Frequently Asked Questions - Fishing


Fisheries Management - General

Regulations

Seagrass Conservation

Licensing

Species

Locations

Guides and Trips

Fishing Tips, Health, Cooking, Eating

Length, Weight, Records

Fisheries Management - General

What can you tell me about stocking hatchery fish, like red drum, on the coast?

  1. What types of studies are conducted prior to starting the stocking program? A long-term population monitoring program was started in the mid 1970’s. In particular, TPWD Coastal Fisheries has an excellent long-term data base of fish populations in Texas bay systems. This data is used to determine the number of hatchery fish (red drum and spotted seatrout) that are stocked into each bay system. Cage and fish survival studies were conducted prior to the program starting. The process of assessing the success of any hatchery program should always be ongoing. We have a number of studies underway to assess the performance of hatchery fish in the wild on a short-term and long-term basis.
  2. What are projected long-term effects from using a small hatchery gene pool? We do not rely on a small hatchery gene pool. We keep some 200 captive broodfish at our hatcheries, and remove and replace 25% of this population annually from the program. One of the mistakes of hatchery programs in the past was in regards to genetics and we vow not to overlook that concern. We use a specific genetic plan as a guideline to operate our hatcheries.
  3. Do red drum reared at state fish hatcheries remained close to the hatcheries after they are released? All of our hatchery-reared fish are released miles away from the origin hatchery. Because the Texas coast is expansive, we sometimes release fish 50-100 miles from the hatchery. Also, our field research studies indicate that the hatchery fish are on the move once released into the wild. They can easily move 1- 2 miles over the course of a day after being released at a given site.

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Why am I catching lots of small spotted trout, just under the minimum size limit?

It's good to hear that you are catching lots of fish. Your observation on the high number of sub-legal trout has been noted by other anglers as well. With a minimum size limit in effect there will always be a “stacking” of fish just under legal size. Fishing pressure is so high on this popular game fish that when the fish grow into the legal size, they have a very high chance of being captured. In fact, a recent assessment of the population of trout reveals that the number of trout has actually doubled since the 1980s. This means that more small trout are available to be caught. But, it also means there are more larger trout available.

This phenomenon of stacked fish just below the limit was noted when the minimum length was 12 inches, when it was 14 inches, and currently for the 15 inch limit. Thus, no matter what the size limit, anglers will be catching and releasing lots of small spotted seatrout.

The most important benefit of the 15-inch size limit has clearly been an increase in spawning success of spotted seatrout. Since imposition of the size limit in 1990, Coastal Fisheries bag seine samples have documented high juvenile catches compared to years before 1990.

We follow closely the patterns of spotted seatrout harvest and mortality and if patterns change then we are ready to alter the bag and size limits if needed. Presently, our trout populations are very healthy and all indications are that the population can actually increase to a higher level without harm to the bays.

Given the increasingly high fishing pressure on spotted seatrout and their vulnerability to freezes, it is wise management to allow these fish to keep our bays full of juveniles ready to take their parents' places. And, of course another benefit of the larger size limit is that anglers will be rewarded with larger fish to take home. The average weight of trout landed by Texas anglers has risen from one pound in 1975 to nearly two pounds in 1999.

Concerning the keeping of small trout by guides and others, we are concerned about this. We conduct surveys of anglers and if illegal fish have been kept we inform the parties fishing that this is a violation of the law and they can be ticketed if a game warden sees them. When we see instances such as this we inform the local game wardens so they can be on the lookout for these violators. Game Wardens routinely patrol coastal areas, but unfortunately there are anglers out there who keep illegal fish and are not caught. Given the large expanse of Texas coastal waters it is sometimes easy for violators to avoid being checked. If you see instances where illegal fish are being kept you can notify “Operation Game Thief” by calling 1-800-792-GAME.

Louisiana and Texas have different management strategies for managing trout. Our goals are to ensure that trout have the maximum potential for spawning success given all the different environmental factors, that there are adequate numbers of trout for anglers to catch, and to maintain a trophy fishery. To meet these goals, a 15-inch minimum size limit is required. Louisiana biologists are looking at the Texas experience and they are interested in pursuing whether a 15-inch rule will also work as well in Louisiana as it has in Texas.

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I’m a school teacher and want to take my class to the beach on a collecting trip. What do I need to do?

Each year we get questions from school teachers who have a class they would like to take on a collecting trip, but they are not sure what kind of licenses or permits apply. Children under 17 years of age are exempt from needing a fishing license, but an adult instructor would need one. For marine fish, a saltwater stamp must also be purchased. If fish are collected under a fishing license, size and bag limits apply for some species - see Game & Commercial Fish as defined in Chapter 66, Parks and Wildlife Code - and means of take are typically restricted. It is not legal to possess many species of live native fish without a permit.

Under an educational display permit (free to accredited grade schools), a variety of means of take may be employed, and game fish may be caught outside season, slot and bag limits. Some restrictions usually apply to the number of specimens per species a teacher may retain, but catch/release sampling trips may involve an unlimited number of fish and aquatic invertebrates. To obtain an educational display permit we require a completed application form and two letters of reference attesting to the applicant’s abilities to lead a collecting field trip. If means of take are utilized that are illegal under a fishing license then we advise notifying the local game warden that an educational permit is being used. For colleges and universities the same permit carries a $50 application fee, but the permit is valid for three years (pending compliance with required reporting provisions). Please send a mailing address if you are interested in applying for the educational permit.

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Will TPWD stock fish in my pond, survey the fish in my pond, or assist with the building of a new pond?

TPWD does not provide these services. You will need to purchase your fish from a private fish hatchery. We have a listing of private fish hatcheries that we can mail to you if you e-mail us your mailing address. Some of these companies also offer consulting services if you require on-site help. In addition, landowners who want to manage ponds for fishing can find many helpful resources on the Internet. For a list of links, visit TPWD’s page on “Managing Your Private Lake.

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My pond is overrun with moss and/or weeds. What can I do about it?

Aquatic vegetation is an important part of the ecology of a pond. Vegetation provides protective cover for small fish where they can avoid predation. It provides habitat for many smaller organisms in the pond food chain, such as insects. Vegetation also produces oxygen through photosynthesis during the day and stabilizes the pond bottom resulting in clearer water. Aquatic plant removal is not recommended in most cases when less than 25% of your pond’s surface area is covered in vegetation.

On the other hand, too much vegetation can cause problems and be bothersome when fishing. Over-abundant cover can keep the predator fishes from feeding and result in slow growth in game species such as largemouth bass. Excessive vegetation also can cause oxygen problems. Aquatic plants produce oxygen during the day and respire (use oxygen) at night. An overgrown pond coupled with a week of cloudy weather in the summer can deplete oxygen enough to cause a fish kill. If you decide that your pond needs vegetation reduced or eliminated, please review the resources listed under "Managing Nuisance Aquatic Plants" on our private lake management page.

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Regulations

Why are there bag and size limits on fish?

Bag limits on fish help reduce fishing pressure on certain sizes or kinds of species and spread out the harvest better so more anglers have a chance to catch fish of legal size.

Size limits benefit fish populations in several ways. They allow some species to spawn at least once before they are caught and they can increase the quality of fishing by either providing more fish to be caught, or creating a trophy fishery.

Why do we have slot length limits?

Slot limits are special length regulations for bass that are placed on certain water bodies to improve the quality of the fishing. Fish that measure within the slot limit must be released immediately while fish that are either shorter or longer than the protected range may be kept. For example, on a lake with a 14 to 18 inch slot length limit on bass, you cannot keep any bass between 14 and 18 inches. These bass must be immediately released back into the water. A common misconception is that slot length limits are placed on a lake to provide trophy bass fishing. While slot length limits do improve the opportunity for bass to grow to trophy size, the goals of slot limits are to increase the number of slot-sized bass an angler can catch and to remove by harvesting some of the bass below the slot. The removal of some small bass is needed to reduce to density of small fish and provide larger bass with more available food to maintain good growth to larger size.

Is there a minimum length limit in effect for bass on lakes with slot length limits such as 14-to-18 or 14-to-21 inches?

No, some anglers mistakenly believe this is the case. On slot limit lakes, you can harvest bass less than 14 inches in length. You must still adhere to the daily bag limit of five bass.

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Do persons who are under 17 (or otherwise exempt from license requirements) have the same bag limit for fish as those who have a fishing license?

Yes. An angler under 17, or a senior who is exempt from license requirements because of age, is permitted to catch the same daily limit as a licensed angler. For example, if a 30-year-old dad goes crappie fishing with two daughters aged 6 and 10, each of the three could legally catch and keep up to 25 crappie.

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Can you clean fish that you have caught while you are still on the water in your boat?

In most cases, it is unlawful to clean your catch until the fish is finally landed on the mainland (not including piers or jetties) and no longer transported by boat. However, there are some exceptions:

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Is there a limit to the number of fish you can have in a boat?

Each licensed or exempt angler in the boat is entitled to keep one daily bag limit, except on guided fishing trips, where the boat limit is equal to the daily bag limit multiplied by the number of licensed/exempt anglers on board, minus the guide and any deck hands employed by the guide.

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Are Texas fishing regulations the same as federal regulations?

Fishing is under federal jurisdiction beginning at 9 nautical miles off the coast of Texas. Texas Parks and Wildlife attempts to maintain regulations consistent with the federal rules, but occasionally there are differences. See Fishing in Federal Waters for more information.

For a summary of recreational regulations you can also go to the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council web site.

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How can I harvest oysters for personal use? Where do I go?

Areas, open or closed, to the harvest of oysters for either sport fishers or commercial oyster men are determined by the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS). For information on areas currently open or closed for oyster harvest, contact the DSHS Seafood Safety Division (1-800-685-0361 or on the web). The SDHS can also mail you maps of East and West Matagorda Bay’s illustrating open areas (areas approved for harvest), conditionally approved areas (areas that can be open or closed depending on levels of coliform bacteria) and closed areas (areas that are prohibited for the taking of oysters).

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Is a “Yo-yo” a legal fishing device in Texas?

No, you cannot use a Yo-yo for taking fish from Texas public waters. See Fishing Regulations for a list of legal devices and fishing methods.

What are the regulations on bow fishing?

Non-game fishes may be taken with bows; however, there are some water bodies where bow fishing is restricted or not allowed. For a summary of regulations pertaining to this fishing method, see Bow Fishing in Texas.

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What are the requirements for a saltwater fishing guide? Freshwater?

A fishing guide license is required for any person who receives money or other compensation for accompanying, assisting, or transporting any person engaged in fishing in the waters of the state.

Guides who operate only in fresh water can purchase a Fresh Water Guide license (type 600) for $132. Other than the license, there are no special requirements for freshwater fishing guides.

Guides who take passengers out in salt water (waters designated as navigable by the US Coast Guard) will need an All-Water Fishing Guide License or an All-Water Paddlecraft Guide License. The annual fee for these licenses is $210 for Texas residents; $1,050 for non-residents. In order to purchase an All-Water Guide License, an applicant must have the following additional training:

All-Water and All-Water Paddle Craft fishing guide licenses are available only at TPWD Law Enforcement offices. Freshwater fishing guide licenses are available at any location where licenses are sold.


Seagrass Conservation

  • What is seagrass?
  • Why are seagrasses important?
  • Aren’t there a lot of seagrasses in Texas bays?
  • What are some of the threats to healthy seagrass communities in Texas?
  • What is a prop scar?
  • How long does it take for a prop scar to recover?
  • What is the extent to prop scarring in Texas?
  • Who is responsible for preventing the prop scars?
  • How can I avoid up-rooting seagrasses with my boat?
  • Is it against the law to make a prop scar in Texas?
  • Does the new statewide seagrass protection law make it illegal to run outboard-powered boats in any areas along the Texas coast?
  • How is law enforcement able to ticket someone in shallow water without impacting the seagrass themselves?
  • Will the new statewide seagrass protection law be effective?
  • What is TPWD currently doing to prevent prop scarring and educate boaters about the statewide seagrass protection regulation?
  • What is seagrass?

    Seagrasses are not true grasses, but are highly specialized marine flowering plants that grow rooted and submersed in the higher salinity waters of Texas bays and estuaries.  There are five species of seagrass that occur in Texas. The most abundant species on the Texas coast is shoal grass.  It is a subtropical species that occurs in every bay system on the coast.  The most extensive beds occur in the upper Laguna Madre. Turtle grass and manatee grass are tropical species that for all practical purposes occur only as far north as Aransas Bay.  They are most abundant in the lower Laguna Madre, but a few isolated patches can be found as far north as Christmas Bay. Star grass is a small, inconspicuous plant with palm shaped leaves that is typically found interspersed among shoal grass and manatee grass beds.  Widgeon grass is occurs in every bay system in Texas and is often mixed with shoal grass in the higher salinity areas.

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    Why are seagrasses important?

    Seagrasses are rooted, flowering plants that convert sunlight into energy through photosynthesis.  In doing so, they produce food for a wide variety of organisms and oxygenate the water column.  They have extensive root structures that stabilize and oxygenate sediments thus improving water clarity and preventing erosion.  Seagrasses also improve water quality by absorbing nutrients from the water.  Recent studies have shown that seagrasses can sequester three times more carbon than a typical terrestrial forest thus helping reduce greenhouse gasses.  Dense seagrass beds form a structurally complex habitat that provides shelter for small invertebrates and fish, as well as ambush points for predators.  The combination of food and shelter that these complex habitats provide makes them vital nursery areas for juvenile fish and invertebrates, including important game fish such as spotted seatrout and red drum.  Seagrass beds rank with coral reefs and rain forests as some of the most productive habitats on the planet.

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    Aren’t there a lot of seagrasses in Texas bays?

    There are approximately 216,000 acres of seagrass on the Texas coast.  More than 90% of the seagrass habitat in Texas occurs south of San Antonio Bay, and about 79% occurs in the Laguna Madre alone.  In recent years, some areas along the coast have experienced increases in seagrass coverage while other areas have experienced losses.  A variety of factors, both man-made and natural, are responsible for changes in seagrass coverage.  Because seagrass provides such high quality habitat for a wide variety of marine organisms, every acre is important to the health of our bays.  Therefore any detrimental impact, particularly those humans can control, should be of great concern for scientists and anglers alike.  It is important that we do all that we can to protect this critical habitat.

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    What are some of the threats to healthy seagrass communities in Texas?

    Several natural and man-made factors can negatively impact seagrass health.  Seagrasses are impacted by these disturbances in one of two ways.  Either the plant suffers direct physical damage (e.g. removal or burial), or conditions are created that are unfavorable for the growth of the plant (e.g. increased turbidity prevents sunlight from penetrating to the plant).  Examples of natural disturbances include sea-level rise, hurricanes, algal blooms, and high runoff following floods.  Examples of man-made disturbances include dredge and fill operations, water pollution (nutrient enrichment from urban or agricultural runoff), and propeller or “prop” scarring.  Natural and man-made disturbances may at times interact creating an even greater impact.  For example, heavy prop scarring can make seagrass beds more susceptible to storm damage.

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    What is a prop scar?

    A propeller scar, or “prop” scar, is created when the spinning propeller of a boat comes in contact with seagrass-covered bay bottom carving a path through the seagrass bed and destroying the rhizomes (plant stems that are in the sediment) and roots of the seagrass plants.  While the direct impacts of prop scars on seagrasses may be obvious, some of the indirect negative impacts may be less obvious.  Fragmentation of the root matrix as a result of prop scarring destabilizes sediments leaving seagrass beds more susceptible to erosion and storm damage.  This can also result in increased turbidity which further weakens seagrass plants by inhibiting photosynthesis.  Prop scars on an individual basis may seem minor compared to other threats, but when multiplied by the thousands they add to the cumulative stresses on seagrasses and can potentially result in large-scale losses of seagrasses.

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    How long does it take for a prop scar to recover?

    The amount of time it takes for seagrass plants to recover is variable but may take up to several years.  Previous studies from Florida indicated that it took approximately 7 years for scars to recover.  However in studies conducted by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) in Redfish Bay, the majority of prop scars observed recovered within one year, but some scars persisted for two or more years.  Recovery may depend upon several factors including the species of seagrass impacted, sediment type, water clarity, and the direction of the scar relative to water currents.  In some cases, once the roots and sediments have initially been disturbed, the damaged area can actually grow larger over time due to erosion.  TPWD continues to study this process in Redfish Bay.

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    What is the extent of prop scarring in Texas?

    Seagrasses require sunlight like other plants, so the depth at which they can grow is limited by water clarity.  Along the Texas coast, seagrasses typically occur in water less than 4 feet deep.  Because seagrasses grow in shallow water they are susceptible to damage by boaters, and prop scars can be found in just about any area where seagrass is present and boating activity occurs.  It is evident through examination of aerial imagery that prop scarring is an issue coastwide.

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    Who is responsible for preventing the prop scars?

    The simple answer is all of us who boat in the shallow areas where seagrasses are found are responsible for making sure we operate our boats in a manner to avoid damaging seagrass.  Anytime a boat’s propeller comes in contact with the bottom in these areas, damage to seagrasses can occur.  Even shallow-draft, tunnel-hull boats can create scars when they get in shallow water. Many jack-plate and tunnel combinations do not lift a propeller high enough to get the bottom of the propeller higher than the bottom of the vessel. These vessels can run shallower than conventional hull types, but all boats have limitations on how shallow they can run without causing habitat damage.  Boaters must also remember that their boat requires deeper water to jump on plane than it does while running on plane.

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    How can I avoid up-rooting seagrasses with my boat?

    Consult charts before your trip when boating in areas that are unfamiliar to you, and carry charts with you while on the water. Plan your route to avoid extremely shallow areas when possible.  Plan your exit before you begin drifting across shallow flats.  Know the true capabilities of your boat and stay within its limits.  Make use of marked channels when travelling through shallow areas.  Pay attention to the tidal stage.  Remember that water levels fluctuate daily and are affected by weather patterns as well as the sun and moon.  Look for signs of shallow water such as wading birds, a relatively slick surface, oyster shell or seagrass visible at the surface, or familiar items such as crab traps protruding from the surface.  If you find yourself in an area too shallow to run or jump on plane without damaging seagrass, lift the motor and drift with the wind, use a trolling motor, or a push pole, to move into a deeper area.  Larger, deeper “potholes” which are devoid of vegetation can sometimes provide a safe place to jump on plane in an otherwise shallow flat.

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    Is it against the law to make a prop scar in Texas?

    Yes.  As of September 1, 2013, uprooting seagrasses with the propeller of a boat within the coastal waters of the state of Texas is a class C misdemeanor punishable by a $500 fine.  Electric trolling motors are exempt from this regulation.  In fact, TPWD encourages their use as a tool to help minimize damage to seagrasses.

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    Does the new statewide seagrass protection law make it illegal to run outboard-powered boats in any areas along the Texas coast?

    No.  The no-uprooting regulation does not close any portion of the Texas coast to any type of water craft. In fact, the no-uprooting regulation is specifically intended to preserve access to all areas of the coast while protecting valuable seagrass habitat.  Boaters may access any area along the Texas coast, but will need to be aware of water depth and the capabilities of their boat to avoid damaging seagrasses.

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    How is law enforcement able to ticket someone in shallow water without impacting the seagrass themselves?

    In some cases they can wait until an offender has passed out of the area before stopping them, or possibly use an airboat to access the area. In other cases they may have to enter the area themselves, just as a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper has to exceed the speed limit in order to catch a speeder. If a warden does have to damage some seagrass in order to enforce this law, they are only doing so in order to help reduce future damage.

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    Will the new statewide seagrass protection law be effective?

    In 2005, the TPWC adopted a new regulation that made it illegal to uproot seagrasses with the propeller of a boat within the boundaries of the Redfish Bay State Scientific Area (RBSSA) near Aransas Pass.  TPWD conducted several studies to assess the effectiveness of the regulation.  Prop scars were counted directly by biologists in the bay, as well as through the analysis of high-resolution aerial imagery.  Both methods showed a significant reduction in prop scarring.  During this time period, surveys of boaters in RBSSA were conducted by TPWD to assess changes in their knowledge, attitudes towards seagrasses, and boating behavior.  The surveys showed that 88% of boaters were aware of the regulation, and that 87% of those boaters had changed their boating behavior to avoid damaging seagrass.  Ninety percent of boaters surveyed indicated that TPWD’s seagrass conservation efforts had been effective.  The success of the regulation in RBSSA played a major role in the Texas Legislature’s decision to pass a statewide seagrass protection regulation in June 2013.

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    What is TPWD currently doing to prevent prop scarring and educate boaters about the statewide seagrass protection regulation?

    TPWD conducts extensive seagrass education and outreach on a coastwide basis through public service announcements, presentations, magazine and newspaper articles, radio and TV programs, brochure dispersals, signage, and in boater education classes.  TPWD promotes seagrass conservation through education and outreach, ongoing research, rule making, and partnerships with other agencies and organizations interested in protecting this valuable resource.

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    Licensing

    Who needs a fishing license?

    A fishing license is required of anyone who fishes in the public waters of Texas. This covers all the legal means and methods used for taking fish from rod and reel to bow fishing. All persons under 17 years of age, whether Texas residents or non-residents, are exempt from license requirements. Texas residents who were born before January 1, 1931 are exempt from license requirements. Texas residents who are 65 years of age and older and who were born after January 1, 1931 may purchase a Senior Resident Fishing License. Please see Recreational Fishing & Hunting Regulations for additional information on age requirements and other exemptions.

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    Someone told me I don’t need a license to fish in a state park. Is this true?

    Visitors to Texas State Parks can fish without a license. The exemption applies to anglers of all ages, residents and non-residents. To take advantage of the exemption, you must be within the boundary of a State Park, which usually means fishing from the bank or a pier. For more information, see the Free Fishing in State Parks web pages.

    Please note: Not all public recreation areas are State Parks. Look for the square green Texas Parks and Wildlife logo at the park entrance. If you are fishing in a park managed by a city, county, river authority, the corps of Engineers, or any other entity, you need a fishing license.

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    Can I fish with a cane pole in the county where I live without a fishing license?

    No, at one time a law similar to this was in effect in Texas, but that law is no longer in effect. A fishing license is required of any person who fishes in the public waters of Texas. See Recreational Fishing & Hunting Regulations for additional exemptions and age restrictions.

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    Do I need a fishing license to fish in private water such as a stock tank?

    You do not need a fishing license to fish in private waters. If you are transporting fish off those private waters, either alive or dead, you should have some sort of documentation to prove where these fish were caught.

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    Species

    Where are black drum found?

    Black drum (Pogonias cromis) inhabit near shore waters and estuaries from Argentina northward along the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic coast to southern New England and as far north as the Bay of Fundy. They are common from the Chesapeake Bay south to Florida and most abundant along the Texas coast.

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    Is there any planning or research underway aimed at determining the feasibility of restoring the (saltwater) striped bass to Texas’ Coastal Fisheries?

    The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) has, in the past, made valiant efforts to establish striped bass in Texas marine waters. After approximately 20 years of stocking striped bass in various locations along the Texas coast we were unsuccessful in creating a significant fishery or a self-sustaining population. It is believed that stripers need a cool water refuge in the summer to escape the higher water temperatures. A Gulf-wide study of available habitat revealed that a refuge of this type is lacking along the Texas coast. In the Gulf, only Florida has a small self-sustaining population of striped bass inhabiting coastal waters. This population occurs in and around only one river system where the fish have access to a cool underwater spring. The TPWD ceased stocking stripers in marine waters after summer 1994. At this time we have no plans to resume stocking stripers in coastal waters.

    For more information, see Striped Bass in the Gulf of Mexico?

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    What is a “green” crab?

    The name green crab may apply to several species of crabs, most of which are not indigenous to Texas. However, "green crab" is also used as a term indicating a blue crab (Callinectes sapidus) that is freshly molted or is in an inter-molt stage.

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    Are bull sharks in Texas waters dangerous?

    Sharks do attack humans and are a potential threat to the life of anyone who spends time in the water; however, the threat is not great.

    The three most dangerous sharks, which are those that always pose a danger to humans and have a record of numerous attacks with several fatalities, are the white shark (Carcharodon carcharias), tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier), and bull shark (Carcharhinus leucas). These sharks are large, eat prey comparable in size to humans, and visit shallow coastal areas where bathers are present.

    Of all the sharks swimming the continental coasts of tropical and subtropical seas, the bull shark may be the most dangerous. It is often implicated in attacks on humans. The bull shark may not have the white shark’s reputation, but its large, heavy body, huge jaws, and very large teeth make it meter for meter just as formidable. Even though it appears to move slowly when cruising the shallows inshore, it is capable of fast, agile movements when it wants to attack prey.

    The species is relatively large, purportedly growing to a length of 3.4 meters, but with an actual record of up to only 3.2 meters (based on a report from Brazil). Individuals over 3.0 meters are rare.

    How long bull sharks live in the wild is unknown. In the northern Gulf of Mexico, based on a study of ring counts in the vertebrae, a male, 2.45 meters long was estimated to be 21.3 years old, and a female, 2.68 meters long, to be 24.2 years old. Captive bull sharks in the Durban Aquarium in South Africa have survived 15 years.

    The information above on bull sharks was excerpted from the following publication: “Sharks in Question: The Smithsonian Answer Book” by Victor G. Springer and Joy P. Gold; 1989; Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C.

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    How often do we see shark attacks on the Texas Coast?

    Here is a partial listing:

    1. Summer 1962 – Man wade fishing in surf off South Padre Island with stringer of fish around his waist bled to death after being severely bitten by a shark of unknown size. (Texas Monthly, September 1987)
    2. June 1977 – A 24-year-old man in chest-deep bay waters near Port Aransas had left wrist bitten by a 4-foot bull shark while removing fish from a university research net. (unknown newspaper)
    3. 7-13-1980 – A 16-year-old boy surf boarding in 2 to 3 feet of water off North Padre Island about 1 mile south of Bob Hall Pier had left calf bitten by a shark of unknown size. (Corpus Christi Caller-Times)
    4. 7-24-1984 – An 18-year-old woman in surf off South Padre Island had right lower leg and foot bitten by a shark estimated to be 3 to 5 feet long. (Dallas Morning News)
    5. 4-18-1987 – A 16-year-old girl wading in surf in chest-deep water 75 feet offshore of Mustang Island one-half mile north of the state park had right arm severed just above the elbow by a shark estimated to be 5 feet long. (Corpus Christi Caller-Times)
    6. 7-12-1987 – A 16-year-old girl swimming in surf in 4 feet of water 25 yards offshore of Mustang Island near Access Road 1 had right foot bitten about 2:30 PM by a shark estimated to be 4 to 5 feet long. (Rockport Pilot)
    7. 7-12-1987 – A 34-year-old woman body surfing in 4 feet of water 75 feet offshore of Mustang Island one-half mile south of Horace Caldwell Pier had left foot bitten about 6:50 PM by a shark estimated to be 4 to 5 feet long. (Rockport Pilot)
    8. 7-7-1989 – A 9-year-old girl wading in surf in 3-feet of water off Sargent Beach near Miller’s Cut had left lower leg and ankle bitten by a shark estimated to be 4 to 5 feet long. (Daily Tribune & Matagorda County Tribune)
    9. 10-11-1989 – A 12-year-old boy sitting on a surfboard in neck-deep water about 100 yards offshore of Surfside Beach had lower left leg and foot bitten by a shark estimated to be 4 feet long. (Victoria Advocate)
    10. 7-22-1990 – A 53-year-old woman wading in surf in knee-deep water 100 feet offshore of Mustang Island near Access Road 3 had right foot bitten about 5:30 PM by a shark estimated to be 2 to 3 feet long. (Corpus Christi Caller-Times)
    11. 8-5-1997 – A 10-year-old girl wading in surf in waist-deep water off Galveston East Beach had right lower arm and wrist bitten about 3:00 PM by a shark estimated to be 3 feet long. (Houston Chronicle)
    12. 8-9-1998 – A man wade fishing in shallow surf off North Padre Island about 3 miles south of Bob Hall Pier had back of thigh bitten by a shark of unknown size. (Corpus Christi Caller-Times)
    13. 6-10-2000 – A 17-year-old boy paddling surfboard about three sandbars out off North Padre Island near J. P. Luby Surf Park Pier had right foot bitten about 4:00 PM by a shark estimated to be 4 to 6 feet long. (Corpus Christi Caller-Times)
    14. 6-24-2000 – A 20-year-old woman wading in surf in waist-deep water off Matagorda Beach about 6.5 miles northeast of the Colorado River jetties had right lower leg bitten about 3:15 PM by a shark of unknown size. (Victoria Advocate)
    15. 7-7-2000 – A 5-year-old boy in surf about one sandbar out off North Padre Island near J. P. Luby Surf Park Pier had left lower leg bitten by a shark estimated to be 3 to 4 feet long. (Corpus Christi Caller-Times)
    16. 5-29-2001 – A 16-year-old boy swimming in surf 50 yards offshore of Galveston Island West Beach in middle of a school of fish had hand bitten by a shark of unknown size. (Houston Chronicle)
    17. 8-15-2002 – A 29-year-old man sitting on surfboard in chest-deep water 75 yards off High Island had foot bitten by a shark estimated to be 4 feet long. (Houston Chronicle)
    18. 5-29-2004 – A 16-year-old boy wading in surf 50 feet offshore of Pirates Beach in Galveston with baitfish nearby had leg bitten about 7:45 PM by a shark estimated to be 3 to 4 feet long. (Houston Chronicle)
    19. 7-25-2004 – An 11-year-old boy wade fishing in surf in waist-deep water 50 feet offshore of Bryan Beach near Freeport became surrounded by a school of spotted seatrout and had right arm and leg bitten about 7:30 PM by a shark estimated to be at least 3 feet long. (Houston Chronicle)
    20. 7-27-2004 – A 19-year-old woman swimming in surf in chest-deep water along Galveston Beach near 53rd Street with an abundance of small fish nearby had right foot bitten about 4:30 PM by a shark of unknown size. (Houston Chronicle)
    21. 7-13-2005 – A 14-year-old girl wading in surf in waist-deep water along Bolivar Peninsula several miles northeast of the ferry landing had left foot bitten about 1:00 PM by a shark estimated to be 4.5 to 5 feet long. (Houston Chronicle)
    22. 8-19-2005 – A 12-year-old boy wading in surf in knee-deep water along Crystal Beach on Bolivar Peninsula had left foot bitten about 9:00 PM by a shark. (Galveston County Daily News)

    Additional Shark Mishaps

    1. 7-30-2000 – A man wade fishing at west end of Galveston Beach had thigh bitten while trying to remove the hook from a shark he had caught. (Houston Chronicle)
    2. 8-29-2003 – A 29-year-old man onboard his boat in gulf about 1 mile offshore of Freeport had right forearm bitten by a 3.5-foot bull shark he had caught and was holding up to have a picture taken. (Houston Chronicle)

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    What is a ghost shrimp?

    A ghost shrimp is an invertebrate often found in Texas Gulf beaches. Although called a ghost shrimp, it is more closely related to crabs. This species inhabits the intertidal zone (area between the low and high tide zones) and forms deep borrows, over 4 feet in depth. Because of this organism’s borrowing action and movement of water through the borrows, oxygen is transported deeper into the beach sediments and consequently improves the productivity of the beach community.

    This species is sought by fishermen as bait, especially those targeting sheepshead. The ghost shrimp are collected by sucking the ghost shrimp out of their burrow with a sand pump (see Crab and Ghost Shrimp regulations). This device can be found at local fishing tackle shops. Ghost shrimp reach a maximum size of around 5 inches. There is a bag limit on this species (20 per day per person). This limit was established to reduce the impact on the population by anglers collecting these for bait.

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    Do we have any of those big conch shellfish in Texas water?

    We have two larger conchs in our bay systems in the Redfish Bay area. They are the Florida Horse Conch Pleuroploca gigantea, which grows up to 8 inches in length. It is the largest shell on the Texas coast. It is an offshore and inlet type shell. It is not real common in our bay systems but can be found. Usually when you find one in an area there are quite a few. The other is the Lightning Whelk Busycon (sinistrofulgur) perversum pulleyi. This is the state shell of Texas. it grows to about 6 inches and can be very common in the bays. There are various other Gastropods (single shell organisms) in our bays, however most of them are less than 2 inches in length. A very good reference book is “A Field Guide to Texas Shells” by Jean Andrews.

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    I saw a very big whale or shark in the water off South Padre Island. Is there something like that?

    You may have seen a whale shark, the world's largest fish species. I have periodically heard reports of sightings off South Padre and farther north, but most are seen farther offshore. Two months ago while conducting scientific sampling I encountered a small whale shark (15 ft) near South Padre Island approximately 4 miles offshore. It was very cooperative and allowed our boat to drift within 25-30 feet. Considering the size vessel we were in, that was fairly close. In the summer of 1997, we came upon a 28-30 ft whale shark right about the same location that followed our boat while we collected shrimp trawl samples. I have also encountered whale sharks while diving around oil platforms off of Port Mansfield and Port Aransas.

    None of the sharks I’ve seen or heard reports of have been larger than 30 ft in length and two of the sharks I have seen were 15 ft or less. Since they reach lengths of 60 ft, the possibility exists that we are noticing evidence that the sharks use the western Gulf of Mexico as nursery grounds. An interesting thought and perhaps someday we’ll know more about these great fish!

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    Is there a swim with dolphins program on the Texas coast?

    There are no swim with dolphins programs in South Texas. Several businesses have dolphin watch trips at Port Aransas and South Padre Island. For information, contact the South Padre Island Chamber of Commerce (800-767-2373), South Padre Island Visitors Bureau (800-343-2368) or Port Aransas Chamber of Commerce (361-749-5919).

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    What can be done about the abundance of Portuguese-man-o-wars that we saw on Matagorda beach? Aren’t they dangerous for children to touch?

    Generally speaking, the man-o-war arrives on Texas’ beaches in greatest abundance during the spring and early summer. Strong, prevailing southeasterly winds usually blow lots of Sargassum seaweed and man-o-war onto the beach. There is really nothing that can be done about it other than to educate your children and beachgoers around you about the hazards of being in the water while the man-o-war are washing ashore, or touching man-o-war that are stranded on the beach. A dead, deflated man-o-war can still pack a heck of a sting!

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    Could you please tell me the name of that prehistoic worm that made the rock formations down in Baffin Bay out of Kingsville?

    The rock formations in Baffin Bay that you refer to are the calcareous tube of serpulid worms. It is believed that reef growth began about 3000 years ago and continued until about 300 years ago. The serpulid worm reefs of the Alazan-Baffin Bay complex are believed to be dead. While living serpulid worms have been collected from some reefs in Baffin Bay, the high salinity conditions of the system are probably not favorable to reef formation or growth.

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    Can I find sand dollars on Texas beaches?

    Most of the sand dollars we find along the Texas coast are Mellita quinquiesperforata -- the five-lunuled sand dollar. We do, however, have other organisms such as the Heart Urchin, Brissopsis alta, and even some heavy bodied starfish that sometimes wash ashore and leave parts that could be confused with the sand dollar.

    The body of our common sand dollars contain elongated notches or openings known as lunules. These lunules vary in number throughout the world but are usually symmetrically arranged. In most cases the lunules arise from indentations that form along the circumference of the animal and then become enclosed in the process of growth.

    The sand dollar is a very common inhabitant of the second and third sandbars found off the Texas coast. It prefers salinity above 23 ppt and a clean sandy substrate since it has difficulty burrowing in other sediments. Most of their day is spent motionless, just below the surface, but at night they form dense feeding aggregations in the offshore troughs and bars.

    Sand dollars are closely related to sea urchins and have numerous short spines which are used for locomotion and protection when they are alive. Both the mouth and the anus are located on the bottom (flat) side and potential food particles are removed from the sediment by hundreds of tiny podia and moved to the mouth with the aid of mucous and cilia.

    Breeding season for Mellita is late spring and summer when thousands may be found in close proximity since gametes are shed into the water and fertilization depends on synchrony of spawning for success.

    For additional information and drawings see:

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    What can you tell me about the effects of temperature on spotted seatrout?

    Spotted seatrout easily tolerate a wide rage of temperatures and temperature changes. They have been found to actively feed at ranges of 40-90°F. They are a responsive fish, and are quick to migrate to deeper waters in cold weather or sudden cold snaps. This correlates exceedingly well with times that trout are caught by recreational fisherman. Although trout are caught throughout the year, peak months are May through July with secondary peaks in October and November. These peak periods are when water temperatures are moderate (75-80F) (not as hot as during August and September), when a diverse food base is available, and when spawning occurs. During the winter months, trout are often caught in deep, protected waters of boat basins and channels.

    When the air temperature stays at or below freezing for more than three days, and subsequently lowers the water temperature to near freezing, trout will congregate in deep channels and will cease eating. They may come out of this stunned state if the temperatures warm up quickly.

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    Where can I fish for walleye in Texas?

    We have a limited number of reservoirs with walleye. The best walleye lake in Texas is Lake Meredith located near Amarillo; however, the Texas Department of State Health Services recommends limited consumption of walleye from this reservoir. Other lakes with walleye are Greenbelt (near Clarendon), White River (near Lubbock), and Palo Duro. Fryer Reservoir (south of Perryton in Ochiltree County) has a good population of saugeye, a walleye-sauger hybrid.

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    When are rainbow trout stocked in Texas?

    Rainbow trout are stocked in numerous places around Texas starting in late November or early December and lasting through the end of March. A schedule showing dates and locations for these stockings is posted on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department website each fall, usually by mid-November. Most of the places stocked are small lakes. Some rivers are stocked. Popular river fishing areas include the Brazos River below the Possum Kingdom Lake dam and the Guadalupe River below the Canyon Lake dam.

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    Can I fish for red drum in a lake?

    Red drum are stocked in four freshwater reservoirs on a regular basis. They are: Braunig, Calaveras, Fairfield, and Tradinghouse Creek. Please note that that in these reservoirs the minimum length limit is 20 inches and the daily bag is 3.

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    Locations

    How can I find public boat ramps and fishing areas close to where I live?

    Locations and directions to many public access areas are available online. For saltwater fishing, I would recommend that you go to the General Land Office Web site to look at their beach and bay access guide. They may have a map of the area you are interested in. These printed booklets are also available without cost through the GLO. For more detailed information on fishing a particular bay, contact the appropriate TPWD Coastal Fisheries field office.

    For freshwater fishing, visit TPWD pages on the Major Lakes of Texas and the smaller Community Fishing Lakes, which are often located near residential areas. If those pages don't answer all your questions about a particular freshwater location, contact an Inland Fisheries Field Office.

    Another suggestion would be to visit the chamber of commerce or tourist information office in the area you plan to fish. They often can provide access points and some fishing tips.

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    Where are the best fishing opportunities for people who don't have boats?

    The "Take Me Fishing" section of the TPWD Web site highlights public bank fishing spots in several of our state's major urban areas. These are not intended to be complete lists, but if you live in one of those cities, it's a good place to start. We also recommend visiting our Neighborhood Fishin' page.

    All along the Texas coast, both in the bays and into the Gulf are pier and jetties which are excellent access points from which to fish. Some of these piers are private so be sure to not trespass. Commercial operations on some piers will charge you a small fee usually by the number of rods you have with you. Many piers and jetties are public and no entrance fees are charged.

    Bay fishing offers many shore-based opportunities. All of the major bay systems have commercial and public piers and jetties. There are many shorelines (either natural beach or bulkheaded) that have public access.

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    I am handicapped and on a fixed income. Although many piers are handicapped friendly, non-handicap fishermen crowd us out. Are there any handicapped-only fishing piers?

    If you haven't seen TPWD's list of wheelchair accessible coastal fishing piers, I recommend a visit.

    I discussed your problem with crowding on accessible fishing piers with others here at TPWD. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission has authority over fishing and hunting; however, that authority is narrowly restricted by the Texas Legislature. While the Commission is free to alter means and to accommodate hunters and anglers with disabilities, and the Americans with Disabilities Act requires that accessibility issues be addressed on public facilities, neither of these authorities extend to restricting non-disabled sportsmen from participating in open seasons based on their lack of a handicap.

    One way that your problem could be addressed is through a publicized event on an accessible pier and let peer pressure do the rest. This could be done on either a public or private pier, but it would have to be based on fishermen restricting themselves out of courtesy or respect for the event. Alternatively, Legislative action would be required during a Legislative Session for the Parks and Wildlife Commission to address this issue.

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    What will I see if I go to the Texas coast around Corpus Christi compared to South Padre Island?

    What you see on your trip to Texas will depend on when you come and exactly where you look. The various different habitats that you may encounter include barrier island beaches, sand dunes, mud flats, mangrove shorelines, jetties, oyster reefs, cord-grass marshes, and seagrass beds. All host their own unique collections of critters. If you are willing to look hard and get a little dirty and/or wet, I don’t think you will be disappointed. Crabs such as blue crabs, land crabs, fiddler crabs, and hermit crabs are among the more common creatures seen. A variety of shells including lightning whelks, olive shells, nerites, periwinkles, fighting conchs, oyster drills, moonshells, quahogs and sand dollars are commonly found in the bays and on the beachfront. Starfish, sea urchins, seahares, sea turtles and dolphins are among some of the interesting animals that may be encountered on or around jetties.

    Of course there is a dizzying array of fish species that may be observed if you have the means to capture them. Besides aquatic creatures, you may see a variety of interesting terrestrial animals including coyotes, deer, turkeys, various reptiles including alligators, and perhaps even an endangered ocelot or jagarundi. In addition, the Rio Grande Valley is widely known as one of the premier birding sites in the world. Of course birding will vary seasonally, but there are always a lot of birds around. Before you visit, you may wish to pick up a book or two on shelling, birding etc. in Texas. One book that I highly recommend is called Shore Ecology of the Gulf of Mexico Joseph C. Britton and Brian Morton, 1989. University of Texas Press, Austin, TX. It is a bit technical, but it will give you an excellent idea of where to look for various plants and animals. The book contains detailed descriptions of each of the habitat types that you may encounter along with descriptions and drawings of the various organisms that commonly inhabit that particular habitat type.

    If you are in the Corpus area, I recommend that you visit the Texas State Aquarium. It is an excellent aquarium and it will give you some idea of what to look for and where to find it when you are out beach combing. Another place that you should visit if you have time is the University of Texas Marine Science Institute’s visitor center in Port Aransas. Admission is free, and they have several aquaria and other displays for your viewing pleasure. This may also be a good place to pick up a book or two on beach combing in Texas. If you have trouble locating the book that I recommended, you may be able to find it there.

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    What should I know about fishing in the gulf from shore or on head boats?

    There are several options for fishing in south Texas during December. There are miles of public access on the beach for surf fishing. You can also fish from the jetties at the Brazos Santiago Pass. The jetties can be accessed through Isla Blanca park on South Padre Island, or from Boca Chica beach on the south side.

    Surf fishing is typically the best during the summer, but some anglers target pompano in the surf during the time period when you will be visiting. Typical surf tackle consists of a long rod surf rod (10 feet or so) and a large capacity reel with 20-35 lb test line, however, a rig like this would be overkill for pompano. I would bring a couple of rods similar to what you might use for bass fishing. You can use these for casting small pieces of shrimp in the surf for pompano, or if you decide you would like to try wade-fishing in the bay, tackle this size will be also be suitable for spotted seatrout or red drum. Local tackle shops can get you rigged out with terminal tackle for the particular type of fishing you decide to do.

    In addition to surf or jetty fishing in the gulf, or wade-fishing in the bay, there are also two fishing piers on the bay in the South Padre Island area, and one in Port Mansfield. Many people fish at night under the lights of piers for spotted seatrout. There are also a number of guides in the area who will provide the tackle and expertise if you don’t mind spending the money (around $250-$300).

    For much less money, a "head boat" will take you fishing in the gulf or bay. They are called "head boats" because they charge by the head to take people fishing. The price is around $15 to fish in the bay, and around $50 for a gulf trip. All tackle and bait is provided. "Head boat" fishing is a little bit like fishing from a moving pier, as there are usually many people fishing from the same boat, however, the Gulf trips in particular can be a good value. Gulf head boat fishermen are likely to catch anything from red snapper to yellowfin tuna. Several gulf and bay head boats operate out of the South Padre Island area.

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    How can I find out about weather and water conditions in the Laguna Madre or Baffin Bay?

    Information regarding water quality and weather parameters from the Laguna Madre and Baffin Bay can be found via the Texas Coastal Ocean Observation Network.The flags on the map indicate buoys or weather stations that record real-time data along the Texas coastline. You may click on these to get the most current observations. You can also click on the link that says "Data Query" to get real-time, recent, or historical data in a time series format (e.g. water temperatures for the last month). When you do a data query, you will specify the location, the parameter of interest, the time period, the format of the data (graph, tabular list etc), English or metric measurements, time zone, and date format. This is a very useful site used routinely by TPWD staff.

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    Can someone prevent you from fishing around private or marina boat docks?

    In response to reports of confrontations between anglers and waterfront landowners, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) officials have clarified the public’s right to fish from a boat on all public waters, providing no game law regulations are being violated.

    According to TPWD legal counsel Boyd Kennedy, “Waters that are open to the public for fishing include coastal waters, major lakes and rivers, and many smaller streams and lakes. If a lake is public water, then all of the lake is public water, including the water around marinas and boat docks. The right to build or operate a marina, dock, or other structure on or over public water does not carry with it the right to restrict boating or fishing from a boat.”

    Kennedy went on to note that by law, the basic authority for the enactment of boating regulations is reserved to the state. Some local government authorities may impose boating regulations for safety purposes, but TPWD statistics show that fishing around marinas and boat docks is not a safety problem. “Harassment of a law-abiding fisherman is a crime punishable by fine and/or imprisonment,” he added. (TPWD News Release; Jan. 11, 1999)

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    What is the public’s right to fish in streams and rivers in Texas?

    It is not legal to walk on other people’s property without their permission. You may have heard that it is okay to walk along creeks as long as you stay within ‘x’ feet of the water. That’s not true.

    It is not legal to go onto private property without the permission of the landowner. If the creekbed is privately owned, then you need the owner’s permission to wade in the creek, or walk next to the creek. If the creekbed is publicly owned or if the creek is a navigable stream, the public has the right to walk and/or wade in the creekbed itself, as long as you don’t go up onto private property. There is no right to trespass to get to a public streambed.

    The hard part is usually determining exactly where the public streambed ends and the privately owned adjacent property begins. The streambed consists of all land within the “gradient boundary” of the bed. In many cases, it takes a professional survey to determine the location of the gradient boundary in a given area. The streambed is not necessarily the part covered by the water. Depending on water levels, the water may be at, below, or above the gradient boundary. If the water is below the gradient boundary, there may be some dry bank that the public may lawfully use. If the water is at or above the gradient boundary, there may be no way to get in or out of the river without landowner permission. A landowner may charge parking and access fees if he chooses.

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    Why aren’t all Texas lakes listed in the weekly fishing reports?

    The reason certain lakes do not appear in the fishing reports is that a consistent source of information for that lake has not been developed. A person outside the TPWD who has set up a network of contacts to obtain information on fishing conditions prepares the fishing report for TPWD. New lakes are occasionally added when new sources are established.

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    How often are the fishing reports updated?

    The report is updated weekly usually by Thursday morning. However, not every location will have a new report each week.

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    How can I get a detailed map of a reservoir in Texas?

    Sporting goods and tackle stores sell maps of lakes, especially those in the local area. Most fishing and outdoor magazines and newsletters have advertisements for maps. You can also search the web for maps: pull up your favorite search engine and use the phrase, “Lake Maps.”

    Texas Parks and Wildilfe Department's Inland Fisheries office in Abilene has free 8-1/2" x 11" topographical maps of several lakes in the immediate area. Call 325-692-0921 for more information.

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    Guides and Trips

    I would like to take a guided fishing trip. Can you help me find a guide?

    TPWD doesn't recommend specific guide services. There is a Texas Fishing Guides Web site, www.texasfishingguides.org, that can assist you in your search. We also recommend checking with a Chamber of Commerce in the area where you want to fish.

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    Could you provide information on charters for marlin fishing?

    For marlin fishing in the Corpus Christi area, we recommend contacting the Port Aransas Chamber of Commerce (see above). If you would like to fish other areas of the Texas coast, the best starting point for locating offshore charters is the Chamber of Commerce in each location.

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    Tell me about red snapper trips out of Port Aransas.

    Trips out of Port Aransas will begin targeting snapper after April 21. There are large party boats and small charter boats, depending on your preference. For more information, contact the Port Aransas Chamber of Commerce (see above).

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    Fishing Tips, Health, Cooking, Eating

    What kind of fishing gear can you use for flounder? Does the gig need a barb?

    Flounder may be caught with a gig except during November (Nov. 1-30) when they may only be taken by pole and line. Each flounder must be 14 inches or larger. The daily bag limit is 5 except in November, when the daily bag is 2 fish.

    You do not need large rods and reels to catch flounder. Most people use spinning tackle or bait casting tackle with 12-14 lb test line. Best baits are live fish and soft plastic worms bumped along the bottom. Most flounder are caught along the channels leading to the Gulf. Many are caught from the bank. We do not catch them in the deeper Gulf water proper. Most flounder caught are in the 2-3 lb range.

    The Hawiian sling can be used to spear the flounder and it can have a barb on it. A hand held gig can have a barb(s) on it. I personally don’t see the need for a barb when gigging by hand. The main problem being that is you gig a flounder that is 13.5 inches, it must be released and if you have to pull the barbed gig back through the flounder, its chance for survival is diminished.

    Regarding having the barb on a hook, it is helpful as flounder are pretty good about throwing a jig out when rod and reeling them. Again, a barbless hook would make it easier to remove and be less damaging to undersized fish when releasing them.

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    What can you tell me about fishing for pompano?

    Florida pompano (the species in question) as the name would imply, occur primarily on the west coast of Florida. However, they are present throughout the Gulf Coast. They occur in fair numbers in Texas, and the abundance increases as you go south into Mexico.

    Pompano live for approximately four years, and reach a size of about 450 mm, or about 18 inches. They spawn offshore and the juveniles migrate inshore to sandy beaches such as those on North and South Padre islands. Conventional wisdom has it that they live on the beachfronts for about one year, and then migrate offshore as subadults when they are somewhere between 70-130 mm in length, or about 3-5 inches. There is evidence in our data, however, that two year classes are present on the beachfront in Texas, so they may be hanging around a little longer than they are supposed to. In addition, some larger adult fish are present most of the year near the beaches and associated passes. They can also be found around offshore oil rigs or other structure. Peak abundance occurs between May and July, but these were mostly small fish. In fact, juvenile pompano were the most abundant fish that were sampled in the surf, but larger fish over 200 mm (about 10 inches) were abundant from March - December, but were most abundant in October. These are very fast fish which are capable of outswimming or jumping over the nets that we used, so it’s very possible (actually probable) that larger fish were present on the beaches at least at some time of year.

    As far as what they eat goes, the adults feed primarily dine on small crabs and bivalves (clams), but larger specimens have been known to eat shrimp and even fish. People who fish for pompano target them in the surf in fall and winter with small pieces of shrimp. In the coastal bend area (Corpus, Rockport etc.), there are a few people that fish for them around October and November. They are probably using ghost shrimp, pieces of clam, small pieces of shrimp, or small crabs such as mole crabs for bait. In Florida, anglers have had success using flies that are tied to look like small crabs.

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    When is the season to purchase fresh table shrimp?

    Fresh table shrimp can be purchased year round in the Rockport area; however the size and price vary.

    The winter (Nov through Feb) is not the best time to buy what you might call table shrimp or medium size. These are not generally present in the bays during this time of year. However, some gulf boats operate during this time and large gulf shrimp are available, but expensive.

    The spring (March thru May) marks the beginning of shrimp season. The bay shrimp begin to become available, starting out rather small and inexpensive and increasing in size and cost as June approaches. The late spring and June are good times to buy shrimp locally. Gulf shrimp are available, but generally expensive, before the Gulf closure in June to early July. Mid-July Gulf large gulf shrimp are landed and can be purchased at a good price. I think August is the best time to buy both bay and gulf shrimp at very reasonable prices. Shrimp are generally available at reasonable prices the remainder of summer and into fall.

    All the local fish houses, bait dealers that sell shrimp and some road side vendors carry good product and the price varies no more that 10 to 25 cents per pound. Don’t buy unless it is good quality (fresh). Some times you can ask for a discount if you buy large quantities.

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    Are the fish I caught safe to eat?

    The Texas Department of State Health Services is the state agency that issues fish consumption bans and advisories. Links to these documents can be found under “Fish Consumption Bans & Advisories” in the regulations section of the Texas Parks and Wildlife website. We make every effort to keep the list current, but for the most up-to-date information, it’s a good idea to check the master list on the DSHS website.

    For more information contact the DSHS Seafood and Aquatic Life Group at 512.834.6757.

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    Are barracuda safe to eat?

    These fish are good to eat. However, barracuda caught in certain areas may be contaminated with ciguatoxin. To avoid possible poisoning, the Texas Department of State Health Services advises anglers not to eat barracuda and other species caught within 10 miles of the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. For more information, see "Ciguatera" in our section on Harmful Algal Blooms.

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    I was on the coast last week and now I have a red rash all over my feet and legs. What is it?

    Sometimes anglers develop an itchy rash after wadefishing, particularly in the spring. This may be caused by a larval cestode or trematode in search of a host, and is commonly known as "swimmers itch", aka cercarial dermatitis. The larvae burrows into human skin and dies, which causes an allergic reaction (much like a chigger for land lubbers). This is very different from a jellyfish sting, and easy to distinguish. Looks like this: swimmer's itch on legs of wade fisher

    For more information on swimmer's itch, visit the following Web pages:

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    When we went fishing last night, we noticed thousands of worms swimming under lights on the surface of the water. They averaged about 1&1/2 to about 2” in length and were red in color with a white at the tail. What are these worms? It is it normal for worms like these to inhabit our waters? Are the fish safe to eat? Are these the type of worms that are often found in large black drum?

    The worms you observed under the lights are common in Texas Bays. These are polychaetes which inhabit the bay bottom, but occasionally, when the tides are right, form schools and migrate. Many fish, including spotted seatrout, feed on them during this migration.

    The white worms called “spaghetti” worms you have observed in the flesh of large black drum are the larval stage of a tapeworm that can only reach maturity in sharks. It cannot survive in man, even if eaten raw. They can be easily removed from the fillet, and that is what most people do to make the flesh more appealing. I have seen information that indicates they are more common in the warmer months and when the salinity of the water is high. Other than looking unappetizing, they will not harm you if you eat them.

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    Can you really only eat oysters during months that have an R in them?

    The R rule was probably developed sometime long ago when there wasn’t refrigeration to handle harvested oysters. I’ve heard stories about people buying sacks of oysters and placing them under houses or in cool areas during the winter months. Back when we were having real winters, this was an effective means of keeping oysters for several days. The R months were generally cooler and spoilage of the oysters was reduced.

    Today, o ysters can be eaten throughout the year. Our public oyster season extends from November through April. Oysters are generally in best eating condition (fat) during the colder months as glycogen reserves are built up giving oysters a deep yellowish-brown color. They will remain in this condition until they begin spawning, generally during May. Once spawning is completed, the oyster’s body is in a weakened condition, sometimes appearing somewhat translucent. They remain this way through the summer and into the fall. The conditioning process starts over again and, depending upon water temperatures, they reach their prime condition for eating. It would be difficult to say what a good water temperature would be for oysters to develop into prime condition. I believe that water temperatures somewhere around 65-70 F or lower would be very conducive to the conditioning process.

    In summary, my favorite time to purchase oysters is December-April. Summer oysters are available from our private lease program but they do not have the fullness as during the winter. I do not encourage eating raw oysters due to the possibility of contracting a naturally occurring bacteria Vibrio vulnificus and becoming sick. Most healthy people do not suffer any ill effects but if a person’s immune system is compromised, serious illness or death may occur. Cooking an oyster will kill any Vibrio bacteria and is safe to enjoy.

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    I caught a fish that has worms or grubs in its flesh or internal organs, or has sores on its body. Is it safe to eat that fish?

    Although some parasites and diseases of North American fishes can be infectious, the vast majority will not develop in humans even if eaten raw. All are killed by thorough cooking, pickling, or freezing. There is no danger of eating an infected fish if it is properly cleaned and prepared. Fish that contain such parasites or diseases are still edible although their appearance is sometimes not appetizing.

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    I'm concerned about PCBs and dioxin in Galveston Bay. Are the fish safe to eat?

    The Department of State Health Services has issued a consumption advisory for parts of Galveston Bay. For more information, See our FAQ from July 2008.

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    Length & Weight / Records

    I think I caught a fish that could qualify as a state or lake record. How do I find out for sure, and how do I apply for a record?

    Please check our records pages for information on the current state and water body records. To submit your record catch, use the link provided there to download and complete the official application form.

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    How can I estimate the weight of a fish that was caught and released?

    For largemouth bass: TPWD biologists have developed a length-to-weight table based on a survey of more than 3,000 individual fish. Anglers who don't have scales readily available can measure a bass and use this table to estimate its weight.

    For any species: If you have the length and girth of a fish, you can use this formula to estimate its weight. Square the girth in inches (girth multiplied by itself) then multiply this times the length in inches. Divide this product by 800 to get weight in pounds.

    For example, we can use one of the recent ShareLunker bass. The girth was 20.25 inches and the length was 26 inches. First, take 20.25 x 20.25 to get 410.06. Multiply this times 26 to get 10,661.6. Divide this by 800 to get 13.33 pounds. The actual weight of this particular bass was 13.05 pounds, so that is a reasonable estimate.

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    How much does a 40-inch long black drum weigh?

    According to our conversion factor - a 40-inch black drum would weigh, on average, around 32 pounds. Generally, fish do not weigh a pound an inch. The state record black drum weighed 81 pounds and was 51.18 inches long. The average weight of black drum landed by recreational anglers in Texas is about 3 pounds.

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