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AUSTIN, Texas - Texas Parks and Wildlife Commissioners today approved a reduction in the recreational and commercial bag limits for southern flounder and set a reduced bag limit for the month of November with take that month limited to hook and line.
The new regulations adopted by the TPW commission are an attempt to reverse a long-term downward trend in the abundance of southern flounder. TPWD Coastal Fisheries Division data shows that the relative abundance of flounder has fallen by about 50 percent since the early 1980s. The new regulation reduces the recreational bag limit from 10 to 5 fish, and the commercial bag limit from 60 to 30 fish. Hook and line anglers will be permitted a 2 flounder daily bag limit during the month of November, with take by all other gear prohibited.
Modeling suggests that the new regulations will result in an increase of spawning stock biomass of slightly more than 80 percent over six years, with the majority of that recovery taking place in the first several years.
Public comments on the flounder regulations ran about 95 percent in favor of bag reductions and 90 percent against a November closure. TPWD Coastal Fisheries Division Science and Policy Director Robin Riechers noted that many persons opposing the November closure said they wanted a longer closure that applied only to the gig fishery including the months of October through December.
Anglers all along the Texas Gulf coast reported a rebound in flounder numbers in 2007 and 2008, also reflected in TPWD sampling, but even that short-term increase in relative abundance places numbers near the bottom of the long-term trend.
"We'll look at our data every year and come back to you either to talk about the success we've had or further actions we need to take," Riechers told commissioners.
Previous actions specifically impacting the flounder fishery have included establishing a 60 fish bag limit for the commercial fishery, a 10 fish bag limit and 20 fish possession limit and the establishment of the 14" minimum size limit in 1996. In 1999 the Texas Legislature established a limited entry program for finfish licenses which includes license holders who predominantly fish for either flounder or black drum. In 2006 the Commission approved a change in the regulations that made the possession limit equal to the bag limit of 10 for recreational anglers.