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Texas' 2009 Saltwater Outlook
Here's how our top five saltwater game fish are faring along Texas' Gulf Coast, and where and how you can catch them. (June 2009)
If some organization ranked salt-water fishing destinations like coaches and sportswriters do college football teams, Texas would be a contender for No. 1 every season.
"Texas is one of the great saltwater destinations, no question," says Robin Riechers, science and policy resources manager for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. "Red drum and spotted seatrout are at all-time highs, at least since we started doing gill net samples in 1978."
While there may not be a formal poll listing great places to enjoy saltwater fishing, numbers do exist to back up the fact that Texas is a major national player when it comes down to coastal angling.
Every five years, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service releases its "National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation." The last report came out in early 2007.
With a fairly small margin of error, that report estimated that Texas had more than a million saltwater anglers with enough out-of-state license purchasers thrown in to pretty much fill a football stadium. Of the 50 states, only Florida reported more anglers, and only by a couple of hundred thousand. Where there are people fishing, there are fish.
The non-resident anglers trek to the Lone Star because of what the locals have come to take for granted -- 367 miles of coastline and a wide variety of available species from offshore billfish to the Holy Trinity of shallow saltwater: trout, redfish and flounder.
Though 2008 survey data was not yet available, findings from the previous year showed the highest numbers of trout in six years. In fact, the count approached record numbers. Red drum gill net catches were the second highest on record. Numbers for both trout and redfish were up in all of the state's bay systems.
In Galveston Bay, trout numbers were the highest reported in 23 years. Which brings up an important question: What effect did Hurricane Ike have on Texas' Upper Coast?
"As a whole, fisheries came out pretty well, at least from a fishery perspective," Riechers says. "Fish are used to hurricanes and other localized events."
Infrastructure necessary for fishing, however, did not fare as well. Ike destroyed boat docks, boat ramps and bait camps. When the numbers for the year are compiled, they likely will show a decline both in fishing activity and in fish caught, simply because fewer people were able to get on the water following the storm.
Despite the disaster and its aftermath, Parks and Wildlife did not miss a gill net sampling area. "We're proud of that," Riechers says.
Of the so-called "Big 3" species, the arrival of warmer weather and warmer water temperatures signals the start of the best of the shallow-water saltwater fishing in Texas. Once the water temperature hits 70 degrees, fishing begins in earnest.
Here's an overview of the trout, redfish and flounder outlook for the rest of 2009, plus a look at two other popular Texas saltwater species, red snapper and a surprisingly resurgent tropical species, the snook.
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