Saturday, January 28, 2012

Wildlife Draws the Short Stick at Conroe Again

Habitat is again under attack on Lake Conroe, and those responsible have little regard for fish, wildlife, or public safety. A group of local anglers have discovered some large areas of standing timber that have been recklessly removed by yet unidentified individuals in Live Branch on the South end of the lake. There are some videos posted on the Fishing Across Texas forum which you can view here.

TPWD District Biologist Mark Webb surveyed the lake, and here is his report.

"While on the water today we investigated reports of stumps being cut in Live Branch in the south end of the lake.  With the exception of 3 small stumps at the mouth of Live Branch in open water the Richardson's contractors were not operating in Live Branch.  What we found was that some person or persons cut a large area of timber off at or near the water line from the middle of Live Branch to further back in the cove.  The cutting appears to have been done with a chainsaw from a boat.  Again, this cutting was not done by the Richardson's contractors nor was it approved by TPWD or SJRA.  SJRA is investigating to try to determine who is responsible.  We don't have an accurate count of the trees damaged yet but it is certainly a significant number!  If you know of anyone who witnessed this cutting or witnessed cutting in other areas of the reservoir besides what was done by the Richardson's contractors (Stump Busters stump cutting barge or Deep Six stump cutting divers) please let me or Blake know."

Members of the Fishing Across Texas Forum attended the SJRA Board meeting and testified before their commission. You can listen to that portion of the meeting here.
SJRA Recording.wmv - YouTube

It is great to see anglers standing up to fight for their home lake. The individuals who took it upon themselves to destroy habitat on a public body of water without authority from SJRA or TPWD need to be brought to justice. By cutting the stumps off at the waterline, they are threatening public safety and could potentially be held responsible should an accident occur.

SJRA needs to ultimately develop a stump removal policy which maintains a balance between protecting habitat and public safety. I encourage the SJRA to adopt a policy similar to the one recently implemented by the Guadelupe-Blanco River Authority which can be found here.

If anyone has any information as to the identitiy of those responsible for the stump cutting in Live Branch on Lake Conroe, please contact SJRA.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

TPWD Seeking Input From Lake Jacksonville Anglers

TPWD proposes regulation changes for lakes from time to time based on scientific data and public input. If you fish Lake Jacksonville, please take just a couple minutes to fill out this quick survey.

Here is some background information from TPWD.We have been hearing discontent from some of the anglers in the Jacksonville area regarding the 18-inch minimum length, 5-fish/day daily bag limit for largemouth bass in effect since 2000. With changes in habitat following release of grass carp in 2006 and 2007 and the floods of 2007 these anglers are concerned that although 14-16 inch fish are still abundant, fish over 18” are hard to find and this interferes with their ability to conduct several very popular night time tournaments. This was such a concern that at least one of the tournaments has temporarily moved to Lake Palestine. These angers have requested that TPWD consider a modification to the current regulation. Craig Bonds, Dan Bennett, and myself met with the anglers before Christmas to try to understand their concerns. Although they wanted to revert the regulation to the statewide 14-inch minimum length, 5-fish daily bag our concern was that doing so would cause the size distribution of largemouth bass to pre-2000 conditions where the population truncated at 14 inches with few fish over 14. The 18-inch minimum length limit has been successful in restructuring the population and maintaining fish up to 18” in length but has never produced a real surplus of fish over 18” (see attachment). This is understandable and is a function of how a minimum length limit works on relatively infertile systems like Lake Jacksonville. Although the anglers could understand what we were saying about the current regulation they felt that it still interfered with tournament activity. During the meeting we discussed several possibilities including changing tournament format to a “paper” tournament or a format similar to TTBC where fish could be weighed in the boat and immediately released but they did not think these were workable options. They also asked about a tournament exemption to allow them to temporarily retain fish 14-18 for later release but this is just not an option available in our regulation tool box at this time. We did discuss a compromise regulation that would remove the minimum length limit; however, only two largemouth bass less than 18 inches could be retained each day. Combined daily bag limit for all species of black bass would remain 5-fish/day; (this regulation is currently in effect at Lake O. H. Ivie in West Texas). Because the compromise regulation is already in use it is much easier to justify than an entirely new type of regulation. Although they would have preferred the 14”-minimum length they could see the benefit (to them) of the compromise regulation and they are currently preparing a petition to propose it. They understand that there are potential risks associated with revision of the regulation, including the possibility of fewer fish over 18 inches, but they believe the benefits to tournament activity resulting from the ability to retain two fish below 18 inches justify those risks.

We attempted to carry this request through our Senior Administration for the 2012 regulation cycle but the Commission had already been advised of all proposals for this year so the earliest it could be considered is for the 2013 cycle. In the mean time the Senior Administration would also like us to investigate whether the proposed change is agreeable to the majority of Jacksonville anglers or just this sub-group. To do that we are preparing an on-line survey that anglers can access to voice their opinion about this regulation change and to provide some demographic information about themselves that will help us better understand their reasoning for that opinion.
We will keep the survey active until June to allow anglers to cast their votes. The way the survey works is that only one vote can be accepted from each individual IP address so stuffing the ballot box is minimized. If it appears that most anglers are in favor of the change we will propose it at the beginning of the next regulation cycle in July.
This is sort of an experiment in new technology for us and we hope we can better inform anglers of proposed changes before they see them in the Fishing Guide.