Updated: Apr 22, 2021
TPW Commission Emergency Action changes regulations for spotted sea trout south of JFK beginning April 1st, 2021 as a result of the February fish kill.
Texas Parks and Wildlife announced an Emergency Action that goes into affect April 1st, 2021. There will be some "temporary" regulation changes to size and bag limits for spotted seatrout (aka speckled trout) in Laguna Madre due to the recent February fish kill.
“The Spotted Seatrout mortality in the combined Upper and Lower Laguna Madres is comparable to the events from the 1980’s, despite those events seeing a larger number of fish killed on the entire coast. Luckily, we saw Spotted Seatrout populations bounce back in approximately two to three years in the 1980s due to TPWD and angler conservation efforts" said Robin Riechers, Coastal Fisheries Division Director.
Following the freeze; several fish kill assessments up and down the gulf coast were launched. After reviewing the reports from the Coastal Fisheries Division; TPW Commission took emergency action in their March meeting to "temporarily" change bag and size limits for spotted seatrout in the Upper and Lower Laguna Madre bay systems. These new regulations are as follows:
3 trout bag limit
minimum size length of 17 inches
maximum size length of 23 inches
no trout over 23 inches may be retained
Per TPW the above changes that take affect April 1st are valid for up to 120 days, and if warranted, they may extend another 60 days. The boundary for this regulation change is defined as south of the JFK Causeway in Corpus Christi, including the adjacent beachfronts from the Packery Channel, to the Rio Grande River on the gulf side of South Padre Island.
“The TPW Commission is understandably very judicious with their application of Emergency Actions, but given the high, post-freeze mortality estimates, clearly these changes were necessary for the benefit of the Laguna Madre speckled trout population. We are hopeful that by taking off some of the fishing pressure for mature fish during the spring spawn, this action will aid in their overall recovery, and in fact, hopefully accelerate it” said Carter Smith, Executive Director of TPWD.
TPW and biologists are hopeful in taking these proactive efforts, as these regulation changes should help to increase the population by allowing more mature fish to remain in the bay system during the upcoming spawning season; typically from April to September. These efforts along with others launched by TPWD, local hatcheries, and the actions of responsible anglers are sure to help our bay systems recover more quickly!
For a copy of the Coastal Fisheries Winter Report that details TPW's fish kill assessment strategy, please email them directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.