Texas Oyster Reef Restoration WIll Benefit Texas Fishing

HOUSTON – Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) has hired Apollo Environmental Strategies of Beaumont to distribute more than 70,000 cubic yards of oyster reef building materials (called “cultch”) over six natural, publicly owned oyster reefs in Galveston Bay.

This work is part of ongoing efforts to restore oyster reef habitats which were severely impacted by Hurricane Ike-induced sedimentation in September 2008. Starting in August and finishing in October 2011, cultch materials (river rock and/or crushed limestone) will be spread over 178 acres of public oyster reef.

These “cultch plantings” will attract planktonic oyster larvae that will settle on the cultch and grow into adult oysters thus helping to re-establish previously productive oyster reefs. Oyster reefs selected for cultch plantings are:  Frenchy’s Reef, Middle Reef and Hanna Reef in East Bay and Dollar Reef, East Redfish Reef and South Redfish Reef in Galveston Bay.  Reefs were selected for cultch plantings based on the depth of overlying sediments, water depth, and proximity to oil and gas pipelines and private oyster leases.

This work will cost $3.8 million, primarily funded through federal fisheries disaster grants awarded to TPWD to address impacts from hurricanes Rita and Ike. After Hurricane Ike struck the Texas coast in September 2008, TPWD side scan sonar surveys found that about 50 percent of oyster reef habitats in Galveston Bay and about 80 percent of oyster reef habitats in East Bay were covered in sediment deposited by the hurricane’s storm surge.

In addition to benefiting the commercial oyster industry, the restoration will provide numerous ecological benefits. One of the primary ecological functions of oyster reefs is water filtration. Oysters feed by filtering tiny plants known as phytoplankton from the water and a single oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water in a day. This filter feeding also removes silt and some contaminants from the water, thus making oyster reefs nature’s bio-filters.  At a minimum density of 10 oysters per square meter, the restored 178 acres of oyster habitat will be capable of filtering approximately 360 million gallons of water per day.  By comparison, the average daily flow rate for Houston’s 39 wastewater treatment plants in 2009 was 252 million gallons per day (Greater Houston Partnership, http://www.houston.org/economic-development/facts-figures/utilities/index.aspx).

Oyster reefs also provide habitat for numerous bottom dwelling fish and invertebrates which are in turn food for larger game fish. Therefore, this project is expected to indirectly benefit the recreational fishing community. Scientists refer to these various functions of oyster reefs, including providing product for the commercial fishing industry, as “ecosystem services”.

Prior to this year’s restoration work, TPWD restored five acres of oyster reef off of Eagle Point near San Leon in 2009/2010, and 20 acres of oyster reef on Middle Reef in East Bay in 2009. This year’s work represents a seven fold increase in acres of oyster reef restored by TPWD. East Bay, which has been closed to commercial oyster fishing for the last two years, will re-open to commercial harvest on Nov. 1.

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Toyota Texas Bass Classic Offers $100,000 Prize for Biggest ShareLunker Caught on Lake Conroe

Texas Bass Fishing - Lake Conroe

Photo by -Larry D. Hodge, © Texas Parks and Wildlife Department


The Toyota Texas Bass Classic is proud to introduce the first-ever ShareLunker Club Tournament (SCT) on Lake Conroe, October 1 – 21, 2011. This unique tournament allows the everyday angler to compete like a pro for the chance to win $100,000.

To participate in the tournament, interested anglers need to register and become a SCT member, and then fish on Lake Conroe any time between October 1 – 21, 2011 (the “Tournament Period”). A $100 contribution is required to become a member of the SCT and only pre-registered members will be eligible for the $100,000 prize. The member that catches the largest Toyota ShareLunker from Lake Conroe, during the Tournament Period, will win a cash prize of $100,000. A portion of the proceeds from the program will benefit the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s youth outreach programs.

“The ShareLunker Club Tournament is a great way for anglers from throughout the state to fish for big time money at Lake Conroe, the home of the Toyota Texas Bass Classic,” said Dave Terre of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. “Lake Conroe and the City of Conroe are incredible hosts of this event and we’re excited to start the ShareLunker season off with a bang. The funds raised from this tournament provide fishing opportunities for youth and their families through the Department’s Neighborhood Fishin’ Program.”

A Toyota ShareLunker, as defined by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, is considered any legally-caught largemouth bass that weighs at least 13.00 pounds and is accepted into the Toyota ShareLunker Program. The contest will be limited to the first 1,000 anglers signed up, and anyone who signs up after Sept. 29 will be subject to a 48-hour grace period before they are eligible to participate. Visit toyotatexasbassclassic.com to download a registration form and submit the membership fee. In addition, anglers can submit their registration and membership fees at Roadhouse Tackle (936-856-3009) located at 1360 Cude Cemetery Rd. in Willis, Texas.

The 2011 SCT will kick off the annual Toyota ShareLunker Program across the state of Texas. The Toyota ShareLunker Program runs Oct. 1 through April 30 with the mission of promoting the catch-and-release of large fish and selectively breeding trophy largemouth bass.

The ShareLunker Club Tournament is the perfect lead-in to the Toyota Texas Bass Classic, which will be held on Lake Conroe, Oct. 28-30. The Toyota Texas Bass Classic will feature 50 of the best professional anglers in the world along with three days of concerts. The anglers will compete for three days for the undisputed world championship of professional angling.

The Toyota Texas Bass Classic tournament functions are operated by the Professional Anglers Association with technical assistance and support from Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Inland Fisheries Division. Title sponsor for the event is Toyota. Additional sponsors include Evinrude, IKON, Oakley, Carrot Stix, US Reel and Mustang CAT. Corporate partnership opportunities are available for 2011. For additional information, visit toyotatexasbassclassic.com or call 1-866-907-0143.

For more tournament information visit toyotatexasbassclassic.com

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Texas Drought Conditions Help Anglers Learn To Fish

Texas drought conditions have caused water levels in most of the lakes statewide to drop drastically. Some lakes are reporting only 57% of their normal capacity.

This is actually a situation that anglers can take advantage of and really learn how to catch more fish.

Learn To Fish

While lake levels are down, you can learn how to catch more fish when the drought is over. Right now, you can see bottom structure that is normally buried under a few feet of water.

Texas Drought

Learn to fish when water levels are low

For example, in the picture on the left, both that protrusion of land (a point) and that lone stump sticking up out of the water are normally not visible. I can also see that there is a slight dip in the foreground that is holding water. If I make a note of these things and take pictures then, when the water returns, I now have a better picture of underwater targets that I can focus on while fishing. Maybe there will be a fish on that point or holding next to that stump.

Learn to fish

Another great fish holding spot

Here’s another example:

In the picture on the right, all of those smaller stumps are normally not visible. This is usually a couple of feet underwater. Just the tips of the tallest ones are visible.

Possibly a holding spot for bluegill, crappie, etc. when the water returns. Actually, I know this spot holds fish during the spawn, but right now it’s too shallow for anything.

What Are You Looking For?

While you’re cruising around the lake, or walking along the bank, if there isn’t enough water to launch your boat make some notes. Here’s a few things to look for:

  • Logs laying on the bottom
  • Brushpiles
  • Sandy holes or depressions in the bottom
  • Humps
  • The shape of the stumps and laydowns
  • Exposed points
  • Drastic depth changes

Those will give you a good start, then when the water is back to its regular level, you’ll be ready to try your luck with a few more educated guesses.

This is a trick that I have used over the years to learn to catch more fish. I know fishing guides who have built their reputations on the things they have learned during drought conditions. So, get out there and learn something. You’ll be glad you did.

Oh, and one last thing. If you want more fishing tips and ideas to learn to fish more effectively, don’t forget to sign up for our regular newsletter. Use the blue box on the right.

Hope to see you on the water.

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Texas Fishing Art Contest

Texas Fishing Art Contest Show and Fair at Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center June 25

ATHENS—The 13th annual Wildlife Forever State-Fish Art Expo comes to the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center June 25, and a full slate of art- and fishing-related activities is planned.

Headlining the show is the display of 2011’s best student-rendered artwork of fishes. Students from across the nation will gather in Athens to compete for national honors and receive awards for winning their state contests.

In keeping with the “Art’s Better Outside” theme of the event, visitors can dine on fair-type food, fish in the stocked casting pond, watch artists demonstrate their skills or shop for a piece of art to hang over the sofa.

Visitors may view all the artwork in the Hart-Morris Conference Center and then vote for their favorite as the People’s Choice Award. Every piece of art on display was a winner at the state level in the annual Wildlife Forever State-Fish Art Contest.

Visiting artists will be displaying their art—which can be purchased—as well as demonstrating techniques. Nationally known landscape artist Bruce Piel will be a featured artist at the event. Piel maintains a studio in the Athens area.

The Henderson County Art Club is sponsor for the event, and a number of its members will be displaying their work and skills in the TFFC Visitor Center. Other artists will be offering activities and exhibiting their works of acrylic, canvas, watercolor, oils, fish prints, metal sculpture, airbrush and sculpture. The Society for Creative Anachronism will be demonstrating medieval costumes and skills.

Also sponsoring the event and hosting student artists and their families for a Friday hot dog feast and shopping trip is Wulf Outdoor Sports of Athens.

Regularly scheduled dive shows followed by a tram tour of the hatchery will take place at 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. Fishing and all exhibits will be available as usual from 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m.

TFFC is headquarters for the Texas division of the contest and is hosting this year’s national expo and competition where Best of Show and Art of Conservation Stamp Award winners will be announced. On-site voting for the People’s Choice Award will complete on-line balloting. Visitors can choose their favorite and help pick the winner.

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Texas Fishing Records

Let your kids brag about their huge catch—and have the state record to prove it

AUSTIN – Getting credit for catching a record fish in Texas is easier than you may think, especially if you’re a youngster.

Better still from a conservation standpoint, you can hang a nice Texas Parks and Wildlife certificate on your wall instead of a mounted trophy.

“With school out and plenty of time for fishing, the department would like parents to know the chances of their kid becoming a record holder are really good,” says Joedy Gray, who runs TPWD’s Angler Recognition Program. “The odds are in a young angler’s favor because there are a lot of bodies of water in Texas for which no one has applied for a record yet.”

Junior anglers under the age of 17 are encouraged to set records in fishing holes around the state this summer. In areas where there is no existing record, fish must be at least the legal size. To record the fish, remember to find a certified scale location and have a measuring tape handy. For a list of locations with certified scales, visit the TPWD site at: http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/fishboat/fish/programs/fishrecords/scales.phtml.

The Angler Recognition Program maintains state records for public and private waters including all lakes, rivers and bays. In addition to size records, the program recognizes other fishing achievements including first fish (for any angler, any age), big fish (for landing a trophy fish of any qualifying species), elite angler (for catching five trophy-class freshwater or saltwater fish) and outstanding angler (for a catch that does not fit other award categories but still deserves recognition.)

If a junior angler’s first fish turns out to be a state and water body record for weight and length and also qualifies for a Big Fish award then that youth is looking at six separate awards for their one fish.

If you are unsure of your fishing hole’s records, look them up on your phone with the program’s mobile record search at: http://tinyurl.com/texfish

For more information, visit the program’s site at: http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/fishrecords/.

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Texas Drought – Wildscaping Helps

AUSTIN — Wildscape, xeriscape, desertscape, water-wise, smartscape: whatever term you use, it’s all Texan for resource conservation. As residents seek ways to conserve water, native plant wildscaping can be an important part of the mix, since studies show lawn care accounts for over 50 percent of a household’s water usage.

The latest U.S. Drought Monitor shows Texas gasping for water under a dark red thermal blanket of severe to exceptional drought intensity, the third worst dearth of rainfall seen by the state in recorded history. El Paso just recently ended its 119 day streak without rainfall with a downpour of 0.01 inches. Elsewhere, clear skies are predicted through Continue reading

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Fish Identification – Lizardfish and Violet Goby

This past week, one of our Facebook fans, James Sapp, posted a couple of pictures of fish that we could not identify. He caught them in salt/brackish water in Texas.

I sent the information and photos to Kevin Cunningham, our TPWD Angler Education representative for the Houston area and he was able to identify them for us.

The first one is an Inshore Lizardfish. Here’s the Wikipedia definition for this fish:

Inshore Lizardfish

The Inshore Lizardfish, Synodus foetens, inhabits the east coast of the Americas. They are a slender fish, growing to no more than 16 inches in length. The mouth is large and wide, the upper jaw extending beyond the eyes. The jaws contain many needle-like teeth, found as well as on the tongue and roof of the mouth. The snout is pointed. The dorsal body color is various shades of brown to olive, while the ventral color is typically yellow to white. Young fish have darkly mottled sides which fade as they mature.

Inshore Lizardfish are bottom-dwellers found over sand and mud in waters as deep as 15 fathoms (90 feet). They also inhabit inlet areas of the Indian River Lagoon.

This Lizardfish ranges from southern Massachusetts to Brazil, including the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean, the West Indies, and Bermuda. However, they are rarely seen north of South Carolina.

The second fish was identified as a Violet Goby. Here’s the definition for that one:

Violet Goby

Violet Goby

The Violet goby has a long, slender, eel-like body. Its dorsal and anal fins run almost the entire length of the body. The teeth are very sharp; however these are used for scraping algae off rocks, not fighting. When kept in good condition, dragon gobies develop an attractive, iridescent, silvery-blue metallic color with a gold blotch pattern. Violet gobies seen in pet stores are generally 3 to 5 inches (7.6–13 cm) long. In the wild, violet gobies can grow to 24 inches (61 cm) long. However, in captivity they seldom grow past 15 inches (38 cm). No external differences between the sexes are known, although males are more territorial at spawning times.

Violet gobies usually inhabit brackish swamps, streams, and estuaries with a muddy substrate. Violet gobies have very small eyes, and as such are primarily scavengers. Their key method of obtaining food is by scooping up mouthfuls of gravel and sorting edible material from the substrate, and then spitting out the substrate and swallowing the food particles. They also use their highly specialized teeth to scrape algae off of rocks.

According to Kevin, both species are naturally occurring, not invasive species.

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Texas Drought Conditions Causing Boating Hazards

Low lakes increasing risk of deadly boat crashes

The worsening Texas drought is not only taking a toll on yards, crops and wildlife – it can be deadly for boaters.

Lack of rain and abnormally high, dry winds have led to significant water level drops in many Texas lakes and waterways. And shallow water can mean trouble for recreational boaters.

During the last protracted dry spell, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department records show that Texas saw a high incidence of boating-related accidents. Most of those accidents were due to boaters grounding or hitting submerged objects because of very low lake levels across the state.

“Looking at the three-year time frame (2007, 2008 and 2009) we responded to 148 boating accidents that were caused by grounding, hitting submerged objects, or hitting fixed objects,” said Jeff Parrish, TPWD’s Assistant Chief for Marine Law Enforcement. “Of these 148 accidents, 15 resulted in death and 123 caused injuries requiring treatment beyond first aid.”

Parrish said the most common factor resulting in injury or death was the operator or passengers being ejected from the vessel upon impact.

The best precaution to take is also the most simple: pay attention to where you’re going and beware that with low water, dangerous rocks, tree stumps or other normally submerged objects could be right below the surface.

“As we are rapidly entering another year of low lake levels, it is critically important for boaters to be aware of their surroundings,” Parrish said.  “Some river authorities will provide buoys marking underwater hazards and dangerous obstacles, but this is not always the case.  Low lake levels provide many inherent dangers and boaters need to be respectful of these.”

Other activities such as pulling tubers and water skiers should also be undertaken with the utmost care on lakes with low lake levels, he said.“With so many of our lakes way lower than normal,” Parrish continued, “this summer it’s even more critical to have personal flotation devices for everyone on your boat and to make sure all children under the age of 13 are wearing one. And don’t risk going to jail by operating a boat if you’ve been drinking.”

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Texas Game Wardens – Memorial Day Boating Safety

Hoping to prevent boating injuries and fatalities, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department game wardens will be increasing their numbers on lakes and other waterways Memorial Day weekend.

In addition, officials in parts of the state will continue the tradition of the “no refusal” weekend to step up boating while intoxicated/driving while intoxicated arrests and citations.

During the “no refusal” weekend on-site judges work with TPWD officers and law enforcement personnel with other agencies to issue search warrants for blood draws when a suspect is under investigation for a BWI/DWI charge and refuses a breath test. The “no refusal” weekend also employs mobile DWI/BWI intoxilyzer units.

“Memorial Day weekend kicks off our water safety season, and we want to start things off right and make sure everyone is safe and doing the right thing,” said Game Warden Lt. Cody Jones, of TPWD’s marine enforcement section.

Overall boating fatalities are down 26 percent from 2009 to 2010, decreasing from 38 in 2009 to 28 last year. So far this year 12 people have lost their lives in boating accidents. Jones attributes this decrease in fatalities to increased enforcement. He said officials made 316 arrests in 2010 associated with BWI/DWI charges as compared with 220 in 2009.

“There’s been a decrease statewide in boating fatalities, and we would like to see that trend continue,” Jones said.

Game wardens have five key safety tips for boaters:

  1. Always wear a lifejacket
  2. Drink responsibly and designate a non-drinking operator for the boat
  3. Be weather wise: pay attention to local weather reports
  4. Keep proper safety equipment onboard your vessel
  5. Know the rules: take an online boater safety course.

The online boaters’ safety course is offered through www.boat-ed.com/tx/ for $13. Boaters with the online course certificate may receive a discounted rate from their boating insurance provider.

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Free Texas Fishing Day

Free Texas Fishing Day Set for June 4

Texas is one of the best places in the nation for fishing and on June 4, you can wet a line anywhere in the state for free. As part of Celebrate National Fishing and Boating Week, on Saturday June 4 local residents and visitors alike will be able to fish anywhere in Texas without a license. However, normal regulations concerning catch size and quantity still apply. The annual national event is coordinated by the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation and coincides with the TakeMeFishing nonprofit organization’s free fishing days throughout the country.

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