Texas likely will lower the size limit on bass from 14 to 12 inches in the southeastern bayous of Orange and Jefferson counties. Final decision will be based on recommendation by Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPW), as well as on online angler survey.
The agency decided to look into the possibility after State Rep. Dade Phelan introduced a bill that would lower the limit for high school and college tournaments, with the hope of bringing more bass fishing--- and business--- to southeast Texas.
Phelan said that he decided not to push for immediate passage after TWP asked for time to study the waters of the lower Sabine and Neches rivers, as well as the Taylor/Big Hill/Hillebrandt Bayou System. "We knew that the data was going to back up what we said all along," he said.
What Phelan and a growing number who fished tournaments in these brackish waters had been saying was that 14-inch bass are scarce. And an electrofishing survey seems to have confirmed that. Of the more than 600 bass collected, fewer than 7 percent were 14 inches.
"Current data indicate that largemouth bass in these three systems are relatively abundant, but have slow growth and high mortality rates," TPW said. "On average, largemouth bass reach 14 inches at 3.9 years. For reference, largemouth bass at Sam Rayburn and Toledo Bend reservoirs reach 14 inches at approximately 2.5 years."
Slow growth and high mortality mostly are the result of variable salinity and the absence of quality forage, it added.
"TWPD could manage the largemouth bass populations using various regulations to provide fishing opportunities on what anglers prefer," the agency said. "Less restrictive regulations could be implemented to increase harvest opportunities and fish available for tournament weigh-ins."
If the size limit is reduced, it will apply to all anglers, not just those fishing high school and college tournaments.