he Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is considering altering hunting and fishing regulations that could increase opportunity and simplify rules.
TPWD staff briefed the Regulations Committee of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission Jan. 26, about a series of issues that could result in changes to hunting and fishing regulations next season. Each year, TPWD considers changes in hunting and fishing regulations to achieve resource management objectives and maximize outdoor recreation opportunities consistent with good stewardship.
Among the most prominent proposals being considered continuing of special buck deer harvest regulations in six- Post Oak Savannah counties. Based on findings from a 3-year experiment in those counties, biologists believe the restrictions are helping create a healthy deer population.
According to the proposed regulations, hunters in the affected counties could harvest a buck only if it meets the following prerequisites:
- A deer having a hardened antler protruding through the skin and at least one unbranched antler or:
- A deer having an inside spread measurement between the main beams of 13 inches or greater.
For the 2005-06 hunting season, TPWD is proposing to add a second buck to the bag limit in counties with the special antler restrictions with one buck tag reserved for harvesting a deer with at least one unbranched antler. This alteration addresses biological concerns about inadvertently protecting spike bucks, according to Mitch Lockwood, TPWD White-tailed Deer program leader.
Austin, Colorado, Fayette, Lavaca, Lee and Washington counties would operate according to the buck antler restrictions and the proposal would also expand the coverage to 15 additional surrounding counties with similar deer population issues. The new counties being considered for the 2005-2006 season are Bastrop, Brazoria, Caldwell, DeWitt, Fort Bend, Goliad, Gonzalez, Guadalupe, Karnes, Jackson, Wilson, Matagorda, Victoria, Waller and Wharton.
Following is a summary of proposed changes:
Proposed Hunting Regulation Changes
- Consolidation of doe day categories. Currently, TPWD offers seven different sets of doe day combinations, including no days, four days, nine days, 16 days, 23 days, 23-plus days and full season. Wildlife biologists are suggesting consolidating doe days in 36 counties and cutting the options back to no days, four days, 16 days, 23-plus days or full season doe hunting. They also are looking at eliminating doe-day restrictions in 33 counties, mostly in the Panhandle.
- Simplifying the aggregate buck-bag restriction in one-buck and two-buck counties. This proposal would consolidate all of the one-buck counties into one zone, which would allow hunters to take a buck in three different one-buck-only counties or they could hunt in multiple two-buck counties, provided they do not exceed the county bag limit or take more than three bucks in all the two-buck counties combined.
- Creation of an appeals process for deer permit programs.
- Prohibition of hunting by remote control. This issue centers on the use of Internet technology as it relates to the taking of game animals and game birds.
- Removal of Hunt and Washington counties from the list of counties where the use of dogs to trail wounded deer is prohibited.
- Extend Managed Lands Deer Permit program to include mule deer. This proposal would allow landowners under an approved wildlife management plan to enter voluntarily in a habitat-based permit program, which would allow greater flexibility in managing mule deer harvest. With this proposal, permit holders could hunt from the first Saturday in November through the first Sunday in January.
- Several proposals that would consolidate and standardize turkey hunting regulations, including: standardizing the spring season length in the eastern and western halves of the state; standardizing the season length and bag composition for fall turkey seasons; and implementing youth-only spring turkey seasons for Rio Grande turkey.
- TPWD is also looking at the possibility of opening fall and spring seasons for Rio Grande turkey in Cameron and Zapata counties.
Lesser Prairie Chicken
- A proactive measure to address long-term habitat loss impacting lesser prairie chicken populations incorporated a two-phase proposal that would close hunting season statewide, and create a limited harvest option for properties with a wildlife management plan for Lesser Prairie Chickens. Managed properties would have a harvest quota.
Proposed Fishing Regulation Changes
Lake Nasworthy (Tom Green County)
- Fisheries biologists are looking into changing harvest regulations for red drum from the current 20-inch minimum length limit and daily bag limit of three fish, to no length and no bag limit to allow for maximized harvest of red drum. TPWD will not be managing red drum at Lake Nasworthy due to the shutting down of the power plant facility there, which will likely result in water temperatures being too low to maintain red drum.
North and South Arms of the Concho River (Tom Green County)
- Define waters (North Concho from O.C. Fisher Dam to Bell Street Dam and South Concho from Lone Wolf Dam to Bell Street Dam) that are covered by special regulations for blue and channel catfish (no minimum length limit and pole and line only angling) and where statewide regulations (12-inch minimum length limit and no gear restrictions) are in effect (South Concho above Lone Wolf dam)
Toledo Bend Reservoir
- Remove 12-inch minimum length limit for spotted bass. Limit will be the same as statewide limit (no minimum).
Proposed Coastal Fishing Regulation Changes
- Because of concerns about vulnerability to over-harvest of certain live mollusks and other inter-tidal species along the Texas coast, TPWD may establish a closed season along a small area of South Padre Island including the Brazos Santiago Pass and running on the bayward side of the island to Marisol Drive from Nov. 1 through April 30. The closure would protect species such as hermit crabs, starfish, sea urchins and periwinkles. The proposal would also establish a daily bag limit of 15 univalve snails in aggregate and no more than two each in the daily bag of lightening whelk, horse conch, Florida fighting conch, pear whelk, banded tulip and Florida rocksnail.