Contact: Kent Keene, Lower Midwestern States Coordinator
During their recent regularly scheduled meeting, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission (Commission) approved several important regulatory changes, including regulations designed to protect the state’s declining southern flounder population. Specifically, the Commission approved increasing the minimum length requirement for southern flounder to 15 inches and changes to the 2021 southern flounder season that will see fishing closed from November 1 through December 15 to protect southern flounder during the spawn. The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation’s (CSF) Lower Midwestern States Coordinator Kent Keene submitted a letter of support for the proposed changes. The letter acknowledged the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s data-driven approach which highlights the need to enact regulations to protect the state’s southern flounder stocks.
Southern flounder populations have been declining across much of their North American range. Though the entire cause of this decline remains uncertain, fishing pressure, especially during the fall spawning period, is likely a contributing factor. During this period, southern flounder migrate in large numbers out of the bays to reproduce in the Gulf of Mexico, making them particularly vulnerable to anglers in pursuit of the species. By closing the season during the fall spawning run, Texas will join Alabama in taking a proactive approach to address southern flounder population declines in the Gulf. Current length requirements provide protection for male southern flounder who rarely reach the current 14-inch minimum. However, increasing the minimum length requirement by one inch, from 14 inches to 15 inches, is designed to increase protection for female southern flounder which are critical for rebuilding the fishery.
Though the fall spawning run represents a popular time for anglers to pursue southern flounder, current data suggests that the closure will help protect southern flounder stocks to ensure the long-term viability of the resource. Additionally, southern flounder angling opportunities will remain available throughout the remainder of the year, albeit with the increased minimum length requirement. Though originally proposed to take effect this year, the approved 6-week closure of the southern flounder season was delayed until 2021 to allow the recreational fishing industry time to plan for the change.
In addition to the aforementioned changes to southern flounder fishing regulations, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission approved several other regulatory changes related to hunting and fishing in Texas. More information on all the proposed changes heard by the Commission can be found here.
Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?