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Thread: A good read

  1. #1
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    Default A good read

    I’ve tried to refrain from getting involved in all of this “We don’t have any fish” and “We have millions of them” debate that seems to have consumed my Facebook feed but I feel compelled to chime in at this point. There seems to be quite a few internet experts out there these days spreading misinformation. I’m sure some of the things I have to say will fall on deaf ears but my conscience will not allow me to remain silent.
    I wouldn’t expect the average weekend angler to understand the ecology of our bay (Galveston Bay Complex) or every minute variable (and there are many) that makes it tick. I have to say that I’m a bit surprised, however, by some of the comments I’ve read from a few of the “guides.” As professional fishing guides I would think they would feel the need to become more educated about the bay system in which they fish. Most only seem to comment about the trout population in a vacuum without considering habitat and other factors.
    Here are a few not-so-fun facts –
    In 2006 there were 975,157 licenses (Combo & Saltwater) purchased in Texas. (TPWD)
    In 2015 (most recent data I have) there were 1,685,695 (Combo & Saltwater) purchased. (TPWD)
    So, in 10 years we’ve experienced an increase in saltwater angler participation of more than 710,000. I would expect it’s closer to 900,000 by now but the bottom line is it has increased by almost 75 percent.
    In 2006 there were 929 Texas Saltwater Guide licenses purchased. (TPWD) In 2015 the number was 1,166. (TPWD) I’m guessing the number is over 1,200 now. The number of guides each year used to remain somewhat constant because there was an annual turnover. That doesn’t seem to occur in recent years so the number continues to grow. I think some of this has to do with the fact that the millennial generation which is the largest generation since the baby boomers are coming of age and a very large percentage of them love to fish. Modern technology, social media and various forms of networking have also made it easier to find and catch fish.
    The Galveston Bay Complex is approximately 600 square miles. Its primary habitat consists of live oyster reefs. There are other types of habitat such as various species of bottom grasses, clam beds, etc. but they make up a small percentage compared to oysters. Prior to September 13, 2008 Galveston Bay had roughly 24,000 acres of live oyster reefs. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department used side-scan sonar mapping to determine the loss of oyster reefs post-Ike. The results showed that more than 12,000 acres of live oyster reefs were covered in mud and silt. For those who are not aware, oysters must have substrate to grow. In other words, they will not grow on top of mud. I only mention this because I hear folks continuously tell me how resilient our bay is and how it will recover. Galveston Bay is indeed resilient. She has experienced ebbs and flows throughout history in the form of floods, freezes, droughts, etc. and she always seemed to recover. The one thing she never experienced during those events was a loss of 50 percent of primary habitat. While the Texas Parks and Wildlife (and to a lesser extent various individuals and organizations) conduct oyster reef restoration projects (primarily using 2 to 4 inch river rock) it will take many years to replace what was lost. On average there has been less than 100 acres per year planted since Ike. At this rate it would take 120 years to replenish assuming there were no natural disasters.
    In addition to increased fishing pressure and loss of habitat we’ve experience approximately 7 years of trout stack-ups. 2010 through 2014 found us in drought conditions which sent large populations of trout and forage species searching for lower salinities near river mouths and other similar areas. Facebook and internet fishing forums were loaded with pics of fishermen posing with big trout and over-the-shoulder stringers caught while wading and drifting the far reaches of Trinity and East Bays as well as Upper Galveston Bay. While all of this was taking place there were certain high salinity-thriving parasites such as Dermo (Perkinsus marinus) further damaging remaining oyster reefs that Ike didn’t destroy.
    Then we had the heavy spring rains in 2015 and 2016 that everyone continuously talks about. Trout sought areas with higher salinities to survive. The ones that didn’t leave through the passes concentrated in just a few areas and became easy pickings for just about anyone who owned a boat (including me). Many average fishermen became guides during this time because catching was so easy.
    Now here we are in 2017 with almost twice as many fishermen, half of the habitat and coming off of 7 years of stack-ups in which record numbers of trout were harvested. 98 percent of the fishermen I speak with are telling me that fishing is not nearly as good as they’re use to experiencing. The other 2 percent are saying publicly via Facebook that there are trout everywhere. The funny thing is that several of the ones saying that have told me privately that they have really struggled this year. Hell, I’ve personally witnessed many of them at the cleaning table with only a handful of trout up until the past month or so. I think now that we’re seeing more calm days that they’ve been able to capitalize on some of the tide-runner trout that have moved back into our bay system in certain locales. It’s funny how a few easy limits of trout can cause short-term memory loss. The problem is (and they’ll never admit it) the trout they’re catching on are only concentrated in a few areas. I have to be honest. The trout I’m catching on lures are only in 3 or 4 areas. I basically make my rotations every day and work my tail off to catch (not necessarily keep) however many we catch.
    I’m not saying that there are not trout throughout our bay system. I am saying that there are fewer areas with catchable numbers than in years past. It’s obvious when I make my rounds around the bay and see clusters of fiberglass in the same 4 or 5 areas every day. If you could go anywhere and catch trout in adequate numbers then why are the same guys fishing the same areas every day? Those of us who fish this bay 200 plus days per year over a twelve month period while utilizing the entire bay system know that there are many areas where we should be catching fish but we’re not. In my opinion, those who are only fishing a few areas for 4 or 5 months out of the year really can’t offer an accurate assessment of the state of our fishery.
    I am really concerned about the sustainability of our fishery because of not only the facts that I’ve stated but my own observations on a daily basis. No one is saying that we don’t have any fish, but it would be nice to have the overall quality and numbers of trout that we used to have. But I’m just not sure we ever will without some major changes. Anyone who thinks overall fishing is good right now has most likely never witnessed “good.” Either that or they choose to ignore the writing on the wall.
    One last thing - Up until the last 8 or 9 years I never have experienced so much animosity among guys who are in the same industry. It’s really sad to see certain “guides” insulting well-respected fishing guides. Fishing these days sometimes reminds me more of a reality series. We as professional fishing guides need to understand that everything we do is observed by our younger generations. We need to let them know that keeping a limit of trout just to get a meat haul pick isn’t necessarily the mark of a successful guide. I include myself when I say that because there was a time when I did the same thing. We have to mature as fishermen at some point and we have to learn to work together. Best of luck to everyone!

    The above was written by Capt. Steve Hillman.

  2. #2
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    Nice read.Hillman is right about the amount of people fishing and just the boat traffic makes it harder to find fish.

  3. #3
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    Very good read.
    Mirrolure Pro Staff

  4. #4
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    Very interesting indeed

    Sent from my SAMSUNG-SM-G870A using Tapatalk

  5. #5
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    Well said.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro
    "Curmudgeon only pawn in game of life."



  6. #6
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    Usaflag

    Thanks for the insightful comments .
    GEORGE A. BRANARD, COLOR SERGEANT, CO. L, 1 ST TEXAS INFANTRY, HOOD'S TEXAS BRIGADE, C.S.A. : S.C.V.

  7. #7
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    Telling it like it is.....

  8. #8
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    Default

    Very interesting read. thanks for sharing.

  9. #9
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    Good stuff, thanks for sharing.
    "Courage is being scared to death... and saddling up anyway."
    -John Wayne

  10. #10
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    My take on this is with better technology will have today, social media and the increasing numbers of fisherman, fishing will never be better than it is now. We need to take more conservation efforts than what we are doing now. I believe eliminating using croakers as bait will help and with almost half the fisherman are on the upper coast, change the limits to five as the rest of the state. I don't understand why CCA and TP&W haven't made these changes. I may have ruffled a few feathers, but this is what I believe in. Hopefully some of you will bring this up at your next CCA meeting or write to TP&W.

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