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"It's Time to Give Back"
by Capt. Chris Martin
September 3, 2008


The word slaughter is defined by Merriam-Webster as the act of killing in great numbers. It is a strong word, which has held its place in time throughout the history of our Texas fisheries. Unlike today, coastal fishing back in the late 1800's and the early 1900's was viewed primarily as a means for providing food - people fished in order to eat. I've even heard mention of stories where folks traveled from many, many miles outside of Texas back in the real early days to gather just as many fish as possible for purposes of bartering with others and in order to feed their families back home. By 1940, the nations of the Western world had successfully fought to become fully recovered from the years of The Great Depression era of the 1930's, but even as late as the 1950's, and even the 1960's, it still was not uncommon to witness small runabouts motoring on Texas' coastal waters filled to near capsize capacity with fish - literally hundreds on any given day. Up until that time, the primary target for the Texas saltwater angler had been the speckled trout because the trout were usually readily available in large numbers in deeper parts of the bay systems which made them accessible and easy to get to. But as time wore on, and as the activity of fishing for coastal species with artificial lures began its rapid development, the speckled trout would soon find itself fighting to stay at the top of the saltwater angler's priority list. It didn't take artificial enthusiasts long to discover that redfish tend to be more prevalent in shallow waters, and that the redfish could be caught on the exact same lures as those used on speckled trout. It was also during this same period, the late 1950's and early 1960's, that commercial fisherman caught on to the fact that huge numbers of redfish could be taken easily on a daily basis in these shallow waters via gill nets. Gill nets ran rampant back then, and commercial fishermen made a pretty good living by catching mounds of fish each day and then selling their bounty. But all of this was back then, and coastal fishing has since taken on a new meaning for most saltwater anglers. Fishing is no longer simply a means of providing a source of food, as fishing has now become a sport.

It wasn't until the late 1960's that serious concern began to be raised regarding the potential over-harvesting of our coastal fisheries. There have been many organizations closely involved since the 1970's in the fight to save our Texas fisheries, but two of the most well known advocacy leaders in our state have been the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) and the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD). Their efforts in the state of Texas alone have resulted in the prohibiting of trawling for speckled trout (1978), the outlaw of single-strand monofilament gill nets (1980), the gaining of game fish status for speckled trout and redfish (1981), the setting of fish limits (1983), the outlaw of commercially harvested adult redfish in the Gulf of Mexico (1986), the prohibiting of the sale of naturally raised, wild redfish (1989), the outlaw of gill, trammel nets (1990), the adoption of the no-harvest regulation for tarpon (1991), and the mandated use of by-catch reduction devices on shrimp vessels (1997). The total accomplishments of the CCA and the TPWD are too numerous to list, but one of their achievements that I feel must not go unmentioned is the establishment and completion of the three Texas marine fish hatcheries; Sea Center Texas in Lake Jackson - the world's largest redfish hatchery, the Perry R. Bass Marine Fisheries Station near Palacios, and the CCA/CPL Marine Development Center in Corpus Christi. We salute these organizations, and the others out their like them, who have dedicated their time and efforts in building upon the past in order that we may all enjoy a better and brighter tomorrow. But the "giving back" to our fisheries does not have to stop at the large organization level. We, as individuals, can also contribute.

As a fishing guide, I've seen a lot of fish harvested over the years, and will hopefully continue to do so in the years ahead. But it won't happen without help from folks like you and me - people who care enough about keeping the fisheries and the sport alive by "giving back" some of that which we have taken. It is for this reason that my wife, Deb, and I have decided to donate a percentage of the guided fishing trip sales provided by Bay Flats Lodge each month to the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department hatchery program in order to aid the enhancement of the existing speckled trout and redfish populations in our Texas bays. Through the Texas Parks & Wildlife Foundation (http://www.tpwf.org/), the hatchery group has a Lone Star Legacy Endowment Fund. Annually, interest from this endowment account is provided directly to the hatcheries for equipment purchases and/or to fund research studies. This funding source has proven to be very valuable to the TPWD in their pursuit of answers to questions such as what percentage of the red drum in Texas bays are of hatchery origin (i.e., Galveston Bay = 6 to 12%). Also, TPWD currently has some exciting research ongoing pertaining to speckled trout and southern flounder. For example, TPWD is developing hatchery protocols in order to culture southern flounder for purposes of releasing millions of juveniles into our bays. This type of work would be difficult to accomplish without the support of conservation minded people such as you and others that contribute to the Lone Star Legacy Endowment Fund account. The TPWD Foundation website has more information about the Lone Star Legacy Endowment Fund; and should you choose to donate, the hatchery group's Endowment Account is: CCA/CPL Marine Development Center in Corpus Christi.

In closing, remember to practice CPR, "Catch, Photo, and Release", whenever possible on trophy Trout and Reds…Guide Chris Martin, Port O'Connor/Seadrift region. www.BayFlatsLodge.com…1-888-677-4868.
 

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