Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Regulations Committee

Nov. 3, 2010

Commission Hearing Room
Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex
4200 Smith School Road
Austin, TX 78744

BE IT REMEMBERED, that heretofore on the 3rd day of November 2010, there came to be heard matters under the regulatory authority of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission in the Commission Hearing Room of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex, to wit:

APPEARANCES:

THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION:

THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT:

P R O C E E D I N G S

COMMISSIONER HOLT:  We will now move to the Regs, Reg Committee, Chairman Friedkin.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Thank you.

COMMISSIONER HOLT:  You’re welcome.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Chairman, the first order of business is the approval of the previous committee meeting minutes.  Do we have a motion for approval?

COMMISSIONER MARTIN:  So move.

COMMISSIONER FALCON:  Second.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Commissioner Martin and Commissioner Falcon.  All in favor.

(A chorus of ayes.)

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Any opposed?  Hearing none, motion carries.  Committee Item Number 1, Update on Parks and Wildlife Progress in Implementing the TPWD Land and Water Resources Conservation and Recreation Plan.  Mr. Smith.

MR. SMITH:  Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  I’m going to pass around a stocking report and I think this is maybe the first time you have seen one of these but one of the things that we will be instituting is a regular November report that Ross and his team compiled about the stocking of fish and game throughout the state.

Important to remember, all of those fish and game enhancement efforts that our fisheries and wildlife biologists are doing throughout the course of the year and, really, pretty extraordinary.  If we look at the history of fish and game conservation in Texas and all of the species that have been brought back from wild turkeys to bighorn sheep to red drum and largemouth bass.

You know, our biologists have done an extraordinary job of making sure that those species are available for anglers and hunters to responsibly enjoy and so I think it’s going to be important for you to take a look at it.  And you can look at our coastal fisheries team who, in the last fiscal year, you know, really focused on three species of fish and stocked over ‑‑ you know, almost 25 million fingerlings in our bays and estuaries, with obviously redfish, red drum being the principal species that’s produced at one of our three coastal hatcheries and then enhanced and augmented back into the bays and estuaries.  They’ve done a lot with speckled trout over the years and, of course, really, in the last couple of years, our biologists have started to perfect the art and science on being able to propagate flounder and that’s been developed at none other than Sea Center, that we talked about earlier.

So pretty exciting efforts on that front.  So been very busy on that.  Our inland fisheries team has also done an extraordinary job with the five hatcheries that that team manages throughout the state.  The last fiscal year, you know, they stocked almost 20 species of fish, totaling about 33 million fingerlings in the state’s water bodies.  Florida largemouth bass has certainly been near the top of the list.  Also the hybrid striped and white bass, the Palmetto bass, very, very important fish that we’re stocking ‑‑ striped bass alone.

So, again, really going out and making sure that our state’s waters have got ample fishing opportunities and, again, very, very important perspective in consideration from the angling public.

The wildlife division has been similarly involved, in terms of, again, bringing back a lot of game species throughout the state:  white-tailed deer, bighorn sheep, Rio Grande turkey, Eastern turkey, Attwater prairie chickens, bobwhite quail ‑‑ at different times.

In the division’s history, again, probably the most notable success story from the division, all of the work on bringing bighorn sheep which, as all of you know, were extirpated from the state back in the early 1960s.  And so most of the effort in recent years has focused on white-tailed deer but they’re got a major project with trapping and transplanting bighorn sheep, which they’ve been working on with our state parks team in West Texas at Big Bend Ranch and the Bofecillos Mountains, something that, obviously, we’re very excited about coming up, perhaps, by the end of this calendar year is, bringing bighorn sheep back to Big Bend Ranch State Park and the Bofecillos.

So major, major collaboration between our wildlife and state parks team and something that we’re all excited about seeing come to fruition.  And so our state park sites are also important repositories for that stocking whether it’s, you know, rainbow trout or largemouth bass or bighorn sheep, out at Big Bend Ranch.

An important partner in this element is our biologist go out to make sure that we’ve got ample fish and game for our constituents to enjoy.

So take a look at that report.  I think you’re going to learn a lot from it and plan on an annual report from us every November that gives you an annual report of what our team are doing out there across the state.  It’s very, very impressive and something that I think you’ve got a lot to be proud of on that ‑‑ in that area.

A couple of other things that I’ll highlight, Mr. Chairman, on the regulations side.  Maybe interested in just how much managed lands deer permits have grown around the state.  Our wildlife biologists out in the field spend an extraordinary amount of time responding to the demand of private landowners who are interested in taking advantage of that permit program to manage both their white-tailed deer and mule deer around the state.

You know, right now, we’ve got 7,000 sites that we permit for managed land deer permits and that encompasses a little over 20 million acres around the state, about 20,100,000 acres.  The permit type that is the most popular around the state comprises about half of that is the white-tailed deer, level 3, which gives, really, the maximum flexibility to the participants in that program, in terms of their harvest regimes in meeting the recommendations that our biologists prescribe, in order to ensure that the white-tailed deer are well managed.

But you will certainly also remember a lot of the contention that ensued over the contemplation of managed land deer permits out in West Texas for mule deer.  The statistics of this are pretty interesting.  Yes, we’ve got 133 sites now that encompass 4.6 million acres that are under the managed land deer permit for mule deer.

COMMISSIONER HOLT:  How many acres?  4.6?

MR. SMITH:  4.6.

COMMISSIONER HOLT:  Now is that in the 20 million?

MR. SMITH:  That’s in the 20 million.  But, you know, Chairman, there’s another million acres of permits that include both mule deer and white-tailed deer ‑‑

COMMISSIONER HOLT:  Right.

MR. SMITH:  ‑‑ so if you have areas like, let’s say Terrell and Pecos counties, while, for instance ‑‑

COMMISSIONER HOLT:  Yes, combinations.

COMMISSIONER HOLT:  ‑‑ where you’ve got a combination, where folks have got MLD permits for both.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Sorry.  I missed the site count.  How many on the mule deer?

MR. SMITH:  Well, we’ve got 133 just mule deer alone ‑‑

     COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Right.

MR. SMITH:  — that cover 4.6 million acres and then we’ve got another 34 sites, encompassing a little over a million acres that are both mule deer and white-tailed deer, level 2 and 3.  So, again, those counties where you’ve got overlap of white-tailed deer and mule deer.

I guess the key points I want to make with this is, you know, our biologists are focused on habitat and they’re really emphasizing that to our cooperators but they use these permits to, you know, help enable and encourage landowners to harvest the requisite animals to make sure that we’re not having overabundant densities that are impacting that habitat.  So very, very important program, a ton of interest.  This takes up a lot of time of our wildlife biologists and very responsive, just because of the huge demand.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS:  Do we have ‑‑ are we creating an issue, staffing-wise, in order to ‑‑ I mean, we’ve got a lot to oversee with ‑‑ just on the mule deer side of the 4.6 million acres and, as their habitat is indicative of, it’s not a country that’s easy to get around on and so it takes more time, therefore, to really evaluate the area.  And are we able to adequately oversee all this?

MR. SMITH:  It’s a ‑‑ you know, that’s becoming a real challenge, Commissioner, because, you know, our biologists really pride themselves on the responsiveness to our private landowner partners and with the huge demand for managed lands deer permits, but also put that in the context of the burgeoning demand of other private land owners that are interested in the basic wildlife-management planning services that our biologists provide to landowners that are interested in all species of wildlife.  They’ve got a lot to say grace over and they’re stretched very, very, very thin and additional resources there to help that capacity would, undoubtedly, be a great help, as we try to serve private landowners in the state.

You know, I’ll report a little later on, but we’ve got 25 million acres of the state under wildlife management plans and if you think about that, in the context of 150 million acres, terrestrial acres, in the state, that’s a big percentage under wildlife management plans and it’s growing every single day, so we’re asking a lot of them and they’re stretched very, very thin.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS:  But, it’s also a great success story in that so many people are so interested in taking a leadership role in trying to perpetuate what so many people take for granted.

MR. SMITH:  No, I absolutely agree with you, Commissioner, and, you know, the important message that our biologists are delivering out there to private landowners that participating in this, is not just simply the permit to harvest deer but it’s really encouraging them to look holistically at the habitat and the resources and how deer interact with all of that and this is one of the tools that we can help him with to manage wildlife for all species and that’s an important message that our biologists try to get out there as they’re working with landowners who are interested in this.  So ‑‑ but an extraordinarily successful effort.

I also want to share a few words about pronghorn because, you know, that’s been on the minds of all of us as we have really seen these precipitous declines in pronghorn populations, particularly in areas like the Marfa Basin in West Texas, which for so many years has really been, you know, kind of ground zero for pronghorns.

And so we’ve talked a lot about that with the Commission.  In recent times, the pronghorn task force, led by Jon Means, from our Private Lands Advisory Board has convened a great group of private landowners working with our wildlife biologists, Shawn Gray and Billy Tarrant, Ruben Cantu and his team out West.  And also Louis Harveson from Sul Ross State, he’s created a Borderlands Research Institute.

Really done an extraordinary out in West Texas, looking at this whole issue of the Haemonchus or the barber pole worm and seeing that proliferation of that worm and really super abundant densities, abnormally high, we think, out in West Texas and what impact that’s having on pronghorn health and nutrition and fecundity and reproduction and so forth, so a lot of effort and research going on on that front.

Similarly, our team up in the Panhandle, also working very closely with private landowners in that area who are keenly interested in pronghorn.  Our team just did an attitudinal survey, private landowners looking at kind of pronghorn management and farming conflicts and certainly Commissioner Bivins can speak well to this.  You know, last year when we had those huge snowstorms up in the Panhandle and you had farmers with a lot of winter wheat, you know, you had lots of pronghorn that would come in from near and far to pile in on that winter wheat and that gave a lot of those farmers a lot of trepidation about what was going to happen to that wheat and what was the state going to do about it.

And so we’ve been working diligently to try to educate private landowners about, you know, their options in that and some of the temporary effects that happen during those snowstorms but team working very diligently up in the Panhandle there too.

The last thing I’ll report on is really a new operation.  Again, I think reflective of that kind of emerging role of law enforcement, which has been a great service to the state.  You know, following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, a lot of emphasis and concern directed at ‑‑ Well, what about the wells off the Texas coast and how are they getting inspected and monitored?  That’s the function of the Texas Railroad Commission.  It’s not the function of the Parks and Wildlife agency.  But working in a collaboration between our law enforcement division who are out on the waters every day, they know where those wells are ‑‑ they put together a joint operations team that paired up a Railroad Commission inspector with two of our game wardens, targeted Galveston Bay initially, where roughly a quarter of all the oil wells are and got those inspectors out to take a look at every single well to see if there were any issues out there and then they’ve got a plan for systematically getting them out there to look at every well in the state.

And that’s germane to our mission because, you know, obviously, if we’ve got oil spills in our bays and estuaries, that’s going to have an impact on our coastal fisheries and so integral part of our mission.  An interesting and I think important task force and operation that’s developed and proud to report on all those things so, Mr. Chairman, a bit of a report there but all, I think, of interest to this Commission, I hope.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Great report.  I appreciate it.  Committee Item 2, 2011-2012 ‑‑ excuse me.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS:  Can I ask one question?

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Please.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS:  Carter, on the ‑‑ page 2 where you talk about the stocking report for inland fisheries, just curious, where were those red drums stocked?

MR. SMITH:  Gary, those red drum were primarily in some of the West Texas lakes.  A couple of  ‑‑

MR. SAUL:  Power plant lakes.

MR. SMITH:  ‑‑ power plants lakes.  Yes, yes.  There’s real interest in that.  I mean, it surprises folks when they hear about red drum and walleye getting stocked in inland lakes but very popular fisheries in those places.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS:  Are the walleyes going into new lakes by Glen Rose?

MR. SAUL:  I’m Gary Saul, Director of Inland Fisheries.  Walleye are not going into the new lake over at Glen Rose, that I’m aware of at this point, but the red drum that are produced are produced by coastal fisheries.  Inland fisheries will go and pick them up and then put them in power plant lakes around the state where they can be supported and it’s a wonderful fishery for those folks.

COMMISSIONER HOLT:  Why, do you want walleye?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS:  I like walleye.  A little better than catfish.

COMMISSIONER HOLT:  A little better than catfish, you can bring one home?

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Any other questions for Carter?  All right.  Thank you.  2011-2012 Statewide Hunting Proclamation Preview.  Mr. Jason Hardin.  How are you?

MR. HARDIN:  Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, my name is Jason Hardin.  I’m an Upland Gamebird Specialist with Texas Parks and Wildlife and I am here today to present proposed regulation changes that we are considering that will impact the spring turkey season and the mule deer managed land deer program.

I’d like to start out by discussing, for your consideration, four proposed regulation changes to take effect during the 2012 spring turkey season.  These proposals were developed by our Upland Gamebird Technical Committee, which consists of Texas Parks and Wildlife staff and through our Upland Gamebird Advisory Council.

During the briefing this past August, where the proposals was received favorably.  Excuse me.  The first proposal we are contemplating is to close 15 of the current 43 counties open to a spring Eastern turkey season.  The Eastern turkey season is unique in Texas and that is the only game animal in the state that is required to be reported following harvest.  All harvested birds must be reported to one of our 90 plus mandatory check stations within 24 hours of harvest.  The harvest data helps us to implement various management strategies.

The counties we’re recommending for closure are delineated here in black and listed to the left of the map.  Closures are recommended due to less than one bird, on average, being reported for these counties over a minimum period of three years.  Several of these counties have not reported a harvest for a much longer period of time.

Based on hunter, landowner and our Parks and Wildlife biologist observations, there also appears to be a lack of brood stock in these counties to support a season.  Closing these counties will provide Texas Parks and Wildlife the opportunity to move forward with future stocking strategies.

The second proposal under consideration is to delay the opening of the spring Eastern turkey season by two weeks.  Research conducted in East Texas has identified a median nest initiation date falling in the middle of April.  This change will ensure the majority of hens have been bred by the available gobblers before the season opens and reduce the risk of accidental hen harvest because the majority of our hens will be sitting on a nest and incubating eggs for up to 23 hours a day at the beginning of the season.

The third proposal under consideration is to change the spring Rio Grande turkey season in the north and south zones from a gobbler only season to any bearded bird season.  This change reflects the spring bag in most states with a wild turkey spring season.

Currently, all but five of our counties in the north and south zones have a fall season that allows for the harvest of up to four hens.  While bearded hens make up only a small fraction of our hen population, many hunters rely on a beard as an indicator of a gobbler.  Due to the low number of bearded hens available for harvest, this change will have little to no impact on the Texas Rio Grande turkey population.

The final proposal that we are contemplating for the spring turkey season is to add Austin County to our current one-gobbler-only Rio Grande turkey spring season.  This recommendation is based on staff observations indicating a huntable population of Rio Grande turkeys in the region.

The final proposal we are considering is simple housekeeping to the current mule deer managed land deer program.  All deer harvested on an MLD property must be tagged with an MLD permit.  However, when the mule deer MLD program was implemented in 2005, the rules specified a period of validity concurrent with the general white tailed deer season.  The unintended consequence of that wording is that it does not provide for the use of MLD permits to take mule deer by legal archery equipment during the archery-only season.  Staff proposes to correct this oversight, thus allowing the use of MLD permits to take mule deer by legal archery equipment during the archery-only season.

That concludes my presentation and I welcome any questions or comments that you have.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Questions?  Commissioner Bivins.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS:  I noticed that, you know, we’re closing a few counties in East Texas.  What’s the status of the South Texas turkey population?

MR. HARDIN:  The South Texas population reflects many of the quail numbers that we see from year to year but not quite the peaks and valleys.  While we didn’t have good production for the last ‑‑ previous two spring seasons ‑‑ spring production periods, we did have great rainfall this past year and we’ve had one of our best hatches in probably the last five years.  Tremendous population numbers.  Looking good for the next couple of years so I expect to see a lot of change.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS:  In my memory, I think there was a particular group of counties that had an extended season due to high numbers.

MR. HARDIN:  Yes, sir.  Brooks, Kenedy, Kleberg and Willacy County have an extended fall season.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS:  And, would it be prudent, at this point, to maybe extend that season to other counties in that area, with the abundance of the turkey population?

MR. HARDIN:  Well, I could certainly visit with our technical committee and get a technical review of that and visit with our advisory council and bring that back to you in January, if you’d like.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS:  I don’t want to say anything in fear; I may jinx the whole deal, but it seems like we’ve got the potential for a bountiful harvest of upland gamebirds in South Texas this year.  If there is such an abundance of turkey throughout that area, I think it would be a shame not to go ahead and extend that season in the surrounding counties.

MR. HARDIN:  Well, I will definitely bring that up with the biologists in the area and with our technical committee and we’ll get a thorough review and bring that back to you.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS:  I appreciate that.

MR. HARDIN:  Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Commissioner Duggins.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS:  Have we had any public meetings or scopings over in the areas where you’re proposing to close the eastern ‑‑ in East Texas where you’re proposing to close the 15 counties in black here on this?

MR. HARDIN:  No, sir, not to date.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS:  Would we normally have any kind of public ‑‑

MR. HARDIN:  I could ‑‑

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS:  ‑‑ meeting on that?

MR. SMITH:  Yes, we absolutely will do that.  Remember, this is kind of the part of the Commission process in which our biologists have gone and kind of looked at the resource needs, have run it through technical review teams and then are bringing it back to you all to say, Here’s some things that we’re thinking about and so if there’s an interest of the Commission in, obviously, scoping that further and, obviously, we would recommend that.  Jason, I think, laid out the case as to why we’re concerned about birds in those counties.  We absolutely want to go out and talk to our constituents and get some feedback.

I was in northeast Texas last week, speaking to ‑‑ Pete and I were there ‑‑ 600, 700 hunters and, you know, we talked about this issue and folks are aware of it.  We’ve got our partners out there ‑‑ National Wild Turkey Federation play a huge role in this and so folks are mindful of kind of this coming up.  But yes, we will absolutely do that.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS:  That’s all I was concerned about.  I was given the impression that this was a done deal.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Right.

MR. HARDIN:  No, sir.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  It’s early in the process.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS:  Yes.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Commissioner Morian.  Sorry, go ahead.  Ralph, go ahead.  I’m sorry.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS:  I was wondering ‑‑ I was just thinking.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN:  You will ‑‑ you’re going to close these counties and you will have implementation of restocking programs.

MR. HARDIN:  Yes, sir.  We’ve recently ‑‑ we’re in the process.  Our thesis is forthcoming, with recent research that we’ve done, looking at a super stocking strategy, where we go in and flood an area with birds.  We’re working on our habitat suitability index ‑‑ a new habitat suitability index to help rank properties across that portion of the state to identify our best options for success and that is going to be our strategy, moving forward.  We do plan to and hope to do additional stockings in those areas, as we move forward.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN:  I’m going to get a lot of questions about, how long are we going to be, what ‑‑ when are you going to start, is it going to be your typical five-year closure period after re-stocking?

MR. HARDIN:  I would prefer not to put a firm date on it.  I want to look at the population and see how that population responds to habitat management and to our stocking efforts and once we see that we have a population ‑‑ we have discussed numbers where that population needs to grow to before we’ll open up that season.

We’ve had a lot of success with our recent stocking research project.  Sites that were stocked previously that tended to fade, we re-stocked using the stocking method in 2007 and the birds have done comparable to the rest of the southeast.  We’ve seen pretty good turkey numbers.  So I think we have a good strategy ahead of us and ‑‑

COMMISSIONER MORIAN:  What’s the re-stocking time frame?

MR. HARDIN:  The re-stocking time frame?

COMMISSIONER MORIAN:  That’s something you’re going to start.

MR. HARDIN:  We’re still finishing up ongoing research.  We’re working that habitat suitability index, which we hope to have done this spring, begin going out and testing those sites that we stocked previously, ranking those sites and seeing how that ‑‑ our system falls out and funding pending ‑‑ if we have the available funds, we’d like to start in 2012.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN:  Well, okay.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  So we’ll have more clarity on that in the January meeting, is that right?

MR. HARDIN:  Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  A little more detail and certainly understand the research and maybe the time frames that we’re looking at and certainly be able to provide some input, sir.  Thank you.  Any other questions?  Commissioner Hughes.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES:  In light of the report we got from Carter that mule deer ‑‑ MLDP ‑‑ has been very successful, 133 participants, 4 million acres ‑‑ has there been any consideration ‑‑ I think ‑‑ I guess has it been in place now for four or five years, to maybe extending the length of the season.  Has that come up or is there ‑‑

 MR. HARDIN:  I would have to defer that to the big game program and let them answer that question for you.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES:  As far as activity, on the front end or the back end or both ‑‑ has that been requested?

MR. LOCKWOOD:  For the record, I’m Mitch Lockwood, Big Game Program Director.  Commissioner Hughes, I’m not aware of any discussion or requests that have been received and staff hasn’t initiated any discussion regarding extension of the mule deer MLDP season.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS:  When does it currently end?

MR. LOCKWOOD:  That’s right.  It’s the first Sunday in January.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES:  I believe it begins the first Saturday in November and ends the first Sunday in January.  Is this something we might want to talk our constituents and MLDP holders in West Texas and see if there’s a desire to see it extended a little longer on either end?

MR. LOCKWOOD:  I think that is some discussion we could have.  We’re obviously monitoring those populations with the data at the participants are providing so we can see how these populations are responding to these harvest strategies that are put in place.  If it looks like that harvest is inadequate ‑‑ in other words, if it’s hard to achieve some harvest quotas, for example, then one option to consider to address that would be an extended season.     I don’t know if that’s a concern at this time but certainly I can visit with our staff out there and see what they’ve been hearing along these lines and see if maybe there is a need to poll, per se, some of these constituents out there from ‑‑ some extended season.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES:  Well, I would think, from a harvest standpoint, if you’re issued X number of permits to a landowner or an agent, then, if that’s all that the biologists think that should be harvested, that’s where they would stop, if they got there.  I’m thinking more hunter opportunity.  I mean, if right now we’re allowing people to hunt for 60 days and we allowed 90 days, would that get more people to West Texas, maybe more youth hunting in West Texas.  I’m looking at the opportunity, if those constituents wanted to see a little longer.  I think it’s something we should talk about.  Maybe kick around over the next year or two.

MR. LOCKWOOD:  I think you do have a good point, Commissioner.  There’s, as you say, a harvest recommendation, wouldn’t exceed what that population could withstand, whether they get to hunt for five days or five months.  We certainly wouldn’t recommend a harvest of more animals than the population could withstand.  So that ‑‑ you’re right, that’s really the critical component there, is the quota itself.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  I agree with Commissioner Hughes on that.  You know, to the extent that it doesn’t have a significant scientific impact ‑‑ negative scientific impact, you know, we’re all about creating additional opportunities so I would suggest that we scope it and take a look at it and get back with a little more detail, if you would.

MR. LOCKWOOD:  There are some biological factors that would be considered that, perhaps, could be of concern, depending on how far to extend the season, such as antler drop and could that result in inadvertent harvest of anterless deer, which could certainly have a population impact.  There may be some other biological factors that aren’t coming to my mind right now that some of our staff would share with me, with extending it beyond ‑‑

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  And I’m not ‑‑ just to be clear, I’m not suggesting that we don’t have those factors all in place, I’m just ‑‑

MR. LOCKWOOD:  Sure.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  ‑‑ getting more detail on it and then be able, as a Commission, to make a decision.

MR. LOCKWOOD:  Sure.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Good questions.  Clayton?

Thanks, Mitch.

MR. WOLF:  Mr. Chairman, for the record, I’m Clayton Wolf, Wildlife Division Director.  Just a little bit of clarification here on scoping versus polling our MLDP constituents and we do have TWIMS now and we have email addresses.  I don’t know if it’s for all of our MLDP cooperators but obviously we could ‑‑ we do have a database where we could poll those individuals but I also did hear the term "scoping" and, of course, we typically view that as something where we go out between now and January and actually do a public meeting and so a little bit of direction on whether we want to go that effort or if we’re just talking about surveying our cooperators.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  The former, I think, rather than the latter.  I was using scoping ‑‑

MR. WOLF:  Okay.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  ‑‑ with a small "s."

MR. WOLF:  Thank you.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Thanks.  Thank you.  Any other questions?

Jason, thank you very much; I appreciate it.

Where are we?  Item Number 3, 2011-2012 Fishing Proclamation Preview.  Robin Riechers.

MR. RIECHERS:  Chairman and Commissioners, my name is Robin Riechers, Coastal Fisheries Division and I’m here today to present to you ‑‑ it should be coming up on the screen here ‑‑ our one scoping item proposal regarding spotted sea trout and the way I’m going to do this today is to basically present it coastwide first and then I’m going to focus in on the midcoast area, where we have 3 bay systems that are more problematic.  You’ve probably been hearing some about over the course of the last couple of years and then I’m going to actually present to you some of the results from the Lower Laguna Madre, where we passed a five-fish bag limit a couple of years back and that’s going to help us in understanding what some of our options will be.

With that, just to catch you up ‑‑ now let me catch up ‑‑ I’m sorry ‑‑ to catch you up, our last major rule change regarding bag limits was when we went to ten fish in 1984 and then in 1990 we went from 14 inches to 15 inches and, most recently, as we just talked about, we had the 2007 Lower Laguna change and then, in 2002, of course, we eliminated the captain and crew, where captain and crew can’t keep a bag limit onboard the boat if they’re guiding and created the one fish over 25 inches.

Just to look at total fishing licenses sold, in the red line there, and it’s on your left-hand side there or right-hand side ‑‑ I’m sorry ‑‑ and fishing efforts on your right-hand axis.  Basically, the take home message here is that our fishing effort rose through the 1980s and basically capped off in about 2000 and we’ve been relatively stable, with a slight down trend since then.

This actually breaks it into what we call private recreational fishing effort, as well as our party or guide boat effort and you can see, obviously, mirrors that overall trend I just showed you but you can see that we did have quite a bit of significant increase in guide pressure throughout the 1990s and it has remained relatively stable since then, starting in about 2000 and you can see a slight drop-off in the last few years.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS:  What do you ‑‑ skip ‑‑ go to the first line, what do you mean by total effort?

MR. RIECHERS:  That’s total effort.  That comes from our overall fishing intercept surveys that we do, where we basically get the man-hours that people have spent out there and we estimate that up for total pressure along the coast.  Total fishing pressure and man-hours is what that will be.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS:  Okay.

MR. RIECHERS:  Then, when you go to landings, obviously, the landings actually mirror fairly well the overall fishing effort.  What you can see is that those guided anglers have a higher success rate there than do those private recreational boat anglers so, you know, they certainly ‑‑ while they make up about one-fifth of the overall effort, or less than one-fifth, they almost make up a third of the overall catch there.

Look at our overall gill nets.  What we typically focus on is our spring gill nets because that’s, as the fishery comes onboard in the spring, that’s before we have that heavy fishing pressure in the spring and the summer and you can just see from that graphic, it’s been fairly stable ‑‑ kind of peaked in around 2000 and has ‑‑ and you can certainly see that downward trend, just a little bit, in those most recent last years.

As I indicated, we’re going to kind of focus now on west Matagorda Bay, San Antonio Bay and Aransas Bay.  Those are the ones that have been most problematic in the overall abundance and we’re going to just take a snapshot of each one of those.  You’ll see some similar trends here amongst those bay systems.

Look at west Matagorda Bay system.  The gill nets again, focusing on the green line, the spring gill nets.  Again, mirrors the overall kind of picture you saw.  Of note there through, at the end, is that pretty big increase going into 2010, so we’re getting some fish into the fishery now that basically, you know, will start showing up for people.

To kind of highlight this a little bit even more, we broke this into legal and sub-legal fish.  Sub-legal fish are the red bars.  Legal fish are the yellow bars and, if you look from 2008 to 2010, you can start to see that spike-up of those sub-legal fish, which really hadn’t gotten to the fishery yet but, you know, we’re going to see those fish coming along pretty quickly.

If you kind of pick any one of those bars ‑‑ we’ll pick the one there in 2003, the red bar, you can see when you get a spike on that bar, about two years later you’ll get a spike in the legal fish, as well.  A little bit of lag time there.

Of importance to us is our bag seines, as well.  That gives us fish that aren’t caught in our gill nets.  These are two- to five-inch fish, typically.  You can see that from a west Matagorda Bay perspective, highly variable, when it comes to this recruitment ‑‑ young of the year recruitment and you can see that we have been on a little downward trend since about 2002.

We’re going to now switch to San Antonio.  I will go through these fairly quickly because they’ve, you know, you’ve seen them now for west Matagorda, you kind of know what we’re talking about but, again, peak in early 2000, about a 20 percent decline as you move down to that .8 catch per unit ‑‑ catch per hour, with our gill nets there.  Note that the scale is different on this one as compared to the past one because we have that real high peak there in the mid-90s.

Again, focusing really on the last three years, again, you can see as the sub-legal fish are starting to come into the system again, we’ve got some fish coming on in San Antonio Bay which people will start catching very soon, as well.

COMMISSIONER HOLT:  When you say "coming on," you talking about we’re stocking or coming naturally or ‑‑

MR. RIECHERS:  No, this is just they’re coming naturally.

COMMISSIONER HOLT:  Okay.

MR. RIECHERS:  We’ve had some recruitment years, which our bag seines show us and we’re starting to see those in our gill nets and we’re going to look at our bag seines here in just a second again, as well.

There’s our bag seines, in fact.  You can see that they started going up in that ’05, ’06 kind of range, really ’06.  That’s what you’re seeing in the graph I just showed you and I will tell you that in June and August of this year, we had record highs.  We expect it to be ‑‑ it may not be the best on record, it may not meet that point in ’92 but it’s going to be a pretty high bag seine number as well here.

And there you can see why people were, in fact, given us phone calls a couple of summers ago.  Myself ‑‑ I got more phone calls two summers ago than this summer.  I think that speaks to some of those fish coming into the system and starting to be available to catch but you can certainly see where people did see their landings drop off and so that was some of the concern.

Next, we’ll go to Aransas Bay and you can see the same kind of trend.  The peak in those early 2000s and now somewhat of a downward trend.  That trend there is about 50 percent of what it was or 30 percent of what it was at one point in time.  It just depends on which point you try to select.

Again, not as pronounced here but you do see the rise in the three years ‑‑ ’08, ’09 and ’10, in the red bars there at the end.

And this one, if we didn’t catch another spotted sea trout for the rest of this month, is already a record high and, as you can see there, it’s following two other record highs so we got a lot of fish coming into that sub-legal category as well, as seeing more fish in that sub-legal category.

And there, again, as noted before, you can see why people were somewhat concerned regarding their landings.  I’m going to briefly go down to Lower Laguna Madre and remind everyone, of course, that we implemented a bag limit change there that went to five fish that we started in September of 2007.  And the reason I’m doing this is obviously twofold, one, to show you the results of your efforts there in managing that part of the fishery but we’ve also had some interesting behavioral shifts that may be part of the dialogue as we move forward.

When we look at fishing efforts, you can see that fishing effort basically was stable in the Lower Laguna Madre, through time.  You can see little uptick in most recent years.  You can see the long-term downward trend that basically had us look at that.  All the way to about 2006 there, we were on a long-term downward trend and that’s, of course, why we took the action we took to go to five fish in that part of the world.

Most importantly, right here you can see that the guide community took great advantage of that first year in regards to that rule, had great success and you can see that the private boat anglers with the red line are starting to have some of that similar success, doing very well, as far as catches.

This is what is quite interesting.  When you take the two years before, in the yellow, and the two years after the rule change, in the red, obviously in the yellow, you had fish out all the way to ten fish because the bag limit was ten.  When you start moving those fish back into the distribution of the five, you can see that the success rate of the angler actually reaching five fish has gone up.  We’re redistributed that catch.  That catch that used to be out there from five to ten fish is now re-distributed and a lot more individuals are catching their bag limit at ‑‑ you can see there ‑‑ at 10 percent or so.

This is also quite interesting in that the yellow bars represent the two years before and that is what you’d typically see with a minimum length limit.  It’s at its highest point or highest frequency at the point where that length limit is established and then it goes downhill from there.

What you can see with the red bars there is the two years after, and what that basically is telling us, we would expect that red bar at 15 inches to be as high or higher than at the 16-inch mark but what that basically is telling us is that individuals ‑‑ private and party boats or guide boats ‑‑ are targeting 16-inch fish.  They’re targeting larger fish.  It either means they’re discarding those fish when they first catch them, waiting on larger fish or it means that we have some high grading going on.  They actually discard those fish some time during their trip when they catch a larger fish.

So what that tells us about any considerations of bag limit changes is that we may not see ‑‑ we have some behavioral changes and we may not get the anticipated results because of those kinds of shifts.  So basically we’re going to increase our release mortality with that kind of targeting behavior.

So what ‑‑ in summary, that basically ‑‑ our conclusion is that we’ve got some real strong year classes emerging in the midcoast areas.  We’re already picking those up in our gill nets and in the legal fishery.  We’re seeing some strong year classes in our bag seines that are following those, as well.

When viewing this information, our Coastal Resource Advisory Committee recommended that we go to scoping with this.  They believe that we should go have a discussion about some conservation measures regarding spotted sea trout.  We certainly will concur with that if you concur and go out for that scoping.  You know, I will say, when we say conservation measures here, it probably either means a discussion about minimum size limits or bag limits.  From a biological standpoint, we believe we’re about there on the minimum size limit.  It’s probably going to be more of a discussion about a bag limit reduction.

That concludes my presentation.  I’d be happy to answer any questions.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Are there any questions?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS:  Are you looking for recommendations or support for your recommendation that we vote?

MR. RIECHERS:  Yes.

COMMISSIONER HOLT:  That’s a good idea.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Sure.

COMMISSIONER HOLT:  It’s been two years?  How long has it been?  When did we put these in place?

MR. RIECHERS:  The Lower Laguna Madre we put in place in 2007 and, of course, it ‑‑ we haven’t had any significant discussion regarding coastwide measures since 2002.

COMMISSIONER HOLT:  So scoping would be done for Lower Laguna Madre or are you talking about ‑‑

MR. RIECHERS:  No, we’re talking about scoping coast-wide, specifically these middle coast areas where we’ve had a lot of feedback and belief that a lot of folks believe there’s a real change in angler ethic and the desire to have greater conservation.  Certainly, our Coastal Resource Advisory Committee expressed that, as well.

COMMISSIONER HOLT:  Change in angler ethic.

MR. RIECHERS:  Meaning ‑‑

COMMISSIONER HOLT:  Help me.

MR. RIECHERS:  ‑‑ more of our coastal anglers are practicing catch and release and have a desire to possibly see that bag limit go down.

COMMISSIONER HOLT:  Even you’ve got ‑‑ in busier areas.  Okay.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Thanks, Robin.

MR. RIECHERS:  Thank you.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  We appreciate it.  All right. Inland Fisheries.  Ken.

MR. KURZAWSKI:  Good morning, Commissioners.  My name is Ken Kurzawski in the Inland Fisheries Division and I’m here today to preview our potential changes to our freshwater fishing regulations.  As always, these are changes that, as most instances, been developed by our district staffs, reviewed at the regional level, reviewed at a statewide level and also presented before our Freshwater Advisory Board, for their review.

We have some broad categories of changes this year.  First, we have a couple of newly opened waters, that waters will be opened soon ‑‑ Wheeler Branch Reservoir near Glen Rose and Lake Kyle, which is just south of here, near Kyle.

We have some modification of some existing reservoirs ‑‑ existing regulation on Alan Henry Reservoir.  We are looking at implementing some new regulations on Lakes Kirby and Palestine and, finally, I’ll discuss with you some recent discussions we had with Louisiana on some regulations on our border waters.

Starting of at Wheeler Branch, this is a new 100-acre ‑‑ 180-acre reservoir near Glen Rose.  It’s set to open in September, 2001 and our staff has been working on a management plan with the water district there to develop the fishery.  One of the measures that we do there is stocking prior to opening.  We just stocked some largemouth, smallmouth ‑‑ I believe we did stock some walleye.  I don’t know if we’ve ‑‑ I don’t have any information on the development of those but, typically, we have stocked walleye quite frequently around the state and they ‑‑ we’ve had trouble with them reproducing in most places so we don’t have real strong populations except for probably, you know, Meredith ‑‑ there’s one reservoir where they do reproduce real well.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS:  County judge’s sure excited about it.

MR. KURZAWSKI:  That’s the ‑‑ the two we always hear about are walleye and smallmouth.  People really enjoy those but, once again, we have ‑‑ those fish just have trouble reproducing in most of our waters ‑‑ I know there’s a lot of interest in them, but any ‑‑ as part of that, we did do some stocking there.

COMMISSIONER HOLT:  Who wants walleye?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS:  There’s a ‑‑ actually, he’s a candidate.  I don’t know whether he was elected or not yesterday but he was a candidate and was very excited about the prospect of Somerville County will ‑‑

COMMISSIONER HOLT:  We’ll try to help him out but tell he still can’t go fishing until September.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS:  He knows that.

COMMISSIONER HOLT:  Next September.

MR. KURZAWSKI:  What we try and do in new reservoirs and what we’ve done over the years is try and protect and enhance those new fisheries by restricting harvest and we want to maintain that quality fishing.  When the reservoirs have been closed to fishing, we usually have good populations, good size structure build up and, what we’ve seen in the past, those fish were easily harvested when it first opened so what we try to do in there is restrict the harvest and make sure that the work we’ve done in developing those populations will extend just past those first few months of opening.

And what we plan to do on Wheeler Branch, we were going in with a 14- to 21-inch slot for largemouth bass, an 18-inch minimum for the smallmouth and we’ll also have some gear restrictions there to pull a line only, to help the ‑‑ those helps the catfish population to develop and also it’s a smaller reservoir, the water district is planning to have a number of other uses such as ‑‑ hopefully, it’s clear ‑‑ scuba diving, some kayaking so ‑‑ and that’ll help ‑‑ that will also help reduce some user conflicts there by doing that.

Next, looking at Lake Kyle, which is an existing 12-acre lake in the Plum Creek Subdivision, just a little bit south of us here in Kyle, there was an existing lake on the private property, before the subdivision was put in.  Now they are talking about wanting to open that, put a little public park around that lake and limit it, you know, said to open it to limited public access in 2002.  It currently has an excellent largemouth bass population and staff there would like to manage that and maintain that after it’s open.

And what we’re looking at there is a similar regulation for bass ‑‑ a 14-21 slot and this reservoir will also fall under the community fishing lake regulations, which will limit it to pole-and-lining, reel and also a reduced bag and harvest for catfish ‑‑ channel catfish and blue catfish.

Next, Lake Alan Henry.  It’s a reservoir southeast of Lubbock.  Recently, it has produced 25 ShareLunkers.  Those are largemouth bass of 13 pounds or larger and that’s second only to Fork.  In addition to the Florida largemouth bass we stock in there, we did originally stock it with smallmouth bass.  They have not become established there.  A few years after its opening we came back with an experimental stocking of a strain of spotted bass, Alabama spotted bass, which reach a larger size than our native strain.

We stocked them out there because it’s outside of the range of our native fish.  There’s also a little chance for escapement there so we wanted to see how they would do in that reservoir and they started kind of slow but the population is now expanding in there.

Our current regulations there ‑‑ we have a daily bag of five bass, which is all three species combined.  Responding to some angler interest in the bass population there and a buildup of smaller fish, we did change that a few years ago to ‑‑ of those five bass you could harvest less than ‑‑ two less than 18 inches to get some of those smaller fish out there, improve the growth of the bass in there and keep producing some trophy fish.

The smallmouth and spotted ‑‑ when we opened it, we put a protective regulation on of 18-inch minimum, which is typically what we do for our quality smallmouth bass and also for the spotted bass, to protect those initial year classes.

What we’re seeing there now are, we’re ‑‑ as I said, we don’t have any smallmouth developing in there.  The spotted bass have developed a good population and there are a number of fish in there less than 18 inches and we would like to allow the anglers to harvest some of those smaller spotted bass and also help to reduce some problems we have with possible I.D. problems between smallmouth ‑‑ spotted bass and the largemouth bass and we’re going to combine the regulation for spotted and largemouth ‑‑ that same five-fish bag and also allow two fish less than 18 inches for the spotted bass, so that will make it the same.  Any bass that you catch out there, the regulation will be the same for the anglers and this helps a lot of tournament interest there.  They’ll be able to harvest some of those fish and weigh them in tournaments and we’re going to remove that 18-inch minimum.

Anglers see that 18-inch minimum on there and say, oh boy, this is a good smallmouth lake when actually there aren’t any smallmouth in there and also we just revert back to that statewide minimum.

Next to Kirby Reservoir, near Abilene and Lake Palestine in East Texas.  Catfish are a popular game fish in both of these reservoirs.  They have similar population structures.  They have very abundant slow-growing channel catfish.  I believe, in Kirby, it’s taking them up to six years to reach 12 inches, so we have a buildup of very small, small, slow-growing catfish.

There’s good blue catfish populations.  They’re abundant and they grow well and they produce some quality-size fish and ‑‑ what staffs there are looking at doing is trying to get ‑‑ remove some of these smaller channels by removing the minimum length and increasing our statewide bag, which is 20 to 50.  We see up to 50 percent of the channel catfish being caught in these reservoirs are less than that 12-inch minimum.  Anglers would like to harvest some of those smaller fish and we think there would be some benefits of getting some of those smaller fish out of the reservoir.  The additional harvest there should reduce competition with all the catfish and improve growth and also by increasing the harvest, some of those smaller fish should enhance the production of the bigger fish and by limiting the harvest of fish 20 inches or greater, we think we can maintain some of the equality of those blue catfish populations.

And, finally, recently we met with the staffs at Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.  Typically, we meet with our counterparts in Oklahoma and Louisiana on a regular basis to discuss management issues on our border waters and our goal while we ‑‑ both with Oklahoma and Louisiana ‑‑ is to get our regulations as standardized as possible so when you cross that imaginary line on the reservoir, the regulations are as similar as possible, which is, you know, good for our anglers, good for enforcement and good for everybody involved.

And, we did discuss some standardization of regulations on Toledo Bend and also on Caddo.  One of the ones we discussed was catfish regulations.  We have different regulations there on both sides of the reservoir.  Over the years, with Louisiana, we’ve had a little different management philosophy.  They are very harvest-oriented philosophy.  Certainly, we have ‑‑ we don’t have anything against harvest.  We ‑‑ you know, that’s a part of the fishing experience but we would also like to maintain some quality to our angling population so we try and have that balance and they go more towards the harvest.

So overall we’re a little more successful with Oklahoma, reaching some compromises, less so with Louisiana and also for Caddo.  We considered some changes to our largemouth bass regs, spotted bass and white bass.  One species that you don’t see on here are crappie, which has sort of been ‑‑ over the years has been the main difference in regulation.

We have a ten-inch minimum on our side.  They don’t have any size ‑‑ minimum-size limit.  We did ‑‑ a few years ago ‑‑ compromise with them.  We increased our bag limit to try and get a little standardization there and there’s been a few times they’ve committed to going with a 10-inch minimum but it’s never been quite consummated with them.  Sometimes it gets to the very last minute and then it gets pulled so they are ‑‑ their staff are also looking at these and we’ll continue to discuss these with them and we ‑‑ as we said, we’d like to get a commitment with them before the January meeting, before we proceed with these, if we’re going to change some of our existing regulations or exceptions, we would like know that those are being implemented on the other side before we proceed to those, rather than just making another change and we’ll still be different.

So we ‑‑ hopefully by January, we’ll have some reading, one way or the other from all that and we’ll bring you those proposals at that time.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Thanks, Ken.

MR. KURZAWSKI:  Did I answer all the questions?

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Questions or direction?  Commissioner Duggins?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS:  Is Wheeler Branch ‑‑ I can’t remember how many boat ramps are there, but at the boat ramps, do we put up any signage to help anglers distinguish between smallmouth and largemouth and ‑‑

MR. KURZAWSKI:  Not necessarily.  We do have some regulations signs.  That information is in our Outdoor Annual, as far as different species ‑‑ between the bass species, both largemouth, smallmouth, spotted and white bass and the hybrids.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS:  Okay, next question.  What is meant ‑‑ on Lake Kyle ‑‑ what is meant by conditional public access?

MR. KURZAWSKI:  I think they’re going to ‑‑ first off, they’re going to open it a year with just limited access and then see how that goes and then determine from that.  Also, I think they were going to put a time ‑‑ open at just daylight hours.  Things like that.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS:  Is that what you mean by limited?

MR. KURZAWSKI:  Yes.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS:  Open to everyone but ‑‑

MR. KURZAWSKI:  Right.  Yes.

(Simultaneous discussion.)

MR. KURZAWSKI:  The public will be able to come in there.  Right now, you have to be ‑‑ you have to live in that subdivision to fish there and we wouldn’t enter into an agreement where the public couldn’t get in there and fish.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS:  Okay.  And then on the discussion you had with Louisiana, did alligator gar come up, at all?

MR. KURZAWSKI:  Oh, we discussed it but they weren’t really interested in making any changes on ‑‑ I think they said they’d look at it but they have a very harvest-oriented fishery there in Louisiana and the idea of going to one fish, that just wasn’t something they were willing to do.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS:  You met with Oklahoma to talk about Texoma?  Did that come up at all?

MR. KURZAWSKI:  Yes, we do have similar ‑‑ they have the same regulation that we do on alligator gar.  In fact, they sort of fired the first shot there.  They found some of those spawning areas where they wanted to restrict closures up there and we worked very closely with them on that.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS:  And you can’t make any headway with Louisiana?

MR. KURZAWSKI:  No, the other ‑‑ they are great people in Louisiana.

(Simultaneous discussion.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT:  What is the term you use again?

MR. SMITH:  Harvest-oriented.

COMMISSIONER HOLT:  Harvest-oriented.  I like that.  Yes.

MR. KURZAWSKI:  Well, we’ll keep talking with them.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Commissioner Hughes.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES:  I have one question, Ken.  Not exactly what we were talking about but on our ShareLunker program, where are the ‑‑ all the fingerling?  Where are they re-stocked each year?  Are they stocked in all lakes or are there specific areas?

MR. KURZAWSKI:  Some of them ‑‑ if the fish do spawn, not all the fish do spawn ‑‑ but if any of the ShareLunkers are spawning, we do take some of those fingerlings back to the reservoir where they were caught and spawn and some of them are put into our regular spawning programs so we always ‑‑ if there are some spawn, we always take some back to that reservoir and we always try ‑‑ and if the angler allows it, we always bring those ShareLunkers back to the lake also, as many anglers do, where they can leave them in our program there in Athens.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS:  But it’s slightly different if it comes from a private lake, isn’t it?  Doesn’t the angler who caught it have the right to ‑‑

MR. KURZAWSKI:  Right.  Yes, that’s a little different.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS:  You might want to explain that.

MR. KURZAWSKI:  Well, I don’t know if we’d take those ‑‑ I don’t know if we’d necessarily spawn them and take any back to the private waters.  I don’t believe we do that.  But we do make a commitment on the public waters to bring some of the fingerlings back there.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS:  Okay.  Thank you.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Thanks, Ken.  Okay.

Item 4 is an Update on Revisions to Exotic Aquatic Species Rules.  Dr. Gary Saul.

MR. SAUL:  Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners.  My name is Gary Saul.  I’m the Director of Inland Fisheries.  I’d like to present you a very brief update on the revisions to the Exotic Aquatic Plant rules that we’ve been working with.  You’ve gotten, I believe, two briefings prior and I’d just like to bring you up to date very quickly as to where we are now.

As you know, the Sunset legislation’s asked us to produce a white list, which will be for exotic aquatic plants that are allowed to be maintained in Texas without a permit.  And, we were asked to have these rules in place for 1 September  ‑‑ or, excuse me ‑‑ 1 January, 2011.  As we’ve worked through this process, this has been a very, very time-consuming process, we’ve worked with a lot of people on this ‑‑ we have split our approach as we go through and with our vascular plants and macroalgae, we are developing the white list as we were directed through the legislation.

As we’ve worked with microalgae and working with the industries that we are now involved with, we have chosen to take the approach of utilizing a black list that all of the industry agrees to, in terms of species that are toxic, that they don’t want to be used, and we would be using a permit system.

This is what is under consideration right now in the development of our rules.

COMMISSIONER HOLT:  Permit system for those that are on the black list?

MR. SAUL:  A permit ‑‑ well, there’s a permit system ‑‑ those that are on the ineligible list ‑‑

COMMISSIONER HOLT:  Right.

MR. SAUL:  ‑‑ could be maintained by permit if they were doing research with the species to try to find something else out about the species but basically we put them on the ineligible list so that anybody working in the biofuels industry would say, We’re not going to work with those species so ‑‑ we’re not going to work with species that we know have toxic properties.

COMMISSIONER HOLT:  Period.

MR. SAUL:  Period.

COMMISSIONER HOLT:  Okay.

MR. SAUL:  Yes.  But researchers, if we have some researchers that are doing work on toxins ‑‑

COMMISSIONER HOLT:  Right.

MR. SMITH:  ‑‑ we might be able ‑‑ we can permit them to work with that.  So we presented an initial draft to you in August that we have circulated widely, publicly, to those who are both within the vascular aquatic community, water gardens and landscaping, and also in the biofuels industry.

So since August, we’ve received a number of comments that have come on in and we received a letter from Senator Hegar, who was one of the co-authors of our Sunset Bill and he realized the magnitude of the issues that we’re dealing with right now on the microalgae side and his comment to us ‑‑ the letter that he wrote to us ‑‑ asked us to slow down, make sure that we get it right.  Our goal was to be presenting to you, this meeting ‑‑ tomorrow ‑‑  for adoption of the rules so they could be in effect in 1 January and his realization of where we were and everything that we were trying to do, he asked us to slow down.

Let’s not force it for January 1.  Let’s get it right.  So we’ve greatly appreciated that.  That’s given us a couple of more months, where we have been working intensively now to ensure that we’ve gotten all the comments from stakeholders and understand all the processes, so that we can go forward in our development of the rules.

We also received a letter in October from Texas Department of Agriculture Commissioner, Todd Staples, where they basically want to ensure that we’re not going to impact the agricultural industry, which is certainly understandable and they question whether or not microalgae really are plants.  They’re very difficult to identify.  They also believe very strongly that, genetically modified organisms or genetically modified plants are highly regulated by some federal authorities and the state really does not need to get involved in that.

So we have taken those comments in.  We’ve looked at them and what we’re trying to do right now is to continue to work forward and work with the folks, particularly in the biofuels area.

We’ve had a total of 12 public hearings.  We’ve had three hearings where we specifically worked with folks in the biofuels area and are trying very hard to make sure that we fully understand everything that goes on because our goal is to protect our environment but not to have onerous regs, if at all possible.  So one of the places that we are working right now is in the understanding of exactly how the federal regs work and how we can partner with those regs, how we can complement those regs and not layer something on top that isn’t necessary.  And it’s one of our areas of focus right now.

So I wanted you to ‑‑ to make sure that you understood where we were there.  I’d like to give you a little status though on the vascular plants, which is certainly one of the places that we thought, in the beginning, we would be ‑‑ you know, we would be able to develop that with relative ease.

COMMISSIONER HOLT:  How about other states?  Are we  ‑‑ all relative to the regulation of microalgae?  Are we talking to them or do we know that ‑‑ is that ‑‑ I assume, is obviously a major worry of the biofuels.

MR. SAUL:  And it is.

COMMISSIONER HOLT:  Every state ends up with its own regs and they’re all different and ‑‑ I mean, is that true right now?

MR. SAUL:  Yes, it is.  And, in the Sunbelt area, which is where the principal development would be ‑‑

COMMISSIONER HOLT:  Right.

MR. SAUL:  ‑‑ we’ve been in contact with all the states and talked to them and they are ‑‑ we are regulated differently.

COMMISSIONER HOLT:  Okay.

MR. SAUL:  And they’re looking at Texas right now to see what it is that we’re going to come forward with.  We have some that are very, very stringent on everything that is done.  Others that are covered under a very general exotic species program.  So we’re kind of walking the line right now when you ‑‑ as you come down here, just to make sure that we’ve covered ‑‑ that everything will be covered, whether it’s us or the feds, it’s okay.  It’s just, are we making sure that the, you know, the environmental systems will be covered.

So, yes.  But we have spent a lot of time talking to the other states and walking on through that.  On the vascular plant side, what we’ve done is we’ve gone from ‑‑ what we had was a black list ‑‑ a prohibited list of 19 species, removing to an approved list which ‑‑ I think as we started this off, honestly, we didn’t think it would be a tremendous number of species.

Our staff has looked at and researched over 500 species of aquatic exotic plants that have been submitted for consideration for this list.  And, it’s a tremendous amount of work and folks in all of our divisions that have, you know, that have the ‑‑ this expertise have helped us out and it’s been greatly appreciated.

We’ve looked at 497 species.  That’s where we are today.  As of today, we have 233 species that we have listed on the approved list.  We have 110 species that were basically determined to be either native or naturalized and so not a threat.

We have, at this point, 63 species that have not been approved for the white list and I think in January that we’re continuing to work through those species.  We’re still working through a few more.  We’re about 97 percent complete, of all the species that we’ve received.

We believe that you will hear, in January when we come to you with the regs, that there will be some species that are of the vascular plants, that the industry would like to have listed but that are currently ‑‑ excuse me  ‑‑ that are currently in commerce and we are working with them now to try to make sure that we have every bit of information as possible to be able to make that decision.

We’ve worked extensively with groups.  We respond almost on a daily basis with some folks who are extremely interested in what we’re doing and wanting to make sure that we’re aware of certain species and we respond to the folks as quickly as we can.  And then, on the industry side, and also on the conservation side, we try to be as inclusive with everyone as we can.

So that’s kind of a status of where we are and then, what we have going forward now, we have about another six weeks to go.  Our goal is to have our rules to the Texas Register by the 13th of December and we’re continuing to work through the species we have.  We’re continuing to work through the regulations, other state regulations, federal regulations and then, we hope to be coming to you in January with a request for approval.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Obviously, an extensive and laborious process.  I don’t even think we can comprehend what you’ve been going through, trying to do that but we appreciate your efforts and the department’s efforts in trying to get this finalized.  Thank you.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS:  I have one question.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Commissioner Bivins.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS:  On the microalgae side, would it be prudent to try to separate that into a separate entity with a separate grouping?  It seems to be a different scale with a lot of these other things and that is an industry that’s driving it and, well, I don’t know exactly.  I was discussing this with Commissioner Duggins last night and trying to figure out exactly how we could maybe make this its own set of guidelines that would be separate from the others.

MR. SAUL:  It would be simpler.  Would you like to address that?

MS. BRIGHT:  Sure, Gary.

For the record, I’m Ann Bright, General Counsel.  And you’ve really just put your finger on something that we’ve been struggling with through this entire rule-making process and that is really just how to structure the rules.  And, where we’ve kind of been leaning, I guess, in the last couple of weeks, is really exactly what you said, which is to separate those out because while it’s going to involve some repetition   ‑‑ and we will probably end up with just two separate subchapters.  One subchapter on vascular and macroalgae and one on microalgae.

While there’s some things that would probably just have to be repeated, there are some things that are just so different from microalgae that we’re hoping that that will help make the rules a little bit clearer and a little bit more, I guess, intuitive.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS:  Good.  I mean, all these invasive aquatics are such a broad range, such a huge variety.  You’ve got to figure out a way to categorize it in some fashion.

MS. BRIGHT:  And that’s been a continuing topic of discussion.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS:  Thank you.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Thanks, Ann.  Any other questions?  Thank you.  We appreciate it.  Okay.

Item 5, Update on Alligator Gar Research and Management.  Craig Bonds.

MR. BONDS:  Good morning.  For the record, I’m Craig Bonds, Inland Fisheries Program Director in Region 3 in East Texas.  Today I have the privilege of giving you a status report of some of the activities and research that we’ve been conducting and information we’ve learned on alligator gar in Texas, especially in light of the recent 2009 implementation of the one-fish-per-day bag limit, we’ve really tried to partner with our anglers and learn as much as we can about this species and effort and harvest and to address any conservation issues that may be on the table.

There are a number of management strategies that we’ve employed to attain our management goal, which can be simply stated.  We know we have the best trophy alligator gar fishing opportunities in the entire world and we want to maintain that for present and future generations.

Some of the research that we’ve been conducting recently is focused on population dynamics and what I mean by that is age and size structure, exploitation, growth, mortality.  We’ve also looked at validating some of our aging techniques, as well as looking into the movement and habitat needs of this fish, as well as the retention of various external tags that we’ve been using to help us get estimates of population size and exploitation ‑‑ also looked into contaminants of the edible fish tissues and genetic  variability across the alligator gar fish stocks in Texas.

Of course, we can’t get people interested in conserving a species that they don’t know anything about and we’re trying to share this information with our anglers and also the general public.  And, interestingly, this species and especially the fishery in the Trinity River has garnered not only local but nationwide and international attention, not only in the print media but also cable television, PBS documentaries.

In addition, we’ve also been sharing information with a collection of fisheries’ research and management scientists across the southeastern United States.

We would not have been able to obtain the information that we collected over the past several years if it were not for collaborative partnerships with our anglers.  Really chief among these would be Kirk Kirkland, who is a catch-and-release rod-and-reel alligator-gar guide on the Trinity River.  He has been externally marking fish that he and his clients have been catching, which has allowed us to look at the size structure of the fish that he’s caught but also get an estimate of population size and also exploitation.

We have also been partnering with various bowfishing organizations and tournament groups, not only to get a better handle on their effort and harvest but to also ‑‑ because these fish are harvested, it allows us to get our hands on these fish, take them back to our fisheries shops, collect information, aging structures from these fish that come into these tournaments.

As well as individual anglers, we’ve really made an effort to get in touch with alligator gar anglers, especially around the East Texas area.  They know to contact us if they are out and they harvest fish, they contact us, we get with them, collect those fish and obtain whatever information that we can obtain from those fish.

In addition, we’ve partnered with taxidermists.  One in particular in East Texas that has graciously allowed us to come into their shops when they are busy processing these fish and it allows us to get the aging structures and also additional information.

And, recently, there has been an alligator gar technical committee established with the Southern Division of the American Fisheries Society and we have both research scientists and management biologists actively engaged in this group.

What we’ve learned from our bowfishing tournaments, there have been three large, organized alligator gar- focused bowfishing tournaments on the Trinity River each of the past two years.  And, 468 participants have harvested approximately 100 alligator gar out of those six tournaments and it’s been fairly equally split between 2009 and 2010.

One important point to make is that they are harvesting a wide range of sizes of alligator gar but their harvest rate is actually not that high.  Their efficiency is fairly low.  It takes approximately 50 angler hours for each alligator gar harvested from those tournaments.

But, again, because those fish are harvested, it allows us to take those fish back, collect information.  For example, the aging structures that we use is a bone inside the inner ear called an otolith and we’re able to section that bone, look at it under a microscope with a fiber optic light and it illuminates the annual growth rings or the annuli and allows us to obtain a very accurate age for each of those fish.

From our mark, we capture information on the Trinity River from downstream of Dallas/Fort Worth to about the Lake Livingston area, we’ve determined that there are approximately 9200 alligator gar larger than 42 inches in that stretch of the river and we use 42 inches as our minimum size because that’s the minimum size that has recruited to the rod-and-reel gear of Kirk Kirkland and I would like to point out that for the true trophy size, those fish over 80 inches we estimate that there’s only about 1400 of those fish available on that stretch of the river.

When we look at age of alligator gar in Texas, these fish grow rapidly up to about 5 feet in length but once they attain sexual maturity, at about eight to ten years old, their growth slows considerably and on average, although highly variable, it takes 20 years to reach 6 feet in length.  The maximum age in Texas is 53 years so far from the fish that we’ve collected, although there has been a 64-year-old fish collected in Arkansas.

We’ve learned these fish are not equally vulnerable across seasons.  They’re particularly vulnerable to bow anglers in the late spring, early summer when they’re spawning.  These fish inhabit backwater areas, they’re almost completely oblivious to the goings-on around them and they’re often in very shallow water and vulnerable to bow angling at that time.

However, during the summer, they pull out into the main river channel, typically inhabit and congregate in large groups, in deep pools.  The water temperature increases their feeding activity, also increases and they are then vulnerable to rod and reel angling.

They’re only at the surface during the summer, very momentarily, when they come up and gulp air, whereas, during the winter time, water temperature plummets, these are cold water creatures, they don’t feed as much and very few anglers pursue them at that time.

From our movement information, we have externally attached ultrasonic tags on a number of alligator gar in the lower Trinity from Lake Livingston down to Trinity Bay.  And the group of fish that we’ve tagged immediately below Lake Livingston Dam, the upper red circle, although fully capable of making large movements, they typically did not interact much with the group of fish that we tagged down in the lowest extremity of the Trinity River, down at the Bay River interface.

COMMISSIONER HOLT:  What would be the distance between those circles, roughly?

MR. BONDS:  That’s 180 ‑‑ 110 miles.

COMMISSIONER HOLT:  A pretty good distance.

MR. BONDS:  Right.  Interestingly, we have striped bass tagged in the same stretch that can travel from the Lake Livingston Dam to the Bay in about two weeks, so other species do migrate up and down that river system.

Our Coastal Fisheries staff have been collecting genetics information from alligator gar that they’ve been collecting in the various bay systems in Texas and what they’ve learned is that there is considerable genetic variability among alligator gar stocks.  The most genetically discrete population resides in the lower Rio Grande.

Because alligator gar live such a long time, they’re a top-end predator, we’re concerned about contaminants.  They are fully capable of accumulating contaminants in their edible tissues.  Where we have collected fish in areas that have existing fish consumption advisories in place, we have found that those fish have had elevated levels of particular contaminants, specifically PCBs in the Trinity, mercury in the Trinity and Toledo Bend.  Contaminants typically vary by sight and are higher and larger fish, which would ‑‑ which is what we would expect; however, in other areas of the state, specifically Choke Canyon Reservoir, where we do not have contaminant issues, levels were very low.  So it’s not an alligator gar specific problem; it’s more a geographical problem, and where we do have fish contaminant concerns, we also need to be concerned with alligator gar as well.

Because this species has a very low natural mortality rate ‑‑ they have to in order to live 50 years, we know that they are very vulnerable to being overfished.  A sustainable harvest rate of about 1 to 5 percent of the total population, on an annual basis, is what we believe is a sustainable rate.

So for the upper Trinity, from downstream of Dallas/Fort Worth to about the Lake Livingston area, that corresponds with only about 460 fish over 42 inches on an annual basis.  And only 70 fish over 80 inches on an annual basis.  That’s not very many fish.

But, from our angler returns of those tagged fish, we’ve estimated that the current harvest level is around 3 to 3-1/2 percent, on an annual basis so we’re within that sustainable window but we’re kind of on the cusp.  We can’t afford for harvest to increase very much.  Now, that 2010 estimate ‑‑ 1.5 percent ‑‑ that is only for data we’ve collected through June.  We will need to amend that value with recently collected information but based on the rate at which those tags were returned to us, we believe that the harvest is very similar to ’08 and ’09.

We’ve learned that about three-quarters of our harvest is by bow anglers and about one-quarter of our harvest is by rod and reel and trotline anglers.

Why this is important is because if effort were to increase or river flows ‑‑ the periodicity or magnitude of spring flood events might impact reproductive success of this species and drive harvest rates higher.  If harvest were to approach a level around 10 percent, we would see a very large reduction in the population size, even over a 25-year period and what’s more alarming is that it would twice as long ‑‑ up to 50 years ‑‑ to rebuild that population, even under no-fishing harvests.

So that’s a slippery slope that we don’t want to get on and if we find out too late, it will take a long, long time to rebuild that population.

So, in summary, we believe that the harvest in the Trinity River right now is at a sustainable rate but we don’t have much room for increase there and, again, if river flows were to drastically change due to increased water demand over time, it could impact the level of harvest in that river in proportion to the population.  We also need to consider seasonal vulnerability of this species if we are to potentially enact any future management strategies to reduce harvester effort.

Because these fish typically don’t move a great deal and they show high site fidelity to their particular pool or stretch of river, they’re vulnerable to being overfished at a localized level.  So it’s entirely appropriate to manage this species at a watershed scale or even finer designation.

Also, where consumption advisories do exist, we need to be concerned about alligator gar.  So, in conclusion, where are we going from here?  What are the next steps in managing alligator gar in Texas?  The first and most important, I believe, is, we need to get a better handle on alligator gar fishing effort.  We have enumerated and have a good handle on what our tournament anglers are doing but it’s all that extra recreation, non-organized bow fishing and rod and reel angling that we don’t have a good handle on right now and it’s important to get more information.

And, I’ll back up.  The state of Arkansas, interestingly, has gone to a volunteer or a free permit, to where if you are an angler, you buy your fishing license, you think you’re going to go fish for alligator gar that year, you get this permit and that allows the agency to not only enumerate those individuals but also have contact information for them too.

Not advocating that for Texas at this point but I’m just saying that there are other tools in the toolbox, in addition to our typical means of assessing this information.  We need to get also a better handle on reproductive success and, through our aging, we know that these fish do not produce strong year classes every year and it’s highly tied to river flow and we’re ‑‑ as we continue to obtain additional age samples, we’re going to tie peaks and year-class strength to river flows.

We also need to better understand hooking mortality and as I’ve heard from some bow anglers that have shifted more towards rod and reel angling, that we need a better handle on those fish that are released and how they do over time and the implications for catch-and-release angling.

Also, we need to increase our knowledge of alligator gar outside the Trinity River.  We’ve worked hard to try to learn as much as we can about that watershed but we need information about alligator gar fisheries outside that area.

And, lastly, we need to improve our sampling techniques.  We’ve relied heavily on volunteer anglers and it’s been a win/win collaborative relationship but it’d be nice to be a little bit more self-sufficient and to be able to learn how to capture these very hard to capture fish, in the future.

That concludes my presentation this morning.  I’d be more than happy to entertain questions at this time.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Can you go back to the harvest slide and, you may have mentioned this, but the 1.5 percent in 2010, obviously is a significant reduction.  Did you ‑‑ maybe I didn’t hear it but did you indicate why it’s lower.  Is that regulation or a pattern of harvest ‑‑ recreational behavior?

MR. BONDS:  Right.  We believe at this time, it’s probably not due to the regulation.  It’s due to the fact that that value represents data that we’ve collected through June of this year and needs to be amended but by the rate of return of angler’s reporting, they’ve caught tagged fish, or harvested tagged fish.  We believe that harvest is going to be very similar to 2008 and 2009.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  So at this point, we can’t correlate the new reg to off-take or harvest.  Is that right?

MR. BONDS:  Not at this time.  It doesn’t appear that that regulation change has made a significant reduction in harvest.  Not only from our angler tag returns but also from our bow tournaments, as well.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Nor does it indicate that it should or that it was necessary, in terms of overall population dynamics.  Right?

MR. BONDS:  We have data from the Trinity River.  We also don’t know a whole lot of what’s going on outside that area but we do think that that’s probably the hot spot for fishing effort and harvest right now ‑‑ the Trinity River and it does appear that harvest is within that sustainable window.  However, it’s pretty close to that edge and we didn’t know that several years ago ‑‑

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Right.

MR. BONDS:  ‑‑ but it’s important.  I think the regulation also contributed to helping push a cultural shift in the appreciation of these fish.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  And awareness.  Right.

MR. BONDS:  And awareness and a value ‑‑ of the recreational value that they offer.  And, it’s a first step ‑‑

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Sure.

MR. BONDS:  ‑‑ in managing the species.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Any other questions?  Commissioner Duggins.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS:  You said that three ‑‑ you were asking us for the three-fourths of the take ‑‑ the harvest was by bow, which I presume, based on your other comments, occurred during the spawn?

MR. BONDS:  Yes, sir.  It mainly occurs in late spring, early summer.  That’s correct.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS:  Well, isn’t that problematic?  I mean, shouldn’t we be looking at whether we ought to reduce ‑‑ if they’re so vulnerable ‑‑ three-fourths of them are taken at that time of the year and you’re on the cusp of getting outside the acceptable boundaries, shouldn’t we be looking at reducing or somehow managing the take that occurs during the spawn?

MR. BONDS:  Well, that’s certainly a concern and certainly a component of the angling constituency that if we were to regulate this fish in any greater detail, we would need to address for sure.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  But there’s no indication right now that we need to do that, based on the data that we currently have.  Is that correct?

MR. BONDS:  That is correct.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  So there’s no negative impact on the health of the population.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS:  Well, you say ‑‑ if I understood him, he was saying that the take is presently right on the edge of where it could be ‑‑ it would be problematic.  Is that right or not right?

MR. BONDS:  That is true.  It’s within our estimates of what is sustainable but it is on the edge.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  But it’s currently sustainable and it’s also similar to the previous two years.

MR. BONDS:  That’s correct.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS:  I still think we ought to at least explore whether there ought to be some regulation of taking them during the spawn, when they’re most vulnerable since you said three-fourths of them were harvested at that time.

MR. BONDS:  That’s an excellent point and very duly noted and we will absolutely take that into consideration with any future management strategies.

COMMISSIONER HOLT:  Well, do you want to report back.  I mean, help me.  How are we going to get there and make those kinds of decisions.  I mean, what drives that?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS:  I’m suggesting that the staff further explore whether or not there should be some limitation proposed to this group to take during the spawn because that’s when they’re most vulnerable, that’s when most of them are being taken and because he says we’re right on the cusp of getting outside an acceptable take.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  We don’t ‑‑ just talk briefly about the science.  I mean, is it that tight that we know that we’re right on the edge of a negative impact on the ‑‑

MR. BONDS:  I feel we are confident that it’s pretty close and those estimates are valid.  Of course, any model has built-in assumptions that ‑‑ part of the research that we’re conducting is to tighten up those assumptions and to be more confident in those estimates but, you know, there are other means to keeping harvest within a sustainable level.  There could be a quota system to where you could issue a certain number of quota or tags for fish in a localized area so that you can assure that you don’t go over a sustainable rate.

There are a number of different management strategies that we could discuss with our anglers and what they might be more or less willing to support, going forward.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS:  And that’s what I’m suggesting to Carter.  For example, a permitting process where ‑‑ because you said that it should be managed on a very tight basis, watershed, if not smaller basis, you may say in this particular spawning area we should only issue so many tags.

MR. BONDS:  Right.  That’s a good point.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS:  There are 1700 fish, you said ‑‑ in the Trinity ‑‑ that were ‑‑ what, 80 inches or greater?

MR. BONDS:  About 1400.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS:  1400?

MR. BONDS:  Approximately.  And we could sustainably harvest 70 of them in that stretch, on an annual basis.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS:  I’m just suggesting we look into that sooner than later.

MR. BONDS:  It’s a good suggestion.

MR. SMITH:  I want to make sure we understand that.  Are you contemplating that we would look into that with the idea that there might be a potential regulation considered by the Commission this cycle or would you like us to look into that over a period of time and in multiple basins to understand that and come back to you all when we’ve got more data from not only the Trinity but also other rivers in the state.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS:  I’d have to leave it to the judgment of the staff about how critical it is to do it right away or to take a greater amount of time, whatever you think is appropriate.

MR. SMITH:  Craig, I assume you’re going to want kind of a broader look at that ‑‑ the Trinity and in other places.  What are your thoughts on that?

MR. BONDS:  We have two projects coming on line right now to look at alligator gar populations in the Brazos River, downstream of Waco and also in the Choke Canyon Reservoir.  Both of them with research and management staff involved as well as collaborations with our angling constituency.  We will be definitely ramping up our efforts outside the Trinity Basin, as well as continuing to try to monitor that Trinity River because we know that that’s probably our most recognized trophy fishery at this moment in time.

MR. SMITH:  So I wouldn’t expect us to come back in January ‑‑

MR. BONDS:  Right.

MR. SMITH:  ‑‑ with any specifics.  So ‑‑

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS:  From what I just heard, I think that time’s appropriate.

MR. BONDS:  Thank you.

COMMISSIONER HOLT:  We are going to come back with or not?

MR. BONDS:  We are not.

COMMISSIONER HOLT:  Not.  Okay.

MR. BONDS:  We’re going to understand it.

COMMISSIONER HOLT:  The next meeting is ‑‑ again, because it’s not going to be ‑‑ the spawning season starts spring ‑‑ spring being, I assume, you’re using March, April?

MR. BONDS:  Typically, May through early June is the spawning season.

COMMISSIONER HOLT:  Okay.

MR. SMITH:  So give us a little time.  Let us look into that and come back to this committee and kind of let you know what we’re finding, particularly as we launch these other efforts at Choke Canyon and then on the Brazos.  I think that will be a helpful part of this discussion.  So, okay.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Thank you very much.

MR. BONDS:  Thank you.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Okay.  I guess that’s it.  Chairman Holt?  We’ve completed our business.

(Whereupon, at 11:49 a.m., the Regulations Committee meeting was adjourned.)

C E R T I F I C A T E

MEETING OF:    Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, Conservation Committee

LOCATION:      Austin, Texas

DATE:          November 3, 2010

I do hereby certify that the foregoing pages, numbers 1 through 76, inclusive, are the true, accurate, and complete transcript prepared from the verbal recording made by electronic recording by Penny Bynum before the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission.

11/17/10
(Transcriber)         (Date)

On the Record Reporting, Inc.
3307 Northland, Suite 315
Austin, Texas 78731


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