POTENTIAL CHANGES TO SALTWATER FISHING REGULATIONS

Texas Parks & Wildlife is holding scoping meetings to gather public input on some changes to saltwater regulations. The main change would be in how the state enforces federal fishing regulations, when dealing with species for which the state and federal limits and regulations are different. Chief among these would be red snapper. Federal regulations have a closed season (more closed than open) and a 2 fish per person per day bag limit. Texas has no closed season, and the bag limit is 4 fish per day, with a possession limit of 8. Because Texas waters extend to 9 nautical miles from shore, but there are generally more and larger snapper in the federally controlled waters that lie beyond, many anglers have considered this a “loop hole” by which they could catch and box 4 snapper in federal waters, then claim to have caught them in state waters if asked. A former Director for Coastal Fisheries for TP&WD admitted to me years ago that it was a viable loop hole, because to charge a fisherman he would have to be seen catching the fish outside of state waters. State game wardens did not have boats capable of patrolling that far offshore, were not charged with enforcing federal regs, and there only a couple or three federal game wardens working the entire Texas coast- so the chances were good even if someone were charged, the case might never actually go to court.

I asked for clarification of this matter, and was told:

It would continue to be legal to retain the state limit of 4 red snapper in Texas waters. If there was reason to suspect the fish were taken outside of 9 miles, the burden of proof would be on the officer filing the case.

It is NOT legal to have in possession 2 fish taken offshore and 4 fish taken in state waters. The total you will be allowed to dock with is the 4 fish Texas limit.

The main change is that the venue for charges of violations of federal regulations in the past has been through NOAA, where overcrowded dockets mean such cases sometimes do not get prosecuted at all. If these changes go through, Texas Game Wardens will be allowed to file these cases in JP Court, “where overcrowding is not an issue”. Gonna ask my JP buddy about that.

About MikeH

Texas hunter and fisherman for 50 years, published outdoor writer since 1979, licensed charter boat operator from 1982 to 2013. Past Member, Board of Directors, National Association of Charterboat Operators, current member Environmental Advisory Committee to the DOE and the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Married to Dorothy since 2000, one son, Michael who is recently married and living in Nederland, Texas. My wife and I live in Oyster Creek, Texas, near Freeport, and have a hunting property outside of Brazoria, Texas.
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