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#2315414
So what do you think was the overall condition of the resource in the areas you fish before the freeze? What were the trends? What do you think it will be after this recent freeze kill? What should TP&W do about it? How is it going to change how you fish?

I think the fish numbers were strong going into the freeze, at least where I fish. I can’t really see a lot of difference over the last 15 years I have really fished a lot. I likely got more skilled at recognizing fish sign and structure over that time period, but adjusting for that, I still say the fishing was as good just prior to this freeze if not even better than it was in the first decade of the 21st Century. Obviously, some trips work out better than others, but taken as a whole, fishing has been good as any time in my personal history. I’ve read some threads on other sites that say the fishing isn’t or wasn’t nearly as good in recent years as it was a decade or two ago, and certainly not like it was in the 1980s or 1990s. But, is that just longing for the good old days or is it rooted in reality? I didn’t fish a ton in the 1980s and probably less in the 1990s so it’s hard to know about way back when. TP&W numbers on their surveys if I recall those seem to reflect the things I’ve experienced.

But, we all fish different areas and have different reference points. What’s your take?

From what I can tell from the videos and reports, the freeze was at its worse from East Matagorda Bay on south, which is a massive slice of the Texas coast. Trout got hit the hardest of the big three, setting aside the marginally adapted snook, snapper, tarpon, etc. A lot of the water I fish has deep rivers and creeks and bayous and channels for at least a good number of trout to escape the persistent water in the 30s that lots of other more shallow areas received.

So what should TP&W do? I’d be for making croaker a gamefish for starters, but that would likely send a lot of guides and some others into orbit. But, one, I like catching croaker and not being able to use them for bait would likely allow those fish to prosper. Secondly, better trout seem to find live croaker irresistible and putting an end to croaker soaking would no doubt result in less trout being caught. I could also see a temporary catch and release for trout being put into place for the hardest hit areas or even statewide. If TP&W only slaps certain bays with catch and release rules, will that send people to the areas where it is business as usual?

What do you think TP&W should do? Lower the limits? Catch and release only during the spawn? Nothing? All of it and more?
#2315417
The north end of Estes was hit hard, lots of dead trout and even more barely swimming to stay alive. Very Sad Sight. I would say it was 50% of the dead or near death were 15" or larger. I measured three trout over 21", largest was 25", but there were many 20" plus trout laying dead on the exposed bottom due to very low tides.

Bird Island Basin right at the launch was a dead 25" is trout as well as the typical non-game species. It didn't appear to be as bad Estes. Sea Tow was out still bringing in stunned sea turtles, they unloaded about 20 as we pulled off the water. This was on Sunday, so they're still finding turtles a week later.

On Monday we fished East Flats and again I saw at least two dead trout over 20" dead along with non-game species. Saw a couple dead Mangrove snapper in the Island Moorings canals as well.

Our cabin is on Copano Bay near the causeway and I saw dead juvenile trout (8 or so inches) along with non-game species along the bottom and up against our bulkhead.

One thing I did not see were dead redfish or flounder. The reds we found and caught seemed healthy and eager to get back onto the flats. I'll post pictures tonight.
#2315418
My plan is the following.

1. I will not target trout this year.
2. I will not keep any incidentally caught healthy trout.
3. The only incidentally caught trout I will keep will be those that are were hooked in a way that would impact their ability to survive release.

Going to target reds and flounder. Maybe drum and sheepshead as well.
#2315419
My $0.02 is to make Croaker a game fish and try to put a 10 or 12 inch limit and 5 per day for the time being. This allows that population to rebuild to what it was once and could become the Whitebass of the Bay in the near future for people who want some fillets. It would also keep poeple from using Croaker to target trout.

I think changing the limit on trout to a 15-20" slot from the 15-25" may help too and leave the 1 over 20" (currently 25") per day.

Other than that maybe the best thing to do is to put information up at tackle shops, boat ramps, and some billboards that Trout and possibly Redfish need to be released to help rebuild the population.

We still do not know the impact of this storm yet but I'd rather play it safe for a few months while the data is collected then have 10 years of bad fishing and even lower limits being imposed.
#2315424
My one wish for our trout is for folks to realize how sensitive they are. If you’re netting and putting your hands on them you’re removing their slime which does some serious damage. Lose the net, play the fish out and enjoy the fight, leave them in the water as much as possible, touch them as little as possible.

I agree with Ben that one fish over 20” is a good idea. Most of us inshore fish for the sport of it, not to fill our freezers. I like to fill up my freezer with snapper, cobia and mahi personally (and venison)
#2315425
I caught a 20" spec in the surf one day that had been filleted down one side by a shark.
Its gut membrane was intact, and most of that gill was missing.
It was scarred over with red scar tissue, and I took the fillet from the other side.

I'm glad it's the state in charge of regulating catch and bag limits.
We each have our own ethics about taking fish, we each choose where and why we fish, and as long as we're legal and sensible, there's no reason for others to impose their choices based on anecdotal data.
Certainly the reason the state has set the one trout over 25" per day limit is because that fish is most likely a female.
I regularly meat fish trout in places where every trout over 20" is a male, and if you catch a nursery female, she's most likely 16".
Last edited by Ron Mc on Wed Feb 24, 2021 11:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.
#2315426
I've been fishing the Galveston bay system since the mid fifties. And, yeah, there were lots of specs throughout the system. But, remember, that there was no size or limit numbers. We considered it a non successful fishing trip if we didn't fill our cooler with trout. For a real freezer filler, my dad and I would drive to Rockport, stay at the Fish and Feather, and fish for schoolies for two days from one of the guided boats working out of their marina.
The captain anchored the boat up wind of the many live oyster reefs and we caught a trout each time our live shrimp baited corked lines hit the water. The trip was over when there were no more live shrimp.

Croakers were considered, not trash fish perhaps, but most definitely 'bother' fish. I don't remember catching too many reds, but we didn't actively seek them out due to the preference for easily filleted, specs. Reds were not easily cleaned.

One would think that such thoughtless gluttony would have an ill effect on the spec population, but remember, there just weren't that many fishermen. I do think that the shell dredging in many areas (never allowed in the Rockport bays) along with the exponentially increased sport and commercial fishing had a seriously disparaging effect during later years.

When I began fishing the Laguna Madre and Baffin Bay (almost every week-end), in the early seventies, red fish were somewhat rare. The illegal commercial fisherman and their damned gill nets came close to decimating the red fish population from the flats. It was when we finally, through Red Fish Unlimited (If my faulty memory serves me correctly), got the state legislature to make it illegal to purchase red fish from Texas water, that the red's began to come back. When the state began raising reds at the power plant, they really came back.

The freeze of 83 crushed the spec population in the Corpus Bay area. I don't remember it ever coming back for several years thereafter. To get decent Trout, we did a great deal of surf fishing at Big Shell on Padre Island National Sea Shore. The pompano and smacks offered excellent table fare also. Using proper surf equipment baited with fresh mullet mostly produced bull reds, which, while fun to catch, were inedible.

So, I guess, just like the fortunes of man, that of our fishy friends tends to have its up's and downs. We can, due to the freeze, expect the fishing prospects within our Gulf Coast bay systems to slip downward. It will return, in earnest, but to give it a boost, we need to make croker's and specs a protected species, at least for a while. Catch and release, a proven purveyor of fishing improvement, should be practiced judiciously.
#2315435
Good and thoughtful comments all. Saw this press release regarding the freeze kill from TP&W yesterday
https://tpwd.texas.gov/newsmedia/releas ... =20210223b

I haven’t decided yet how I will fish post freeze. Of course, I’ll get behind and follow whatever law and regulation changes TP&W implements. I don’t get to any of the what appears to be the very worst affected areas very often, maybe the Matagorda Bays once in a while. But, from my understanding of speckled trout what happens in Christmas, Drum or Bastrop Bay has little to zero impact on what’s going on in Rockport or Seadrift or Corpus or Port Mansfield. So if most or the large majority of the trout survived the freeze in the Galveston bay system and most didn’t in the bays to the south, Galveston Bay isn’t really going to serve to restock or restore the trout on south. If the trout recover in the LM or San Antonio Bay or Copano bay, it will have to come from whatever remnant population is there. I know in these high stakes trout tournaments like the STAR, they authorities can determine the genetics from where the trout originated and tracking studies strongly indicate trout don’t typically move from one end of Texas to the other.

I guess it will be interesting to see what fish I come across where I fish. I fish a lot of sign. Will there be much trout sign if the trout numbers are way down? Will places that I’ve found trout before in relative abundance still have trout in relative abundance?

I can’t see where this freeze did much of anything to the redfish up here so I would expect to see redfish in the places I did before.

I hope this post freeze thing doesn’t devolve into yet another giant and very public point of contention to where anyone that dares to keep some fish is publicly raked across the coals or otherwise canceled. Displaying Outrage and virtue signaling over whatever one finds disagreeable, even if the supposed offensive behavior is perfectly legal and otherwise protected by law and subject to nuance, is now America’s favorite new hobby and theater.

I’m for conservation of the resource and I don’t have any reason to expect TP&W won’t get a handle on this freeze, the extent of it and act judiciously, but I hope whatever TP&W does or doesn’t eventually do we will all choose to except it and find a way to allow others to retain their legal catch, whatever that turns out to be, without a lot of rancor and displays of moral superiority.
#2315440
Kars I agree on the public perception regarding keeping fish. Legal is legal. But you can bet the first guide that shows up at a cleaning station in a hard hit area with a 3 or 4 man limit of trout is going to get some what for.

Something else folks who fish north of East Matty need to keep in mind is the fishing pressure is going to increase. Since that area seems to be the least affected area there will be some pleasure fisherman as well as a number of guides migrate to that area especially those who typically fish east Matty.
#2315441
If the state does a reasonably thorough assessment of the situation and then implements conservation minded rules, then that should take the pressure off everyone for constantly monitoring and criticizing each other for how many fish are kept, from where, what type, etc.

Build into the rules knowing that x amount of people will keep x amount of fish and guides run x amount of trips that harvest x amount of fish. Do some sort of math, statistical analysis on it all, estimated fish killed, estimated annual harvests, etc. TP&W should do this, then add a built in safety number in case the math was a little off. TP&W has done this all before, this isn’t the first major kill for them and if anything, the science ought to be even better than in the 1980s.

EVERYTHING is so freaking controversial these days and EVERYONE seems to have a penchant for getting way into everyone else’s motivations for EVERY move they make, it’s pretty suffocating to say the least. I’d HATE it if fishing is yet another realm to fall to the army of one-up-ers, the “I’m more holy than thou”, the perpetual ticked off because someone isn’t pure enough. Let’s see what TP&W comes up with and whatever they do, let’s just honor that and any legal fisherman that stays within the confines of the law.
#2315444
After witnessing all the dead trout, especially at Estes Flats, around the Rockport/Port A/Corpus Christi area I, for the time being will not be keeping any trout. I did not see one dead redfish at any of the locations we fished this weekend. I'm not going to judge those who wish to retain their limit; it's their legal choice to make.

Your idea to make croaker a legal game fish is an interesting one. The more I think about it the more I could get behind that plan. I also recall TPWD putting on the table increasing the the daily bag limit for redfish from 3 to 4 since the population was healthy enough to support the increase. Anglers voted against that, but I'd like to see it put back on the table given what I saw this past weekend.
#2315446
I think that anyone using a fly that's not made entirely of feathers is not a true fly fisherman. Further, if he doesn't have a hat that is used exclusively and without fail whenever he's fly fishing, then, he is denigrating the sport.

By the same token, my releasing every fish I've netted for the past twenty years, has never caused me to cast a disdainful eye on anyone for keeping the legal limit, nor should it. I cannot imagine chastising another fisherman who has obeyed all wild life regulations. It's called freedom pf choice.
#2315452
karstopo wrote:If the state does a reasonably thorough assessment of the situation and then implements conservation minded rules, then that should take the pressure off everyone for constantly monitoring and criticizing each other for how many fish are kept, from where, what type, etc.

Build into the rules knowing that x amount of people will keep x amount of fish and guides run x amount of trips that harvest x amount of fish. Do some sort of math, statistical analysis on it all, estimated fish killed, estimated annual harvests, etc. TP&W should do this, then add a built in safety number in case the math was a little off. TP&W has done this all before, this isn’t the first major kill for them and if anything, the science ought to be even better than in the 1980s.

EVERYTHING is so freaking controversial these days and EVERYONE seems to have a penchant for getting way into everyone else’s motivations for EVERY move they make, it’s pretty suffocating to say the least. I’d HATE it if fishing is yet another realm to fall to the army of one-up-ers, the “I’m more holy than thou”, the perpetual ticked off because someone isn’t pure enough. Let’s see what TP&W comes up with and whatever they do, let’s just honor that and any legal fisherman that stays within the confines of the law.


Very good points in your previous post to this one too.

I saw on Twitter that the anonymity that Social Media can provide allows people to be more extreme and vulgar.

That is my feeling and while I don't fish with Croaker, I don't judge those that do negatively as an example.

Legal is legal and I choose to go a different route based on what I feel is the best course of action. I understand guides have mortgage's, boat payments, etc. but if people want bags of fillets, then I would hope they target other species.

I'm optomistic about Redfish and I think Flounder will be OK. If that is the case then I will just primarily target those 2 and keep some if TP&W says the population is OK. But I only keep what I'm going to eat and let's face it, fish is better fresh and never frozen.
#2315470
It seems the fish-kill was worse down south, as reported by Josh and others down there. Fishing guide Jim West took a boat trip through East Bay and reported seeing no dead fish. Capt. Mickey Eastman saw dead baitfish floating in Trinity Bay, but few Trout (so far...). Haven't heard much news from West Bay.

I love eating fresh fish, but will henceforth keep only one legal speck per trip. Catching & releasing them is thrilling enough for the foreseable future. But I will be targeting Redfish and Flounder.

Let's keep the information coming.

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#2315473
I’m one that targets redfish as much as anyone and never have been such a speckled trout focused fisherman as so many are, like my cousin, the consummate croaker soaker. I know nice people, good fishermen and otherwise likable, that consider redfish trash fish and more or less undesirable, calling them ditch carp or whatever. Not me, redfish are a thrill on the end of the line and in my opinion more versatile table fare than trout, albeit a little more work to clean than a 16” trout. About the only time I really go deliberately after trout is wading in the summer surf. I don’t carry a stringer when I wade the surf, so if I keep any fish I walk them up. It will be very easy just to forgo the walk up to the ice chest and stay on the fish, something I do half the time anyway.

The last time I fished I got the one keeper trout, a 17” fish. It was the perfect size for my wife and myself. I went old school Brennan’s Restaurant Trout Amandine, oh so good. One fish, one excellent dinner.
#2315474
Dandydon wrote:It seems the fish-kill was worse down south, as reported by Josh and others down there. Fishing guide Jim West took a boat trip through East Bay and reported seeing no dead fish. Capt. Mickey Eastman saw dead baitfish floating in Trinity Bay, but few Trout (so far...). Haven't heard much news from West Bay.

I love eating fresh fish, but will henceforth keep only one legal speck per trip. Catching & releasing them is thrilling enough for the foreseable future. But I will be targeting Redfish and Flounder.

Let's keep the information coming.

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I'm listening to Scott Null on the BIte Me podcast and a guide friend of his that fishes West Galveston said a lot of trout were floating over by Hitehcock in the diversionary canal.

Not trying to disprove you or anything but the dead may be starting to float up now and so I'm adding some information per your last line lol.

It's really hard sometimes to find the right words in a forum post that someone won't take offense to but I promise this post is all about good intentions :D
#2315475
Trout amandine...,food of the gods. My all time favourite.

Years ago, I offered the chef at Brennans twenty bucks (big spender) for the recipe, but he said he would be shot by one of the Brennans if he ever divulged that recipe. He did bring me a plate of strawberries and port as a thanks for complementing his cooking.

Time passed, as is the usual case. My wife's aunt was head librarian of the New Orleans public library. My wife is truly a gourmet cook. As a special gift, her aunt sent her a very old, very rare, way out of publication book of N. O. famous recipes And, yes, Brennan's recipe for trout amandine was in the book.

So easy to make if done correctly. It's all about the correct application of heat. I have friends who bring me speckle trout fillets when they want me to cook them amandine.
#2315476
karstopo wrote:Displaying Outrage and virtue signaling over whatever one finds disagreeable, even if the supposed offensive behavior is perfectly legal and otherwise protected by law and subject to nuance, is now America’s favorite new hobby and theater.


This is perhaps the best sentence I have ever read on this board in my 12 years of being a member. I could not agree more, Karstopo.

Thanks for the TPWD press release link. Very informative.

As for what I intend to do, I think I will fish with a little different mindset. We all generally know what to do when we catch a 27+ inch trout. We handle her gently, snap a photo and return her to the water. Most everyone with whom I have ever fished knows that big trout deserve respect and therefore act accordingly. If I am fishing down south, that same mindset will be applied to every trout caught - not just the big ones. If I am fishing my normal haunts in Galveston, I might keep a trout or two, but will probably think twice, at least for the next year.

I don't ever go out to fish with the goal of a meat haul. I just do not like the taste of frozen fish. The fresh fish is SO much better, so if I am keeping fish, I am only keeping enough to feed the family one meal. For me, that is 3 trout max and maybe 1-2 redfish (but I tend to throw those back because I hate cleaning them so much). I also throw most flounder back since I prefer trout, but if I accidentally catch a decent size one (17+), I might keep it. To that end, I probably fillet 1-2 flounder a year.

In sum, I don't fish to feed the belly. I fish to feed the soul.
#2315479
What I liked about the TPWD link was the factual presentation with complete absence of alarm.
During the freeze, the places they set fishing bans were in the deep earth-warm troughs where fish would stack to survive.
The newfound spiritual fervor over fish kills is touching - praise the fish gods and pass the procure.
I know we saw the worst of it on Estes, but it doesn't dim my expectations for strong recovery of speckled trout, or even the current population of these fish.
Fish that were able to get to deep-enough water and keep traveling survived. To a less extent, we see the same thing every summer, when specs chase bait into sloughs, and both run out of oxygen before they can escape.
Speckled trout are mysterious, also widespread, and my pet life cycle theories are at least as good as most found in marine biology academia.
Adult specs travel 20 to 25 mi/day to find their food. We witnessed fish that were trapped by low tides and exposed to inordinately cold surface water.
I trust TPWD to thoroughly evaluate the situation and follow through with any necessary changes to catch and bag limits, but I don't expect to see changes.
#2315480
Here's something I never thought I'd see in Galveston Bay. I took one photo from the entrance to the Sea Isle fishing pier on Tuesday, Feb 16. To the right is the bird sanctuary, and to the left is West Bay. The entire bird sanctuary was covered with floating ice.

The other photo is the Sea Isle beach side. Pretty much dead calm, but rather chilly.

Fortunately, most of the dead fish I found wandering around the Sea Isle canals were small croaker, and not a mass kill at that. There were very few dead trout and I didn't see any dead reds.

Before the front, we were starting to see some bigger fish deeper in our green lights on the canal. So far, all I've seen after the front is a few decent sheephead shaped fish (may be drum- hard to tell them apart by their shadows) Lots of tiny minnows are starting to appear, so I suspect we'll have the game fish back soon...
Attachments
Beach Freeze 2021.jpg
Winter Freeze.jpg
#2315481
Shoffer nailed it, men.

Fish to feed your soul. The fish to eat is a secondary consideration.

That being said, I'll gladly take one of Shoffer's Flounder or Redfish if he wants to release them...


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