and "Coastal Kayak Day Trip Leading" from the American Canoe Association and replaces it with "paddle craft leading course from the American Canoe Association or a department-approved organization." The training courses referenced in the current rule no longer exist, and the department seeks to use a generic reference to avoid having to engage in rulemaking each time a course is discontinued or renamed.

Inland Fisheries

The department received 19 comments opposing adoption of the portion of the proposed amendment to §57.981 that affects harvest regulations for largemouth bass on Moss Lake in Cooke County. Of those comments, seven articulated a specific reason or rationale for opposing adoption. Those comments, accompanied by the department's response to each, follow.

One commenter opposed adoption and stated that the proposed length limit will drive tournament anglers from the lake. The department disagrees with the comment and responds that department survey data indicate approximately 10 percent of the angling on pressure on Moss Lake is tournament-related, which suggests that the majority of angling effort there is not a result of tournaments. The department also notes that catch-weigh-and-release for oversize fish is lawful. No changes were made as a result of the comment.

One commenter opposed adoption and stated that increasing the maximum length limit will not result in "people taking fish home." The department disagrees with the comment and responds that the removal of the minimum length limit for largemouth bass will allow more bass to be harvested, which is one of the goals of the regulation change. No changes were made as a result of the comment.

One commenter opposed adoption and stated that rule will decrease harvest and cause the proliferation of smaller fish. The department disagrees with the comment and responds that the rule is expected to result in the increased harvest of smaller spotted and largemouth bass, and the decreased abundance of smaller bass should allow remaining largemouth bass to grow to larger lengths. No changes were made as a result of the comment.

One commenter opposed adoption and stated that spotted bass and small largemouth bass are abundant in the reservoir and the department should increase stocking efforts. The department disagrees with the comment and responds that the rules are intended to redirect harvest to spotted bass populations that compete with largemouth bass, which should result in larger largemouth bass over time. No changes were made as a result of the comment.

One commenter opposed adoption and stated that there should be a minimum length limit. The department disagrees with the comment and responds that the removal of smaller fish from the population structure is desirable. No changes were made as a result of the comment.

One commenter opposed adoption and stated that the rule should require largemouth bass greater than 24 inches in length to be kept alive and weighed, but bass smaller than 24 inches in length to be released immediately. The department disagrees with the comment and responds that although the regulation does prohibit the retention of largemouth bass of greater than 16 inches in length, it allows but does not require the temporary retention of largemouth bass of greater than 24 inches in length for potential inclusion in the department's ShareLunker program. The department does not believe that participation in the ShareLunker program should be mandatory. No changes were made as a result of the comment.

One commenter opposed adoption and stated that the bag limit for largemouth bass should be lowered to three. The department disagrees with the comment and responds that this fishery is characterized by high interspecific competition, which can be most efficiently addressed by redirecting harvest towards smaller largemouth bass and other species.

The department received 293 comments supporting adoption of the proposed amendment.

The department received 54 comments opposing adoption of the proposed amendments to §57.973 and §57.981 concerning harvest and gear regulations for largemouth bass and catfish on Brushy Creek Lake and Brushy Creek in Williamson County. Of those comments, 26 articulated a specific reason or rationale for opposing adoption. Those comments, accompanied by the department's response to each, follow.

Ten commenters opposed adoption and stated that cast nets should be allowed to catch minnows. The department disagrees with the comment and responds that heavy utilization of these waterbodies makes it necessary to restrict gears to pole-and-line only in order to maintain the overall population structure necessary to support quality angling. No changes were made as a result of the comment.

Six commenters opposed adoption and stated that the minimum length limit for largemouth bass should remain at 18 inches. The department disagrees with the comment and responds that currently few bass are being harvested, and as is typical of many bass fisheries in Texas with a 14-inch minimum length limit, harvest is also low. Decreasing the limit from 18 to 14 inches should not have a measurable impact bass abundance in the lake. No changes were made as a result of the comment.

Two commenters opposed adoption and stated that the rule prohibits children from catching minnows and is elitist or caters to the "fly-fishing elite." The department disagrees with the comment and responds that the department does not consider children who catch minnows simply for the outdoor experience to be criminally culpable and that law enforcement discretion is warranted, and that pole-and-line restriction is not motivated by any bias towards specific gears, but rather toward improving the quality of angling in the face of intense utilization. No changes were made as a result of the comment.

Two commenters opposed adoption and stated that there are plenty of minnows in the creek. The department disagrees with the comment and responds that heavy utilization of the waters in question impacts many different species and that artificial baits and natural baits acquired from other sources are not believed to be difficult to obtain. No changes were made as a result of the comment.

One commenter opposed adoption and stated that the department is taking people's rights away. The department disagrees with the comment and responds that the commission is charged with protecting and conserving public resources for the enjoyment of present and future generations and that allowing the degradation of that resource to the point of nonexistence is a dereliction of that duty. No charges were made as a result of the comment.

One commenter opposed adoption and stated that lowering the length limit will have a devastating effect on the quality of fish and that the current limit is not well posted or advertised at the lake or in the Outdoor Annual. The commenter also stated that undersized fish are being harvested on a regular basis. The department disagrees that the rule will harm the quality of the fishery. As is typical of many bass fisheries in Texas, harvest of bass from Brushy Creek Lake is also low. Population abundance of bass in the lake does not appear to be impacted by legal or unlawful harvest at this time. Additionally, the department notes that it is the responsibility of the angler to be familiar with regulations in effect on any water body, that those regulations are not difficult to locate in department publications, that the department's website, law enforcement offices, and biologists are readily available to answer questions, and that people who harvest fish unlawfully are subject to criminal prosecution. No changes were made as a result of the comment.

One commenter opposed adoption and stated that cast netting is a skill and practice since the beginning of time and the department should instead be "going after industrial polluters." The department disagrees that investigation of environmental crimes would accomplish the goals of the regulations as adopted. No changes were made as a result of the comment.

One commenter opposed adoption and stated that all passive gears should be prohibited. The department disagrees with the comment and responds that there are rules in place to prevent the deleterious effects of passive gears. No changes were made as a result of the comment.

One commenter opposed adoption and stated that the restrictions would be more beneficial if employed only on the segment of Brushy Creek between U.S. 183 and F.M. 1460 because that segment is where the public access and best water availability and quality is. The department disagrees with the comment and responds that restricting the effect of the rule to the small stream segment between U.S. 183 and F.M. 1460 at the upper reaches of Brushy Creek would not result in the desired population impacts downstream. No changes were made as a result of the comment.

One commenter opposed adoption and stated that the rule would eliminate the only place to get bait for 20 miles. The department disagrees with the comment and responds that bait is readily available at many locations in the area. No changes were made as a result of the comment.

The department received 665 comments supporting adoption of the proposed amendments.

The department received 24 comments opposing adoption of the portion of the proposed amendment to §57.981 concerning harvest regulations for crappie on Lake Nasworthy in Tom Green County. Of those comments, three articulated a specific reason or rationale for opposing adoption. Those comments, accompanied by the department's response to each, follow.

One commenter opposed adoption and stated that all fish harvested at under 10 inches in length will never be over 10 inches in length and that the rule will reduce opportunity to catch fish in general. The department disagrees with the comment and responds that the crappie population in Lake Nasworthy has long been characterized by high abundance, slow growth, below average condition, and poor size structure. Slower growth results in fewer crappie reaching legal size, as most crappie die of natural causes before growing large enough to be harvested. The combination of these factors negates any advantages to the population structure that could be derived from the use of a minimum length limit. The department also notes that regulations regarding crappie do not affect other fishing opportunities. No changes were made as a result of the comment.

One commenter opposed adoption and stated that there should be a maximum length "to allow trophy fish to reproduce." The department disagrees with the comment and responds that a maximum length limit will not address the high abundance that makes it difficult for crappie to reach the current minimum length limit. No changes were made as a result of the comment.

One commenter opposed adoption and stated that removing the minimum length limit will encourage overfishing of an already vulnerable population. The department disagrees with the comment and responds that crappie are abundant on the lake, and removal of fish could address that issue by reducing competition and allowing for greater growth. No changes were made as a result of the comment.

The department received 254 comments supporting adoption of the proposed amendment.

The department received 14 comments opposing adoption of the proposed amendment to §57.981, concerning blue, channel, and flathead catfish on Lake Texoma and the Red River in Cooke and Grayson counties. Of those comments, three articulated a specific reason or rationale for opposing adoption. Those comments, accompanied by the department's response to each, follow.

One commenter opposed adoption and stated that all passive gears should be prohibited. The department disagrees with the comment and responds that there are rules in place to prevent the deleterious effects of passive gears. No changes were made as a result of the comment.

One commenter opposed adoption and stated that the minimum length limit should stay as it is to give the fish a chance to grow and spawn. The department disagrees with the comment and responds that the goal of the proposed rule is to standardize regulation with Oklahoma to make enforcement and compliance easier, but the regulation is not expected to result in negative impacts to populations or population structures. No changes were made as a result of the comment.

One commenter opposed adoption and stated that Texas should adopt a statewide catfish regulation similar to that in effect in Louisiana. The department disagrees with the comment and responds the department is charged with a statutory duty to protect and conserve public fisheries resources for the enjoyment and use of present and future generations of Texans and that adopting Louisiana catfish regulations (100 catfish in any combination, including 25 undersized, hoop nets legal) would not serve that goal. No changes were made as a result of the comment.

The department received 244 comments supporting adoption of the proposed amendment.

The department received 17 comments opposing adoption of the proposed amendment to §57.981 concerning alligator gar on Falcon Reservoir in Zapata County. Of those comments, three articulated a specific reason or rationale for opposing adoption. Those comments, accompanied by the department's response to each, follow.

One commenter opposed adoption and stated that all passive gears should be prohibited and there should be a limit on size and number for the take of all gar species. The department disagrees with the comment and responds that there are rules in place to prevent the deleterious effects of passive gears and that restrictions in the form of bag and size limits are imposed when and where necessary, based on the specifics of biological necessity. No changes were made as a result of the comment.

One commenter opposed adoption and stated that the resource cannot withstand a five-fish daily bag limit. The department disagrees with the comment and responds that angler effort directed at gar on the reservoir is not intense enough to result in negative population impacts with a five-fish daily bag limit. No changes were made as a result of the comment.

One commenter opposed adoption and stated that the bag limit should be reduced. The department disagrees with the comment and responds that resource monitoring data indicate that the current five-fish daily bag limit is sustainable. No changes were made as a result of the comment.

The department received 238 comments supporting adoption of the proposed amendment.

Coastal Fisheries - Flounder

General

Five hundred eighty-nine commenters expressed support for adoption of the rules as proposed. Four hundred fourteen commenters expressed opposition to adoption of the rules as proposed either in general or to certain portions of the rules, with some commenters expressing more than one area of opposition.

Eighty-four commenters opposed adoption and stated preferences for various combinations of minimum length (16 inches, 17 inches, 18 inches) and bag limits (one per day year-round, two per day year-round, three per day year-round), with closures (October to February, October to December, November only, Thanksgiving to January, November and December, November and half of December, December only, and so on), without closures, and various combinations of bag limits and gear restrictions during certain months (no gigging during closure, no commercial harvest during closure, take by pole and line only during closure, etc.). The department disagrees with the comments and responds that the rules as adopted represents what the department believes is the appropriate balance between the biological necessity to protect the fishery and the interests of various recreational and commercial user groups while minimizing disruptions and conflicts to the greatest extent possible in that context. No changes were made as a result of the comments to the actual regulation proposals, but the implementation date of the closure timeframe was delayed from Sept. 1, 2020 to Sept. 1, 2021.

Twenty-four commenters opposed adoption and stated that flounder should be designated a game fish. The department disagrees with the comment and responds that designation as a game fish under current rules would prevent the harvest of flounder by any means other than pole and line, which the department believes is not necessary to manage the species at the current time. The department also notes that designation as a game fish does not limit the commission's authority to prescribe whatever means and methods restrictions it deems necessary to properly manage a species. No changes were made as a result of the comments.

Thirteen commenters opposed adoption and stated that the Coastal Conservation Association should not be allowed to dictate regulations. The department agrees with the comment and responds that the Coastal Conservation Association played no role in the formulation of the proposed rules, and the department's recommendations are based on the best available science and strive to balance the interests of various recreational and commercial groups. No changes were made as a result of the comments.

Eleven commenters opposed adoption and stated, variously, that there should be a one, two, or three-fish daily bag limit, but no closure. The department disagrees with the comments and responds that manipulation of the bag limit, in and of itself, is insufficient as a method to timely stabilize flounder populations. No changes were made as a result of the comments.

Two commenters opposed adoption and stated that the department is biased against recreational anglers. The department disagrees with the comments and responds that in addition to having a statutory duty to protect and conserve public resources, the department also has a duty to equitably distribute opportunity to various types of users, when it can be done responsibly and within the tenets of sound biological management. The department believes the rules as adopted equitably balance the interests of enthusiasts of various means of take while meeting the goal of the rules, which is to restore spawning stock biomass in the flounder fishery. No changes were made as a result of the comments.

Length Limits

Twenty-three commenters opposed adoption and stated that the current 14-inch minimum length limit should be retained. The department disagrees with the comments and responds that increasing the minimum length limit is necessary to protect younger females, allowing a larger percentage of them to reach maturity and increase spawning biomass. No changes were made as a result of the comments.

Fifteen commenters opposed adoption and stated that there should be a slot limit for flounder, with one of the commenters expressing a desire for a slot limit only during the annual flounder migration, another for the rules to allow the retention of one oversize flounder, and another stating the need for an oversize flounder tag. The department disagrees with the comments and responds that a slot limit would not achieve desired management results of the proposed changes at this time. The department's goal is to ensure that females reach sexual maturity. The increase in minimum size to 15 inches will allow females to reach maturity and have an opportunity to spawn. Because a significant portion of the flounder fishery is the recreational and commercial gig fishery, further increases in minimum size limits will not be efficacious if there is a high percentage of misidentification of legal size fish due to the subsequent release mortality that would occur. Additional release mortality would also occur with the hook and line fishery as well since fish would have a greater timeframe to be caught before reaching the legal size limit. While a slot limit would provide additional protection to females above the maximum size limit, since flounder reach maturity relatively quickly and are fairly short-lived, a slot limit was not considered as a preferred approach to further protecting the spawning biomass at this time. No changes were made as a result of the comments.

Twelve commenters opposed adoption and stated that increasing the minimum size limit will threaten female flounder. The department disagrees with the comments and responds that increasing the minimum size limit is intended to ensure that most female flounder are sexually mature at harvest and to give female flounder additional spawning potential. No changes were made as a result of the comments.

One commenter opposed adoption and stated that increasing the minimum size limit for flounder threatens male flounder. The department disagrees with the comment and responds that female flounder comprise most of the harvest and the increase in minimum size limit is less likely, rather than more likely, to negatively impact males, which generally do not exceed 14 inches in length. No changes were made as a result of the comment.

One commenter opposed adoption and stated that the rules should allow the retention of one oversize flounder in November and December if taken by pole and line. The department disagrees with the comment and responds that neither the current rule nor the rule as adopted stipulates a maximum size requirement. The current bag limit during the closure timeframe is already set at two fish and by allowing the take of one fish over a certain size, the benefits of the proposed closure would be reduced. Both release mortality as well as taking of fish during the closure would not lead to the anticipated benefits needed to ensure an increase in spawning potential.

Closures

Sixty-seven commenters opposed adoption and stated that there should be no closed season for flounder, adding, variously, that the proposed closure is too drastic, knee-jerk, going too far, or overreach. The department disagrees with the comments and responds that although the proposed closure has been deferred for a year, it remains necessary in order to address the long-term population declines observed in the data. Closures are by definition significant actions that should be implemented so as to achieve the greatest effect in the smallest timeframe. The department has concluded that a six-week closure is the minimum time span necessary to stabilize the flounder fishery with the least amount of inconvenience to anglers. No changes were made as a result of the comments.

Seven commenters opposed adoption and stated that the proposed closure should be for the entire months of November and December and should apply only to commercial fishing. The department disagrees with the comments and responds that in addition to having a statutory duty to protect and conserve public resources, the department also has a duty to equitably distribute opportunity to various types of users, when it can be done responsibly and within the tenets of sound biological management. The department believes that the rules, as adopted, equitably balance the interests of enthusiasts of various means of take while meeting the goal of the rules, which is to restore spawning stock biomass in the flounder fishery. No changes were made as a result of the comments.

One commenter opposed adoption and stated that there should be a one-year closure of the flounder fishery. The department disagrees with the comment and responds that a one-year closure would not be sufficient to stabilize or reverse flounder population declines. No changes were made as a result of the comment.

One commenter opposed adoption and stated that the department did not furnish any explanation of the parameters for discontinuing the proposed closure. The department agrees with the comment and responds that given the department's mission, restrictions will be eliminated when they are no longer biologically necessary. No changes were made as a result of the comment.

One commenter opposed adoption and stated that the season should be closed in alternating years until stocks are recovered. The department disagrees with the comment and responds that a complete closure in alternating years would result in unnecessary disruptions to users without providing the benefits of the rules as adopted. No changes were made as a result of the comment.

One commenter opposed adoption and stated that closures should be based on water temperature. The department disagrees with the comment and responds that the logistical challenges of monitoring water temperatures along the entirety of the Texas coast and communicating resultant closures to the public make this suggestion infeasible. No changes were made as a result of the comment.

One commenter opposed adoption and stated that there should be a two-year closure of the commercial flounder fishery. The department disagrees with the comments and responds that in addition to having a statutory duty to protect and conserve public resources, the department also has a duty to equitably distribute opportunity to various types of users, when it can be done responsibly and within the tenets of sound biological management. The department believes that rules as adopted equitably balance the interests of recreational and commercial anglers while meeting the goal of the rules, which is to restore spawning stock biomass in the flounder fishery. No changes were made as a result of the comments.

Gear

Twenty-three commenters opposed adoption and stated that gigging is responsible for flounder declines and should be limited or eliminated. The department disagrees with the comments and responds that in addition to having a statutory duty to protect and conserve public resources, the department also has a duty to equitably distribute opportunity to various types of users, when it can be done responsibly and within the tenets of sound biological management. In balancing the interests of various user groups and the methods of take used by each, the department believes that the rules as adopted will equitably distribute opportunity while meeting management goals, which are to restore spawning stock biomass in the flounder fishery. No changes were made as a result of the comments.

Fourteen commenters opposed adoption and stated that gigging should be prohibited. The department disagrees with the comments and responds that the decline in spawning stock biomass is additive with respect to all methods of take, regardless of efficiency. The department believes that such a change would exert too drastic a reduction of opportunity. In balancing the interests of various user groups and the methods of take used by each, the department believes that the rules as adopted will equitably distribute opportunity while meeting management goals. No changes were made as a result of the comments.

Ten commenters opposed adoption and stated that guided gigging parties are responsible for flounder declines and that guided gigging parties should be limited or prohibited. The department disagrees with the comment and responds that previous research indicates the hook and line fishery harvests a larger proportion of flounder. Additionally, the bag and possession limits and associated benefits to spawning stock biomass are modeled using the department's best estimates of fishing effort, fishing success, and population status. Each person who purchases a license is entitled to the bag limit of flounder prescribed by law, irrespective of who may be accompanying them. No changes were made as a result of the comments.

Six commenters opposed adoption and stated that gigging should be allowed only by wading and not from boats. The department disagrees with the comment and responds that in addition to the primary obligation of biologically protecting fisheries, the department also has an obligation to equitably distribute opportunity among user groups. The department believes that the rules as adopted equitably balance the interests of enthusiasts of various means of take while meeting the goal of the rules, which is to restore spawning stock biomass in the flounder fishery. The department also notes that impacts to the population are regulated by the bag limit, not the method of take. No changes were made as a result of the comment.

Three commenters opposed adoption and stated that gigging should be prohibited for the entire months of November and December. The department disagrees with the comments and responds that in addition to having a statutory duty to protect and conserve public resources, the department also has a duty to equitably distribute opportunity to various types of users, when it can be done responsibly and within the tenets of sound biological management. The department believes that rules as adopted equitably balance the interests of enthusiasts of various means of take while meeting the goal of the rules, which is to restore spawning stock biomass in the flounder fishery. No changes were made as a result of the comments.

Two commenters opposed adoption and stated in various ways that the rules penalize or are biased against gigging. The department disagrees with the comment and responds that in addition to the department's duty to protect and conserve the resource, it has a responsibility to equitably distribute opportunity among various user groups. Therefore, no particular user group is favored over another. The department believes that rules as adopted equitably balance the interests of recreational and commercial anglers while meeting the goal of the rules, which is to restore spawning stock biomass in the flounder fishery. No changes were made as a result of the comments.

Commercial

Eighty-four commenters opposed adoption and stated that flounder declines are the result of excessive harvest by commercial fishing operations and that commercial harvest should be curtailed or eliminated. The department disagrees and believes the rules as adopted equitably balance the interests of recreational and commercial anglers while meeting the goal of the rules, which is to restore spawning stock biomass in the flounder fishery. No changes were made as a result of the comments.

Fourteen commenters opposed adoption and stated that flounder bycatch by shrimpers is responsible for flounder declines. The department disagrees with the comments and responds that the department's shrimping license buyback program has steadily decreased the impacts of flounder bycatch by bay shrimpers over the last two decades. In order to increase spawning opportunities in light of the fishery effort trends in the inshore shrimp fishery and in the flounder fishery, the rules needed to be directed toward the directed fishery to ensure greater spawning potential. No changes were made as a result of the comments.

Six commenters opposed adoption and stated that the season should be closed for time periods varying from one to five years for commercial flounder fishing effort, bay shrimping, and oystering. The department disagrees with the comments and responds that in addition to having a statutory duty to protect and conserve public resources, the department also has a duty to equitably distribute opportunity to various types of users, when it can be done responsibly and within the tenets of sound biological management. The department believes that rules as adopted equitably balance the interests of enthusiasts of various means of take while meeting the goal of the rules, which is to restore spawning stock biomass in the flounder fishery. No changes were made as a result of the comments.

Four commenters opposed adoption and stated that the commercial bag limit should be the same as the recreational bag limit. The department disagrees with the comment and responds that in addition to having a statutory duty to protect and conserve public resources, the department also has a duty to equitably distribute opportunity to various types of users, when it can be done responsibly and within the tenets of sound biological management. The department believes that rules as adopted equitably balance the interests of recreational and commercial anglers while meeting the goal of the rules, which is to restore spawning stock biomass in the flounder fishery. No changes were made as a result of the comments.

Two commenters opposed adoption and stated that there should be an aggregate bag limit for flounder on boats used by fishing guides to provide angling opportunity for paying customers. The department agrees with the comment and responds that current rules provide that the bag limit for a guided fishing party is equal to the total number of persons in the boat licensed to fish or otherwise exempt from holding a license minus each fishing guide and fishing guide deckhand multiplied by the bag limit for each species harvested. No changes were made as a result of the comment.

One commenter opposed adoption and stated that the 30-fish per day commercial bag limit for flounder should apply to all angling activities conducted in one day by a person who holds a commercial license, including fish taken by paying customers on guided trips. The department agrees with the comment and responds that the daily bag limit for harvest by commercial license does apply to the commercial license for the entire day. No changes were made as a result of the comment.

One commenter opposed adoption and stated that the department should pay commercial fishing operators not to fish. The department disagrees with the comment. The commercial finfish license numbers are under a limited entry system, and there is a commercial license buyback in place to reduce fishing effort over the long-term. No changes were made as a result of the comment.

One commenter opposed adoption and stated that commercial licensees are allowed to keep fishing at night, when the recreational fishery is closed. The department disagrees with the comment and responds that there are no restrictions on the time of day that commercial and recreational angling may take place. No changes were made as a result of the comment.

One commenter opposed adoption and stated that the department should designate zones where commercial activity is prohibited in order to protect spawning fish. The department disagrees with the comment and responds that flounder do not spawn in a single place at a single time, or even in a few places at a single time, or in known places at known times; they spawn in many locations at unpredictable times, making it problematic for a zone system to be effective. No changes were made as a result of the comment.

Enforcement

Fifteen commenters opposed adoption and stated that enforcement of existing regulations is insufficient, leading to "double bagging" and retention of undersized fish. The department disagrees with the comment and responds that regulations are obeyed by the vast majority of users, that unscrupulous persons who disregard the law do so consciously, and that when such persons are detected by department enforcement personnel, they are cited and prosecuted. No changes were made as a result of the comments.

Data

Thirty-one commenters opposed adoption and stated in various ways that flounder are plentiful. The department disagrees with the comments and responds that all scientific indices available to the department from both resource dependent and harvest dependent monitoring programs show flounder populations are experiencing a continued long-term declining trend. No changes were made as a result of the comments.

Eight commenters opposed adoption and stated that the department's data is flawed but offered no specific critique of methodology or design. The department disagrees with the comments and responds that the department's data collection efforts are robust, long-term, and scientifically valid. No changes were made as a result of the comments.

One commenter opposed adoption and stated that the department was not transparent with the data used to formulate the proposal. The department disagrees with the comment and responds that not only was the department transparent with data presentations at meetings prior to the rule proposals and public hearings to discuss the rule proposals, the department also made the data available to any requestor. No changes were made as a result of the comment.

One commenter opposed adoption and stated that there was no data to support the department's proposal. The department disagrees with the comment and responds that there is more than ample data to support the department's management decisions regarding flounder. The department was transparent with data presentations at meetings prior to the rule proposals and public hearings regarding the rule proposals, and the department also made the data available to any requestor. No changes were made as a result of the comment.

One commenter opposed adoption and stated that the department should get data from fishermen, not organizations. The department disagrees with the commenter and responds that the department relies upon resource dependent and harvest dependent datasets generated by scientifically valid methodologies to determine fisheries management decisions, not upon anecdotal information or opinion, regardless of the source. No changes were made as a result of the comment.

One commenter opposed adoption and stated that the department's data was incomplete. The commenter offered no further explanation. The department disagrees with the comment and responds that department data is more than sufficient for purposes of informing flounder management strategies. No changes were made as a result of the comment.

Two commenters opposed adoption and stated that the department's sampling efforts are not aimed specifically at flounder and such sampling as it relates to flounder is therefore accidental. The department disagrees with the comment and responds that the department's resource monitoring program has collected fishery independent data for over 40 years and that it provides a standardized, consistent view of the populations of coastal species. The department employs various types of sampling including gill nets, bag seines, and trawls to collect data on the relative abundance, size, and distribution of various life stages of a wide range of species of finfish in Texas coastal waters. Although gear types used for the resource monitoring program may not be specifically designed for capturing only flounder, their efficiency at landing flounder has remained constant through time. These data show a large, long-term relative decline in flounder populations. No changes were made as a result of the comments.

One commenter opposed adoption and stated that the department does not conduct angler surveys on flounder fishermen and flounder guides returning at night. The department agrees that the department does not conduct angler surveys on flounder fishermen and flounder guides returning at night, but the department collects mandatory commercial landings data that includes all landings, including fish landed at night. The department is confident that the current efforts effectively monitor trends in commercial and recreational flounder landings over time. Additionally, TPWD has collected fishery independent data for over 40 years that provides a standardized, consistent view of the populations of coastal species. No changes were made as a result of the comment.

One commenter opposed adoption and stated that the department's gill net surveys should be run parallel to the shore, not perpendicular, so it intercepts flounder going to and from the shore. The department disagrees with the comment and responds that setting gill nets perpendicular to the shoreline ensures a higher encounter rate because it is also perpendicular to the along-shore current and spans a broader depth zone than parallel sets. No changes were made as a result of the comment.

One commenter opposed adoption and stated that more studies are needed. The department disagrees with the comment and responds that department survey and sampling efforts are robust, continuous, and scientifically valid, and the long-term data trends indicate an unmistakable population decline in flounder abundance. No changes were made as a result of the comment.

Miscellaneous

Seven commenters opposed adoption and stated that once regulations are in place they are never removed. The department disagrees with the comments and responds that the department does not maintain unnecessary regulations. No changes were made as a result of the comments.

Five commenters opposed adoption and stated that there should be a "sunset" provision in the rules. The department disagrees with the comments and responds that a sunset provision is unnecessary because the regulations are based on the biology of the fishery; if circumstances justify changing opportunity, the department will do so. No changes were made as a result of the comments.

Four commenters opposed adoption and stated that nature should be left alone. The department disagrees that doing nothing does not benefit natural systems and populations in the face of demonstrable human-caused negative impacts. No changes were made as a result of the comments.

Four commenters opposed adoption and stated in some manner that state regulations make it difficult to feed a family. The department disagrees with the comments and responds that the department regulates fisheries to ensure the sustainability of the resource for public use and enjoyment as well as to adopt rules when needed that equitably balance the interests of recreational and commercial anglers while meeting the goal of the rules. No changes were made as a result of the comments.

Three commenters opposed adoption and stated that rules keep getting more restrictive. The department disagrees with the comment and responds that regulations are necessary to protect resources, especially those experiencing significant population declines. No changes were made as a result of the comments.

Three commenters opposed adoption and stated that the department is taking away rights. The department disagrees with the comments and responds that fisheries resources are the property of the people of the state and the public has a right to enjoy the pursuit of those resources, but only under the laws established to protect and conserve the resource for the enjoyment of present and future generations. No changes were made as a result of the comments.

Three commenters opposed adoption and stated that the department shouldn't eliminate a tradition. The department disagrees that the rules would eliminate a tradition and notes that tradition cannot supersede prudent and conscientious scientific management of a public resource. No changes were made as a result of the comment.

Two commenters opposed adoption and stated that the rules will have negative economic impact on businesses and communities. The department disagrees that the regulations themselves have any direct impact on local economies or communities. No changes were made as a result of the comments.

Two commenters opposed adoption and commented about the effectiveness of regulation, with one commenter stating that if regulations worked there would be more flounder and another that if the current regulations aren't effective, additional regulations won't be effective, either. The department disagrees with the comments and responds that the department has a statutory duty to protect and conserve flounder and that population declines would be much more pronounced in the absence of regulations. No changes were made as a result of the comment.

Two commenters opposed adoption and stated that the rules should be the same in waters shared with Louisiana. The department disagrees with the comments and responds that the department will implement resource management decisions in the best interests of the citizens of Texas. No changes were made as a result of the comments.

Two commenters opposed adoption and stated that the department stocks too many redfish that are eating flounder. The department disagrees with the comments and responds that previous research effort conducted by the department indicate redfish predation is not a significant component of overall flounder population declines. No changes were made as a result of the comments.

One commenter opposed adoption and stated that fees should be increased to fund stocking efforts. The department disagrees with the comment and responds that flounder declines cannot be reversed by stocking efforts alone. No changes were made as a result of the comment.

One commenter opposed adoption and stated that a person has the right to catch fish for food at any time. The department disagrees with the comment and responds that fish in public water are the property of the people of the state. The commission is charged by statute with establishing regulations governing the take of fish to ensure sustainable populations, and persons who violate those regulations commit a criminal act. No changes were made as a result of the comment.

One commenter opposed adoption and stated that the department has no right to interfere with a person's god-given right to fish. The department disagrees with the comment and responds that it has a statutory duty to protect and conserve public resources. No changes were made as a result of the comment.

One commenter opposed adoption and stated that "the state is taking our fish." The department disagrees with the comment and responds that fish in public waters are the property of the people of the state that are managed by the department on behalf of the people under a statutory duty to protect and conserve public resources. No changes were made as a result of the comment.

One commenter opposed adoption and stated that "a public resource should never be closed, the state wants more money, and the gulf should not be regulated." The department disagrees with the comment and responds that there is ample historic evidence that failure to adequately regulate the exploitation of public resources inevitably results in over harvest and population declines. There is no connection between department revenue and the rules as adopted. No changes were made as a result of the comment.

One commenter opposed adoption and stated the department's proposal is tyranny. The department disagrees with the comment and responds that the rules as adopted were duly promulgated in accordance with the department's statutory authority and applicable statutory law and due process. No changes were made as a result of the comment.

One commenter opposed adoption and stated that public resource should not be exploited for profit. The department conditionally disagrees with the comment and responds that commercial exploitation of a public resource is acceptable provided there is not statutory prohibition of such exploitation and there is no danger of harm to the resource. No changes were made as a result of the comment.

One commenter opposed adoption and stated that Texas should follow Louisiana fishing regulations. The department disagrees with the comment and responds that the department will implement resource management decisions in the best interests of the citizens of Texas. No changes were made as a result of the comment.

One commenter opposed adoption and stated that people will just buy a Louisiana license and take up to 10 fish per day fishing the exact same waters. The department disagrees with the comment and responds that possession of fish taken in Texas waters in excess of Texas bag and possession limits is a criminal offense. No changes were made as a result of the comment.

One commenter opposed adoption and stated that the department should create a boat permit for guides who take customers to catch flounder and use the revenue to pay for additional law enforcement. The department disagrees with the comment and responds that there is no statutory authority for such a permit. No changes were made as a result of the comment.

One commenter opposed adoption and stated that there is no reason to fish any more. The department disagrees with the comment and responds that there are many species other than flounder that can be enjoyed. No changes were made as a result of the comment.

One commenter opposed adoption and stated that pollution causes flounder declines. The department disagrees that pollution alone is the causal factor or even a significant contributor to documented declines in flounder populations. No changes were made as a result of the comment.

One commenter opposed adoption and stated that once closure occurs it will never be rescinded. The department disagrees with the comment and responds that if the biological conditions necessitating the closure are eliminated, there would be cause to eliminate the closure in response. No changes were made as a result of the comment.

Two commenters opposed adoption and stated that hook and line angling does not affect flounder populations. The department disagrees with the comment and responds that all methods of take exert an effect on populations, particularly those species that are concentrated during migration behaviors, and impacts from various gear types are additive. No changes were made as a result of the comments.

One commenter opposed adoption and stated that seasonal abnormal weather is the cause of flounder population declines. The department disagrees with the comment and responds that flounder populations have exhibited a declining trend for decades, which is not related to the occasional drought, hurricane, or other specific weather event. No changes were made as a result of the comment.

Commercial Reporting

One commenter opposed adoption and stated that guides should be required to participate in the department's trip ticket reporting program. The department disagrees with the comment. The trip-ticket program is a mandatory reporting system for commercial fishery licenses. No changes were made as a result of the comment.

Paddle Craft Guide Rules

Two hundred eight-five commenters expressed support for adoption of the rules as proposed. One hundred seventeen commenters expressed opposition to adoption of the rules as proposed either in general or to certain portions, with some commenters expressing more than one area of opposition.

Eight commenters opposed adoption and stated that people should not be required to obtain a guide license, take a course, or be certified in order to go paddling or to fish from paddle craft. The department agrees with the comments and responds that the rules do not apply to all paddle craft, just to those used by fishing guides. No changes were made as a result of the comments.

One commenter opposed adoption and stated that there is nothing wrong with the current rule and additional burdens will not yield results. The department disagrees with the comment and responds that because the rule change is non-substantive, there is no additional burden. No changes were made as a result of the comment.

One commenter opposed adoption and stated that there are too many permits and licenses and it is too hard to own a boat. The department disagrees with the comment and responds that the rule in question applies to the use of paddle craft by fishing guides and does not apply to boats. No changes were made as a result of the comment.

One commenter opposed adoption and stated that the rule will affect access to water and negatively impact kayak guides by forcing clients to obtain licenses. The department disagrees with the comment and responds that the rule does not affect access to the water or the clients of kayak guides. No changes were made as a result of the comment.

One commenter opposed adoption and stated that if paddle craft licenses are required, power boat licenses should be required. The department disagrees with the comment and responds that the rule affects only fishing guides who use paddle craft. No changes were made as a result of the comment.

One commenter opposed adoption and stated that paddle craft should be prohibited in coastal waters. The department disagrees with the comment and responds that rule is related to training requirements for fishing guides who use paddle craft. No changes were made as a result of the comment.

One commenter opposed adoption and stated that there should be no course requirements for paddle craft guides. The department disagrees with the comment and responds that the course provides paddle craft guides with training to address critical safety issues unique to the operation of paddle craft. No changes were made as a result of the comment.

One commenter opposed adoption and stated that additional fees are not acceptable. The department disagrees that the rule imposes a fee on any person. No changes were made as a result of the comment.

One commenter opposed adoption and stated that courses will not change behavior, but enforcement will. The department disagrees with the comment and responds that rule affects only the requirements for licensure of fishing guides who use paddle craft. No changes were made as a result of the comment.

One commenter opposed adoption and stated that the rule is pointless. The department disagrees with the comment and responds that the training courses referenced in the current rule no longer exist and the department seeks to use a generic reference to avoid having to engage in rulemaking each time a course is discontinued or renamed. No changes were made as a result of the comment.

One commenter opposed adoption and stated that "certain age groups should be grandfathered." The department disagrees with the comment and responds that there is no justification for exempting classes of individuals based on age. No changes were made as a result of the comment.

One commenter opposed adoption and stated that the requirements should be left as is because they are effective. The department disagrees with the comment but does agree the rules are effective. The rule is simply ensuring the requirements of the current rule can still be maintained through a shift to more generic references to appropriate courses. No changes were made as a result of the comment.

One commenter opposed adoption and stated that licenses should be abolished. The department neither agrees nor disagrees with the comment and responds that in this case, the paddling guide license is required by statute and that requirement cannot be eliminated by the commission. No changes were made as a result of the comment.

DIVISION 1. GENERAL PROVISIONS

31 TAC §57.973

Statutory Authority

The amendment is adopted under the authority of Parks and Wildlife Code, Chapter 61, which requires the commission to regulate the periods of time when it is lawful to hunt, take, or possess aquatic animal life in this state; the means, methods, and places in which it is lawful to take, or possess aquatic animal life in this state; the species, quantity, age or size, and, to the extent possible, the sex of the aquatic animal life authorized to be taken or possessed; and the region, county, area, body of water, or portion of a county where aquatic animal life may be taken or possessed.

The agency certifies that legal counsel has reviewed the adoption and found it to be a valid exercise of the agency's legal authority.

Filed with the Office of the Secretary of State on July 31, 2020.

TRD-202003104

Colette Barron-Bradsby

Acting General Counsel

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

Effective date: September 1, 2020

Proposal publication date: February 21, 2020

For further information, please call: (512) 389-4775


DIVISION 2. STATEWIDE RECREATIONAL FISHING PROCLAMATION

31 TAC §57.981

The amendment is adopted under the authority of Parks and Wildlife Code, Chapter 61, which requires the commission to regulate the periods of time when it is lawful to hunt, take, or possess aquatic animal life in this state; the means, methods, and places in which it is lawful to take, or possess aquatic animal life in this state; the species, quantity, age or size, and, to the extent possible, the sex of the aquatic animal life authorized to be taken or possessed; and the region, county, area, body of water, or portion of a county where aquatic animal life may be taken or possessed.

§57.981.Bag, Possession, and Length Limits.

(a) For all wildlife resources taken for personal consumption and for which there is a possession limit, the possession limit shall not apply after the wildlife resource has reached the possessor's residence and is finally processed.

(b) The possession limit does not apply to fish in the possession of or stored by a person who has an invoice or sales ticket showing the name and address of the seller, number of fish by species, date of the sale, and other information required on a sales ticket or invoice.

(c) There are no bag, possession, or length limits on game or non-game fish, except as provided in this subchapter.

(1) Possession limits are twice the daily bag limit on game and non-game fish except as otherwise provided in this subchapter.

(2) For flounder, the possession limit is the dailybag limit.

(3) The bag limit for a guided fishing party is equal to the total number of persons in the boat licensed to fish or otherwise exempt from holding a license minus each fishing guide and fishing guide deckhand multiplied by the bag limit for each species harvested.

(4) A person may give, leave, receive, or possess any species of legally taken wildlife resource, or a part of the resource, that is required to have a tag or permit attached or is protected by a bag or possession limit, if the wildlife resource is accompanied by a wildlife resource document (WRD) from the person who took the wildlife resource, provided the person is in compliance with all other applicable provisions of this subchapter and the Parks and Wildlife Code. The properly executed WRD document shall accompany the wildlife resource until it reaches the possessor's residence and is finally processed. The WRD must contain the following information:

(A) the name, signature, address, and fishing license number, as required of the person who killed or caught the wildlife resource;

(B) the name of the person receiving the wildlife resource;

(C) a description of the wildlife resource (number and type of species or parts); and

(D) the location where the wildlife resource was killed or caught (name of ranch; area; lake, bay or stream; and county).

(5) Except as provided in subsection (d) of this section, the statewide daily bag and length limits shall be as follows.

(A) Amberjack, greater.

(i) Daily bag limit: 1.

(ii) Minimum length limit: 38 inches.

(iii) Maximum length limit: No limit.

(B) Bass:

(i) The daily bag limit for largemouth, smallmouth, spotted, Alabama, and Guadalupe is 5, in any combination.

(ii) Alabama, Guadalupe, and spotted.

(I) No minimum length limit.

(II) No maximum length limit.

(iii) Largemouth and smallmouth.

(I) Minimum length limit: 14 inches.

(II) No maximum length limit.

(iv) Striped (including hybrids and subspecies).

(I) Daily bag limit: 5 (in any combination).

(II) Minimum length limit: 18 inches.

(III) No maximum length limit.

(v) White.

(I) Daily bag limit: 25.

(II) Minimum length limit: 10 inches.

(III) No maximum length limit.

(C) Catfish:

(i) channel and blue (including hybrids and subspecies).

(I) Daily bag limit: 25 (in any combination).

(II) Minimum length limit: 12 inches.

(III) No maximum length limit.

(ii) flathead.

(I) Daily bag limit: 5.

(II) Minimum length limit: 18 inches.

(III) No maximum length limit.

(iii) gafftopsail.

(I) No daily bag limit.

(II) Minimum length limit: 14 inches.

(III) No maximum length limit.

(D) Cobia.

(i) Daily bag limit: 2.

(ii) Minimum length limit: 40 inches.

(iii) No maximum length limit.

(E) Crappie, black and white (including hybrids and subspecies).

(i) Daily bag limit: 25.

(ii) Minimum length limit: 10 inches.

(iii) No maximum length limit.

(F) Drum, black.

(i) Daily bag limit: 5.

(ii) Minimum length limit: 14 inches.

(iii) Maximum length limit: 30 inches.

(iv) One black drum over 52 inches may be retained per day as part of the five-fish bag limit.

(G) Drum, red.

(i) Daily bag limit: 3.

(ii) Minimum length limit: 20 inches.

(iii) Maximum length limit: 28 inches.

(iv) During a license year, one red drum over the stated maximum length limit may be retained when affixed with a properly executed Red Drum Tag, a properly executed Exempt Red Drum Tag or with a properly executed Duplicate Exempt Red Drum Tag and one red drum over the stated maximum length limit may be retained when affixed with a properly executed Bonus Red Drum Tag. Any fish retained under authority of a Red Drum Tag, an Exempt Red Drum Tag, a Duplicate Exempt Red Drum Tag, or a Bonus Red Drum Tag may be retained in addition to the daily bag and possession limit as stated in this section.

(H) Flounder: all species (including hybrids and subspecies).

(i) (No change.)

(ii) Minimum length limit: 15 inches.

(iii) (No change.)

(iv) During November, lawful means are restricted to pole-and-line only and the bag and possession limit for flounder is two. For the first 14 days in December, the bag and possession limit is two, and flounder may be taken by any legal means. On September 1, 2021, the provisions of this clause cease effect.

(v) Beginning September 1, 2021, the season for flounder is closed from November 1 through December 14 every year.

(I) Gar, alligator.

(i) Daily bag limit: 1.

(ii) No minimum length limit.

(iii) No maximum length limit.

(iv) During May, no person shall fish for, take, or seek to take alligator gar in that portion of Lake Texoma encompassed within the boundaries of the Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge or that portion of Lake Texoma from the U.S. 377 bridge (Willis Bridge) upstream to the I.H. 35 bridge.

(v) Any person who takes an alligator gar in the public waters of this state other than Falcon International Reservoir shall report the harvest via the department's website or mobile application within 24 hours of take.

(vi) Between one half-hour after sunset and one half-hour before sunrise, any lawful means other than lawful archery equipment and crossbow may be used to take an alligator gar in the portion of the Trinity River described in subsection (d)(1)(L)(ii) of this section, except for persons selected for opportunity as provided in §57.972(j) of this title (relating to General Provisions).

(vii) Except for persons selected for opportunity as provided in §57.972(j) of this title, no person in the portion of the Trinity River described in subsection (d)(1)(L)(ii) of this section may take an alligator gar by means of lawful archery equipment or crossbow between one half-hour after sunset and one half-hour before sunrise, or possess an alligator gar taken by means of lawful archery equipment or crossbow between one half-hour after sunset and one half-hour before sunrise.

(J) Grouper.

(i) Black.

(I) Daily bag limit: 4.

(II) Minimum length limit: 24 inches.

(III) No maximum length limit.

(ii) Gag.

(I) Daily bag limit: 2.

(II) Minimum length limit: 24 inches.

(III) No maximum length limit.

(iii) Goliath. The take of Goliath grouper is prohibited.

(iv) Nassau. The take of Nassau grouper is prohibited.

(K) Mackerel.

(i) King.

(I) Daily bag limit: 3.

(II) Minimum length limit: 27 inches.

(III) No maximum length limit.

(ii) Spanish.

(I) Daily bag limit: 15.

(II) Minimum length limit: 14 inches.

(III) No maximum length limit.

(L) Marlin.

(i) Blue.

(I) No daily bag limit.

(II) Minimum length limit: 131 inches.

(III) No maximum length limit.

(ii) White.

(I) No daily bag limit.

(II) Minimum length limit: 86 inches.

(III) No maximum length limit.

(M) Mullet: all species (including hybrids, and subspecies).

(i) No daily bag limit.

(ii) No minimum length limit.

(iii) From October through January, no mullet more than 12 inches in length may be taken from public waters or possessed on board a vessel.

(N) Sailfish.

(i) No daily bag limit.

(ii) Minimum length limit: 84 inches.

(iii) No maximum length limit.

(O) Seatrout, spotted.

(i) Daily bag limit: 5.

(ii) Minimum length limit: 15 inches.

(iii) Maximum length limit: 25 inches.

(iv) Only one spotted seatrout greater than 25 inches may be retained per day. A spotted seatrout retained under this subclause counts as part of the daily bag and possession limit.

(P) Shark: all species (including hybrids and subspecies).

(i) all species other than the species listed in clauses (ii) - (iv) of this subparagraph:

(I) Daily bag limit: 1.

(II) Minimum length limit: 64 inches.

(III) No maximum length limit.

(ii) Atlantic sharpnose, blacktip, and bonnethead:

(I) Daily bag limit: 1.

(II) Minimum length limit: 24 inches.

(III) No maximum length limit.

(iii) great, scalloped, and smooth hammerhead:

(I) Daily bag limit: 1.

(II) Minimum length limit: 99 inches.

(III) No maximum length limit.

(iv) The take of the following species of sharks from the waters of this state is prohibited and they may not be possessed on board a vessel at any time:

(I) Atlantic angel;

(II) Basking;

(III) Bigeye sand tiger;

(IV) Bigeye sixgill;

(V) Bigeye thresher;

(VI) Bignose;

(VII) Caribbean reef;

(VIII) Caribbean sharpnose;

(IX) Dusky;

(X) Galapagos;

(XI) Longfin mako;

(XII) Narrowtooth;

(XIII) Night;

(XIV) Sandbar;

(XV) Sand tiger;

(XVI) Sevengill;

(XVII) Silky;

(XVIII) Sixgill;

(XIX) Smalltail;

(XX) Whale; and

(XXI) White.

(v) Except for the species listed in clause (ii) - (iv) of this subparagraph, sharks may be taken using pole and line, but must be taken by non-offset, non-stainless-steel circle hook when using natural bait.

(Q) Sheepshead.

(i) Daily bag limit: 5.

(ii) Minimum length limit: 15 inches.

(iii) No maximum length limit.

(R) Snapper.

(i) Lane.

(I) Daily bag limit: None.

(II) Minimum length limit: 8 inches.

(III) No maximum length limit.

(ii) Red.

(I) Daily bag limit: 4.

(II) Minimum length limit: 15 inches.

(III) No maximum length limit.

(IV) Red snapper may be taken using pole and line, but it is unlawful to use any kind of hook other than a circle hook baited with natural bait.

(iii) Vermilion.

(I) Daily bag limit: None.

(II) Minimum length limit: 10 inches.

(III) No maximum length limit.

(S) Snook.

(i) Daily bag limit: 1.

(ii) Minimum length limit: 24 inches.

(iii) Maximum length limit: 28 inches.

(T) Tarpon.

(i) Daily bag limit: 1.

(ii) Minimum length limit: 85 inches.

(iii) No maximum length limit.

(U) Triggerfish, gray.

(i) Daily bag limit: 20.

(ii) Minimum length limit: 16 inches.

(iii) No maximum length limit.

(V) Tripletail.

(i) Daily bag limit: 3.

(ii) Minimum length limit: 17 inches.

(iii) No maximum length limit.

(W) Trout (rainbow and brown trout, including their hybrids and subspecies).

(i) Daily bag limit: 5 (in any combination).

(ii) No minimum length limit.

(iii) No maximum length limit.

(X) Walleye and Saugeye.

(i) Daily bag limit: 5.

(ii) No minimum length limit.

(iii) No maximum length limit.

(iv) Two walleye or saugeye of less than 16 inches may be retained.

(d) Exceptions to statewide daily bag, possession, and length limits shall be as follows:

(1) Freshwater species.

(A) Bass: largemouth, smallmouth, spotted, and Guadalupe (including their hybrids and subspecies). Devils River (Val Verde County) from State Highway 163 bridge crossing (Bakers Crossing) to the confluence with Big Satan Creek including all tributaries within these boundaries and all waters in the Lost Maples State Natural Area (Bandera County).

(i) Daily bag limit: 0.

(ii) No minimum length limit.

(iii) Catch and release only.

(B) Bass: largemouth and spotted.

(i) Caddo Lake (Marion and Harrison counties).

(I) Daily bag limit: 8 (in any combination with spotted bass).

(II) Minimum length limit: 14 - 18 inch slot limit (largemouth bass); no limit for spotted bass.

(III) It is unlawful to retain largemouth bass between 14 and 18 inches. No more than 4 largemouth bass 18 inches or longer may be retained. Possession limit is 10.

(ii) Toledo Bend Reservoir (Newton, Sabine, and Shelby counties).

(I) Daily bag limit: 8 (in any combination with spotted bass).

(II) Minimum length limit: 14 inches (largemouth bass); no limit for spotted bass. Possession limit is 10.

(iii) Sabine River (Newton and Orange counties) from Toledo Bend dam to a line across Sabine Pass between Texas Point and Louisiana Point.

(I) Daily bag limit: 8 (in any combination with spotted bass).

(II) Minimum length limit: 12 inches (largemouth bass); no limit for spotted bass. Possession limit is 10.

(C) Bass: largemouth.

(i) Chambers, Hardin, Galveston, Jefferson, Liberty (south of U.S. Highway 90), Newton (excluding Toledo Bend Reservoir), and Orange counties including any public waters that form boundaries with adjacent counties.

(I) Daily bag limit: 5.

(II) Minimum length limit: 12 inches.

(ii) Lake Conroe (Montgomery and Walker counties).

(I) Daily bag limit: 5.

(II) Minimum length limit: 16 inches.

(iii) Lakes Bellwood (Smith County), Davy Crockett (Fannin County), Kurth (Angelina County), Mill Creek (Van Zandt County), Moss (Cooke), Nacogdoches (Nacogdoches County), Naconiche (Nacogdoches County), Purtis Creek State Park (Henderson and Van Zandt counties), and Raven (Walker).

(I) Daily bag limit: 5.

(II) Minimum length limit: 12 inches.

(iv) Lakes Bright (Williamson County), Casa Blanca (Webb County), Cleburne State Park (Johnson County), Fairfield (Freestone County), Gilmer (Upshur County), Marine Creek Reservoir (Tarrant County), Meridian State Park (Bosque County), Pflugerville (Travis County), Rusk State Park (Cherokee County), and Welsh (Titus County).

(I) Daily bag limit: 5.

(II) Minimum length limit: 18 inches.

(v) Bedford Boys Ranch Lake (Tarrant County), Buck Lake (Kimble County), Lake Kyle (Hays County), and Nelson Park Lake (Taylor County).

(I) Daily bag limit: 0.

(II) Minimum length limit: No limit.

(III) Catch and release only.

(vi) Lakes Alan Henry (Garza County), Grapevine (Denton and Tarrant counties), Jacksonville (Cherokee County), and O.H. Ivie Reservoir (Coleman, Concho, and Runnels counties).

(I) Daily bag limit: 5.

(II) Minimum length limit: No limit.

(III) It is unlawful to retain more than two bass of less than 18 inches in length.

(vii) Nasworthy (Tom Green).

(I) Daily bag limit: 5.

(II) Minimum length limit: 14 - 18 inch slot limit.

(III) It is unlawful to retain largemouth bass between 14 and 18 inches in length.

(viii) Lakes Athens (Henderson County), Bastrop (Bastrop County), Buescher State Park (Bastrop County), Houston County (Houston County), Joe Pool (Dallas, Ellis, and Tarrant counties), Lady Bird (Travis County), Murvaul (Panola County), Pinkston (Shelby County), Timpson (Shelby County), Walter E. Long (Travis County), and Wheeler Branch (Somervell County).

(I) Daily bag limit: 5.

(II) Minimum length limit: 14 - 21 inch slot limit.

(III) It is unlawful to retain largemouth bass between 14 and 21 inches in length. No more than 1 bass 21 inches or greater in length may be retained each day.

(ix) Lakes Fayette County (Fayette County), Fork (Wood Rains and Hopkins counties), Gibbons Creek Reservoir (Grimes County), and Monticello (Titus County).

(I) Daily bag limit: 5.

(II) Minimum length limit: 16 - 24 inch slot limit.

(III) It is unlawful to retain largemouth bass between 16 and 24 inches in length. No more than 1 bass 24 inches or greater in length may be retained each day.

(x) Lake Lakewood (Williamson County).

(I) Daily bag limit: 3.

(II) Minimum length limit: 18 inches.

(D) Bass: striped and white bass their hybrids and subspecies.

(i) Sabine River (Newton and Orange counties) from Toledo Bend dam to I.H. 10 bridge and Toledo Bend Reservoir (Newton, Sabine, and Shelby counties).

(I) Daily bag limit: 5.

(II) Minimum length limit: No limit.

(III) No more than 2 striped bass 30 inches or greater in length may be retained each day.

(ii) Lake Texoma (Cooke and Grayson counties).

(I) Daily bag limit: 10 (in any combination).

(II) Minimum length limit: No limit.

(III) No more than 2 striped or hybrid striped bass 20 inches or greater in length may be retained each day. Striped or hybrid striped bass caught and placed on a stringer in a live well or any other holding device become part of the daily bag limit and may not be released. Possession limit is 20.

(iii) Red River (Grayson County) from Denison Dam downstream to and including Shawnee Creek (Grayson County).

(I) Daily bag limit: 5 (in any combination).

(II) Minimum length limit: No limit.

(III) Striped bass caught and placed on a stringer in a live well or any other holding device become part of the daily bag limit and may not be released.

(iv) Trinity River (Polk and San Jacinto counties) from the Lake Livingston dam downstream to the F.M. 3278 bridge.

(I) Daily bag limit: 2 (in any combination).

(II) Minimum length limit: 18 inches.

(E) Bass: white. Lakes Caddo (Harrison and Marion counties), Texoma (Cooke and Grayson counties), and Toledo Bend (Newton Sabine and Shelby counties) and Sabine River (Newton and Orange counties) from Toledo Bend dam to I.H. 10 bridge.

(i) Daily bag limit: 25.

(ii) Minimum length limit: No limit.

(F) Carp: common. Lady Bird Lake (Travis County).

(i) Daily bag limit: No limit.

(ii) Minimum length limit: No limit.

(iii) It is unlawful to retain more than one common carp of 33 inches or longer per day.

(G) Catfish: blue. Lakes Lewisville (Denton County), Richland-Chambers (Freestone and Navarro counties), and Waco (McLennan County).

(i) Daily bag limit: 25 (in any combination with channel catfish).

(ii) Minimum length limit: 30-45-inch slot limit.

(iii) It is unlawful to retain blue catfish between 30 and 45 inches in length. No more than one blue catfish 45 inches or greater in length may be retained each day.

(H) Catfish: channel and blue catfish, their hybrids and subspecies.

(i) Lake Kyle (Hays County).

(I) Daily bag limit: 0.

(II) Minimum length limit: No limit.

(III) Catch and release and only.

(ii) Lake Livingston (Polk, San Jacinto, Trinity, and Walker counties).

(I) Daily bag limit: 50 (in any combination).

(II) Minimum length limit: 12 inches.

(iii) Trinity River (Polk and San Jacinto counties) from the Lake Livingston dam downstream to the F.M. 3278 bridge.

(I) Daily bag limit: 10 (in any combination).

(II) Minimum length limit: 12 inches.

(III) No more than 2 channel or blue catfish 24 inches or greater in length may be retained each day.

(iv) Lakes Kirby (Taylor County) and Palestine (Cherokee, Anderson, Henderson, and Smith counties).

(I) Daily bag limit: 50 (in any combination).

(II) Minimum length limit: No limit.

(III) No more than five catfish 20 inches or greater in length may be retained each day.

(IV) Possession limit is 50.

(v) Lakes Caddo (Harrison and Marion counties) and Toledo Bend (Newton Sabine and Shelby counties) and the Sabine River (Newton and Orange counties) from Toledo Bend dam to the I.H. 10 bridge.

(I) Daily bag limit: 50 (in any combination).

(II) Minimum length limit: No limit.

(III) No more than five catfish 30 inches or greater in length may be retained each day.

(IV) Possession limit is 50.

(vi) Lake Texoma (Cooke and Grayson counties) and the Red River (Grayson County) from Denison Dam to and including Shawnee Creek (Grayson County).

(I) Daily bag limit: 15 (in any combination). (II) Minimum length limit: No limit

(III) No more than one blue catfish 30 inches or greater in length may be retained each day.

(vii) Brushy Creek (Williamson County) from the Brushy Creek Reservoir dam downstream to the Williamson/Milam county line, Canyon Lake Project #6 (Lubbock County), North Concho River (Tom Green County) from O.C. Fisher Dam to Bell Street Dam, and South Concho River (Tom Green County) from Lone Wolf Dam to Bell Street Dam.

(I) Daily bag limit: 5 (in any combination).

(II) Minimum length limit: No limit.

(viii) Community fishing lakes.

(I) Daily bag limit: 5 (in any combination).

(II) Minimum length limit: No limit.

(ix) Bellwood (Smith County), Dixieland (Cameron County), and Tankersley (Titus County).

(I) Daily bag limit: 5 (in any combination).

(II) Minimum length limit: 12 inches.

(x) Lake Tawakoni (Hunt, Rains, and Van Zandt counties).

(I) Daily bag limit: 25 (in any combination).

(II) Minimum length limit: No limit.

(III) No more than seven blue or channel catfish 20 inches or greater may be retained each day, and of these, no more than two can be 30 inches or greater in length.

(I) Catfish: flathead.

(i) Lake Texoma (Cooke and Grayson counties) and the Red River (Grayson County) from Denison Dam to and including Shawnee Creek (Grayson County).

(I) Daily bag limit: 5.

(II) Minimum length limit: No limit

(ii) Lakes Caddo (Harrison and Marion counties) and Toledo Bend (Newton, Sabine, and Shelby) and the Sabine River (Newton and Orange counties) from Toledo Bend dam to the I.H. 10 bridge.

(I) Daily bag limit: 10.

(II) Minimum length limit: 18 inches.

(III) Possession limit: 10.

(J) Crappie: black and white crappie their hybrids and subspecies.

(i) Caddo Lake (Harrison and Marion counties), Toledo Bend Reservoir (Newton Sabine and Shelby counties), and the Sabine River (Newton and Orange counties) from Toledo Bend dam to the I.H. 10 bridge.

(I) Daily bag limit: 25 (in any combination).

(II) Minimum length limit: No limit.

(ii) Lake Fork (Wood, Rains, and Hopkins counties) and Lake O' The Pines (Camp, Harrison, Marion, Morris, and Upshur counties).

(I) Daily bag limit: 25 (in any combination).

(II) Minimum length limit: 10 inches.

(III) From December 1 through the last day in February there is no minimum length limit. All crappie caught during this period must be retained.

(iii) Lake Texoma (Cooke and Grayson counties).

(I) Daily bag limit: 37 (in any combination).

(II) Minimum length limit: 10 inches.

(III) Possession limit is 50.

(iv) Lake Nasworthy (Tom Green County).

(I) Daily bag limit: 25 (in any combination).

(II) Minimum length limit: No limit.

(III) Possession limit is 50.

(K) Drum, red. Lakes Braunig and Calaveras (Bexar County), Coleto Creek Reservoir (Goliad and Victoria counties), and Fairfield (Freestone County).

(i) Daily bag limit: 3.

(ii) Minimum length limit: 20.

(iii) No maximum length limit.

(L) Gar, alligator.

(i) Falcon International Reservoir (Starr and Zapata counties).

(I) Daily bag limit: 5.

(II) No minimum length limit.

(III) No maximum length limit.

(ii) On the Trinity River and all tributary waters from the I-30 bridge in Dallas County downstream through Anderson, Ellis, Freestone, Henderson, Houston, Kaufman, Leon, Liberty, Madison, Navarro, Polk, San Jacinto, Trinity, and Walker counties to the I-10 bridge in Chambers County, including the East Fork of the Trinity River and all tributaries upstream to the Lake Ray Hubbard dam, the maximum length limit is 48 inches, except for persons selected by a department-administered drawing authorizing the take of a gar in excess of 48 inches in length.

(iii) During May, no person shall fish for, take, or seek to take alligator gar in that portion of Lake Texoma encompassed within the boundaries of the Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge or that portion of Lake Texoma from the U.S. 377 bridge (Willis Bridge) upstream to the I.H. 35 bridge.

(M) Shad gizzard and threadfin. Trinity River below Lake Livingston (Polk and San Jacinto counties).

(i) Daily bag limit: 500 (in any combination).

(ii) No minimum length limit.

(iii) Possession limit: 1000 (in any combination).

(N) Sunfish: all species. Lake Kyle (Hays County).

(i) Daily bag limit: 0.

(ii) Minimum length limit: No limit.

(iii) Catch and release and only.

(O) Trout: rainbow and brown trout (including hybrids and subspecies).

(i) Guadalupe River (Comal County) from the second bridge crossing on the River Road upstream to the easternmost bridge crossing on F.M. 306.

(I) Daily bag limit: 1.

(II) Minimum length limit: 18 inches.

(ii) Guadalupe River (Comal County) from the easternmost bridge crossing on F.M. 306 upstream to 800 yards below the Canyon Lake dam.

(I) Daily bag limit: 5.

(II) Minimum length limit: 12 - 18 inch slot limit.

(III) It is unlawful to retain trout between 12 and 18 inches in length. No more than one trout 18 inches or greater in length may be retained each day.

(P) Walleye. Lake Texoma (Cooke and Grayson counties).

(i) Daily bag limit: 5.

(ii) Minimum length limit: 18.

(2) Saltwater species. There are no exceptions to the provisions established in subsection (c)(5) of this section.

The agency certifies that legal counsel has reviewed the adoption and found it to be a valid exercise of the agency's legal authority.

Filed with the Office of the Secretary of State on July 31, 2020.

TRD-202003105

Colette Barron-Bradsby

Acting General Counsel

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

Effective date: September 1, 2020

Proposal publication date: February 21, 2020

For further information, please call: (512) 389-4775


DIVISION 3. STATEWIDE COMMERCIAL FISHING PROCLAMATION

31 TAC §§57.992, 57.993, 57.997

The amendments are adopted under the authority of Parks and Wildlife Code, §47.004, which authorizes the commission to adopt rules governing the issuance and use of a resident fishing guide license, including rules creating separate resident fishing guide licenses for use in saltwater and freshwater.

§57.992.Bag, Possession, and Length Limits.

(a) The possession limit applies to all aquatic animal life in the possession of or stored by any person, but does not apply to aquatic animal life that has been lawfully obtained and for which a person possesses an invoice or sales ticket showing the name and address of the seller or person from whom the aquatic animal life was obtained, the amount of aquatic animal life by number and species, date of the sale, and any other information required on a sales ticket or invoice.

(b) There are no bag, possession, or length limits on game fish, non-game fish, or shellfish, except as otherwise provided in this subchapter.

(1) Possession limits are twice the daily bag limit on game fish, non-game fish, and shellfish, except as provided in this subchapter.

(2) For flounder, the possession limit is the daily bag limit.

(3) The bag limit for a guided fishing party is equal to the total number of persons in the boat licensed to fish or otherwise exempt from holding a license minus each fishing guide and fishing guide deckhand multiplied by the bag limit for each species harvested.

(4) The statewide daily bag and length limits for commercial fishing shall be as follows.

(A) Amberjack, greater.

(i) Daily bag limit: 1.

(ii) Minimum length: 34 inches.

(iii) Maximum length limit: No limit.

(B) Catfish.

(i) channel and blue (including hybrids and subspecies).

(I) Daily bag limit: 25 (in any combination).

(II) Minimum length limit: 14 inches.

(III) No maximum length limit.

(ii) Gaffstopsail.

(I) No daily bag limit.

(II) Minimum length limit: 14 inches.

(III) No maximum length limit.

(C) Cobia.

(i) Daily bag limit: 2.

(ii) Minimum length limit: 40 inches.

(iii) No maximum length limit.

(D) Drum, black.

(i) Daily bag limit: None.

(ii) Minimum length limit: 14 inches.

(iii) Maximum length limit: 30 inches.

(E) Flounder: all species (including hybrids and subspecies).

(i) Daily bag limit: 30. Possession limit is equal to the daily bag limit.

(ii) Minimum length limit: 15 inches.

(iii) No maximum length limit.

(iv) During November, lawful means are restricted to pole-and-line only and the bag and possession limit for flounder is two. For the first 14 days in December, the bag and possession limit is two, and flounder may be taken by any legal means. On September 1, 2021, the provisions of this clause cease effect.

(v) Beginning September 1, 2021, the season for flounder is closed from November 1 through December 14 every year.

(F) Gar, alligator.

(i) Daily bag limit:

(I) On Falcon International Reservoir: 5.

(II) Remainder of the state: 1.

(ii) No minimum length limit.

(iii) No maximum length limit except that on the Trinity River and all tributary waters from the I-30 bridge in Dallas County downstream through Anderson, Ellis, Freestone, Henderson, Houston, Kaufman, Leon, Liberty, Madison, Navarro, Polk, San Jacinto, Trinity, and Walker counties to the I-10 bridge in Chambers County, including the East Fork of the Trinity River and all tributaries upstream to the Lake Ray Hubbard dam, the maximum length limit is 48 inches.

(iv) During May, no person shall fish for, take, or seek to take alligator gar in that portion of Lake Texoma encompassed within the boundaries of the Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge or that portion of Lake Texoma from the U.S. 377 bridge (Willis Bridge) upstream to the I.H. 35 bridge.

(v) any person who takes an alligator gar in the public waters of this state other than Falcon International Reservoir shall report the harvest via the department's website or mobile application within 24 hours of take.

(vi) Between one half-hour after sunset and one half-hour before sunrise, any lawful means other than lawful archery equipment and crossbow may be used to take an alligator gar in the portion of the Trinity River described in subsection (d)(1)(L)(ii) of this section. In the portion of the Trinity River described in §57.981(d)(1)(L)(ii) of this title (relating to Bag, Possession and Length Limits), no person may take an alligator gar by means of lawful archery equipment or crossbow between one half-hour after sunset and one half-hour before sunrise, or possess an alligator gar taken by means of lawful archery equipment or crossbow between one half-hour after sunset and one half-hour before sunrise.

(G) Grouper.

(i) Black.

(I) Daily bag limit: 4.

(II) Minimum length limit: 24 inches.

(III) No maximum length limit.

(ii) Gag.

(I) Daily bag limit: 2.

(II) Minimum length limit: 24 inches.

(III) No maximum length limit.

(iii) Goliath. The take of Goliath grouper is prohibited.

(iv) Nassau. The take of Nassau grouper is prohibited.

(H) Mackerel.

(i) King.

(I) Daily bag limit: 3.

(II) Minimum length limit: 27 inches.

(III) No maximum length limit.

(ii) Spanish.

(I) Daily bag limit: 15.

(II) Minimum length limit: 14 inches.

(III) No maximum length limit.

(I) Mullet: all species (including hybrids, and subspecies).

(i) No daily bag limit.

(ii) No minimum length limit.

(iii) From October through January, no mullet more than 12 inches in length may be taken from public waters or possessed on board a vessel.

(J) Shark: all species (including hybrids and subspecies).

(i) all species other than the species listed in clauses (ii) - (iv) of this subparagraph:

(I) Daily bag limit: 1.

(II) Minimum length limit: 64 inches.

(III) No maximum length limit.

(ii) Atlantic sharpnose, blacktip, and bonnethead:

(I) Daily bag limit: 1.

(II) Minimum length limit: 24 inches.

(III) No maximum length limit.

(iii) great, scalloped, and smooth hammerhead:

(I) Daily bag limit: 1.

(II) Minimum length limit: 99 inches.

(III) No maximum length limit.

(iv) The take of the following species of sharks from the waters of this state is prohibited and they may not be possessed on board a vessel at any time:

(I) Atlantic angel;

(II) Basking;

(III) Bigeye sand tiger;

(IV) Bigeye sixgill;

(V) Bigeye thresher;

(VI) Bignose;

(VII) Caribbean reef;

(VIII) Caribbean sharpnose;

(IX) Dusky;

(X) Galapagos;

(XI) Longfin mako;

(XII) Narrowtooth;

(XIII) Night;

(XIV) Sandbar;

(XV) Sand tiger;

(XVI) Sevengill;

(XVII) Silky;

(XVIII) Sixgill;

(XIX) Smalltail;

(XX) Whale; and

(XXI) White.

(v) Except for the species listed in clause (ii) - (iv) of this subparagraph, sharks may be taken using pole and line, but must be taken by non-offset, non-stainless-steel circle hook when using natural bait.

(K) Sheepshead.

(i) Daily bag limit: No limit.

(ii) Minimum length limit: 15 inches.

(iii) No maximum length limit.

(L) Snapper.

(i) Lane.

(I) Daily bag limit: None.

(II) Minimum length limit: 8 inches.

(III) No maximum length limit.

(ii) Red.

(I) Daily bag limit: 4.

(II) Minimum length limit: 15 inches.

(III) No maximum length limit.

(IV) Red snapper may be taken using pole and line, but it is unlawful to use any kind of hook other than a circle hook baited with natural bait.

(iii) Vermilion.

(I) Daily bag limit: None.

(II) Minimum length limit: 10 inches.

(III) No maximum length limit.

(M) Triggerfish, gray.

(i) Daily bag limit: 20.

(ii) Minimum length limit: 16 inches.

(iii) No maximum length limit.

(N) Tripletail.

(i) Daily bag limit: 3.

(ii) Minimum length limit: 17 inches.

(iii) No maximum length limit.

The agency certifies that legal counsel has reviewed the adoption and found it to be a valid exercise of the agency's legal authority.

Filed with the Office of the Secretary of State on July 31, 2020.

TRD-202003106

Colette Barron-Bradsby

Acting General Counsel

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

Effective date: September 1, 2020

Proposal publication date: February 21, 2020

For further information, please call: (512) 389-4775