Texas Parks and Wildlife Coastal Fisheries hears from anglers about spotted seatrout
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PORT LAVACA - Art Morris, Texas Parks and Wildlife Fishery Outreach Specialist, stood in front the crowd answering questions and taking suggestions about the spotted seatrout, or speckled trout as many know the species.
"So tell us about this commission," called one man from the back of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Extension office auditorium.
"Do they fish?" asked another.
More than 50 people gathered on Thursday evening in the USDA Extension office auditorium to hear what the representatives from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Coastal Fisheries Department had to say.
Over the past decade, Texas Parks and Wildlife has seen the population numbers of spotted seatrout decrease, and that number has become more noticeable in the past four to five years, Morris said.
In the face of the possible need to enact conservation measures to protect the spotted seatrout population, Morris said the organization was directed by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission to hold a series of meetings along the coast to discuss the possibility of limiting the number of spotted seatrout that can be legally caught to five.
While the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, appointed by the governor, ultimately controls regulations, Morris said they try to involve fishermen in the conversation to ensure they get the chance to voice their concerns.
"This has been going on for some time ... the fishermen help look at these issues and bring them to our attention," Morris said.
Many of the people attending the meeting felt like they were just going through the motions.
"The decision is probably already made, but I'm just here to listen," Port O'Connor resident Capt. Leonard McPheters said. McPheters works as a fishing guide. He said he's against limiting the number of spotted seatrout that can be caught.
"I can't remember the last time I kept five of them. Most people don't overfish and I don't think we should be punished for the few groups that do," McPheters said.
Jerry West, a fishing guide in Bay City, said he drove out because he wanted to hear about the Texas Parks and Wildlife proposals directly from them.
"Things get changed when people retell them, so I just wanted to come down and see what they had to say directly," West said.
West has been fishing in the coastal areas for most of his life, he said, and has worked as a fishing guide since he retired. He echoed McPheters' sentiments in being against the move to regulate the number of spotted sea trout.
"I don't like the idea at all. The thing about it is, once they take it away, you don't ever really get it back again," West said, noting that he could remember times when fishermen could take in as many flounder and Redfish as they wanted.
Port O'Connor resident Bill Rabb was on the other side of the issue. Rabb said he has been fishing around Port O'Connor since 1966. Over the years, he says he has seen what having so many fishermen in Texas has done to the waters.
"I can remember what fishing used to be like. I want them to decrease the number of spotted seatrout because I can remember what it used to be like. You could really catch keepers back then," Rabb said.