The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is casting a line for public input on possible changes to blue and channel catfish harvest regulations. The department is looking at options that would affect the current statewide minimum length and harvest limit as well as changes specific to certain lakes and reservoirs.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission will receive recommendations at its January 20, 2021, meeting.
“A team of TPWD fisheries biologist have worked for the past two years to review our current catfish regulations with the goals of continuing to provide good angling, meeting current angler needs, and reducing the number of regulations,” said Dave Terre, the department’s fish management chief. “Obtaining feedback and making sure any new regulation options are acceptable to anglers is an important step in these ongoing efforts.”
The TPWD presented options via a webinar to a group of catfish anglers, fishing guides, and outdoors writers.
The first option would eliminate the minimum length while keeping the 25-fish daily bag limit, a combination of both species. Currently, the state has a minimum 12-inch length for blue or channel catfish keepers.
However, under this option, anglers could only keep 10 or fewer blue and/or channel catfish measuring 20 inches or longer. According to population data gathered by TPWD biologists, this regulation would apply to about 80 percent of the reservoirs and rivers in Texas.
“We know from our statewide catfish survey that most catfish anglers prefer catching a bunch of catfish to eat,” Terre said. “This regulation addresses what those anglers want and can be used on any of our state’s waters. It will also take advantage of what the catfish populations in those locations can provide based on fish growth rates and abundance.”
Catfish populations in bodies of waters to which the rule would apply are of average growth and abundance, though they do occasionally produce large fish.
Terre said data showed few anglers catch more than 10 catfish of this size on most trips.
“We believe this new statewide regulation will be well suited for many water bodies and provide the type of fishing that the majority of anglers want,” he added.
The TPWD is also looking at specific regulations for a small percentages of reservoirs and rivers where blue and channel catfish reproduction and fingerling survival is low. On these waters, the state is considering a 14-inch minimum length and a 15-fish daily catch with a combination of both species.
Another possible rule change addresses several large reservoirs, about 5 percent of all reservoirs in Texas, where jugline and trotline fishing is popular. On these lakes, the potential change would again remove the current minimum length rule and continue with the 25-fish catch limit. However, on these lakes, anglers would be limited to no more than five fish at 30 inches or longer.
“This regulation is designed to limit the number of large catfish that an angler can harvest, which is viewed as a positive by most anglers. It also may reduce the chance that large catfish will be overharvested, which could be a negative effect on the population,” said John Tibbs, TPWD state catfish management coordinator.
Finally, the department has identified a group of reservoirs, which account for about 10 percent of all Texas waters, that have excellent catfish populations with many larger fish. The plan would call for no minimum length for blue and channel catfish and to limit the total daily catch to 25.
Under this proposal, anglers would be limited to harvesting no more than five fish at 20 inches or longer, and only one of those fish could be 30 inches or longer.
“We currently have about a dozen reservoirs that would be suitable for this regulation, although additional research currently underway may slightly increase this number,” Tibbs said.
This rule would allow the population of larger catfish in these reservoirs to continue thriving. Officials believe this would give anglers a chance at catching a large blue catfish while maintaining vibrant channel catfish populations.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is not considering changes to flathead catfish rules or for community fishing lakes.