Presenter: Robin Riechers

Commission Agenda Item No. 10
Briefing
Coastal Fishing Forecast - 2008
May 2008

I. Executive Summary: Each year Coastal Fisheries staff review the most current data available and project trends into the near future to forecast likely fishing success. The last three years has been a rollercoaster for Texas saltwater fisheries. Three years ago, anglers were shoveling snow off boat docks and building snowmen under the palm trees. There were a record number of hurricanes in the Gulf and our upper coast was pounded by two in particular that will always be a reminder - Rita and Katrina. Two years ago, the Gulf was spared the hurricanes but at the cost of a statewide drought that had many looking for relief anywhere it could find it, including hurricanes. In contrast, last year was one of the wettest on record, especially the summer. It is difficult to predict what this year will eventually deliver but it seems to have started off on a good heading. The relatively mild and dry conditions have been a big plus for saltwater anglers and prospects are good for the remainder of the year.

II. Discussion: Our Texas bays are subjected to a broad range of changing conditions as the last three years demonstrated. In fact, they have adapted to and really need floods and even droughts and hurricanes. Except for the Laguna Madre, our bays are primarily great mixing bowls where rivers and the sea meet creating a turbid looking soup thick enough to walk on at times. It is that soup and the dynamics of our bays that also make them extraordinarily productive - more so than just about any other marine ecosystem. Floods bring the ingredients, nutrients and sediments, into the bays that create the soup. Hurricanes mix it together and resuspend other materials that may have settled out during calmer times. The hot Texas spring and summer cook these ingredients and the result is one of the most productive fisheries in the world.

Last year was tough on anglers as the flush of freshwater turned many bays into freshwater lakes, sometime for long periods. Redfish, trout, catfish and bass could all be caught within sight of one another. Stripped bass were washed downriver into Galveston Bay adding some extra excitement to that fishery. Normal fishing patterns were disrupted to the consternation of guides and just about everyone else. The fish were still there but in different parts of the bay than normal as they sought out comfortable salinities and forage species that were doing the same.

One of the less easily observed effects of freshwater inflow is to establish salinity gradients within the bays. Conditions can range from near fresh to oceanic. Plants and animals of these coastal ecosystems have adapted to this dynamic and sort themselves out accordingly. Some species lifecycle are closely tied to and depend on that range of salinities - different stages requiring different salinities to prosper. Droughts or floods can disrupt or even eliminate this gradient. That is what has been happening over the last several years.

The silver lining to that cloud is the fact all of those conditions have come together and produced a "soup" that will almost certainly ignite productivity up and down the entire coast. That will translate into an abundance of fish, shellfish and forage that will sustain our fishery for years to come. The next several years will point out just how valuable freshwater inflows are to our bays and how important it is to make sure they continue. Altogether, it will be a welcome boost and our coastal anglers should start to reap the benefits this year.

Attachments - 1

  1. Exhibit A - Fishing Forecast

Commission Agenda Item No. 10
Exhibit A

Fishing Forecast

Coastwide
Sabine Lake
Galveston
Matagorda
East Matagorda
San Antonio
Aransas
Corpus Christi
Upper Laguna Madre
Lower Laguna Madre

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