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Regulation Changes Include Elimination of Minimum Length Limit on Spotted Bass
By Todd Driscoll
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

 

I am sure most of you are aware that the new fiscal year for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) began September 1, as this is also the day that new hunting and fishing licenses are required. September 1 is also when approved hunting and fishing regulation changes are adopted.

Before a proposed fisheries regulation change is actually implemented, it goes through a year-long review process. During the summer months, field biologists initiate the process when scientific data collected from standardized fishery surveys justify a change to protect and improve the quality of the fishery resource. Public meetings are held to solicit input from anglers on the possible regulation change. If opinions are favorable, the change is presented to all Inland Fisheries biologists for comments and suggestions. If approved by staff, it becomes an official proposal and public meetings are again held through the fall and winter to gain more public input. During the spring, the proposal and public comments are presented before the TPWD commission for final review and approval.

Several fisheries proposals survived this process and were implemented September 1. Most of these do not affect local lakes and include 1) a change to an 18-inch minimum length limit for largemouth bass at Lake Jacksonville, Cleburne State Park Lake, and Meridian State Park Lake and 2) a change to a 14-21 inch slot limit for largemouth bass at Buescher State Park Lake, Town Lake, and Lake Austin.

However, one major change that does affect our area is the statewide elimination of the 12-inch minimum length limit on spotted bass. In many parts of Texas, spotted bass seldom grow larger than 12 inches. Removal of this minimum length limit will allow anglers to harvest some of these fish without any negative impacts on the populations. The 5-fish daily bag limit (in combination with largemouth bass) is still in effect.

The primary waterbodies in our area affected by this change include Sam Rayburn Reservoir, Kurth Lake, Lake Striker, and the Angelina River. Spotted bass are present in Toledo Bend Reservoir, but the 12-inch minimum length limit is still in effect at this lake. This is due to standardization of black bass regulations with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. Currently, largemouth bass and spotted bass seem to coexist well in Sam Rayburn and the Angelina River. However, at Kurth and Striker the spotted bass populations have stockpiled below 12 inches, while numbers of largemouth bass have declined. Overabundant spotted bass populations can have a negative impact on existing largemouth bass populations, as spotted bass compete with largemouth bass for food. The largemouth bass populations at Kurth Lake and Lake Striker could benefit from harvest of spotted bass. When a few fish for the freezer are needed, you may want to visit these two lakes.

A word of caution: spotted bass are similar in appearance to largemouth bass, so be sure of your identification before harvesting them. We have posters explaining how to identify spotted bass. Contact us by phone (409-384-9572) or email (todd3d@jas.net). Good luck and good fishing!

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