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HOUSTON—The fish you love—including snapper, redfish and flounder—are fighting for their lives in the Gulf waters along the Texas coast, and some are doing better than others.
According to counts done by federal regulators, one of the most-prized fish, red snapper, had been in decline. But now, for the first time in several years, those counts are up.
Federal officials tell 11 News that catch limits could be raised dramatically starting next year. Those limits apply to federal waters, which begin nine miles off the Texas coast. It’s where the bigger snapper are found.
Still in trouble are flounder. They love lying in the shallow waters of Texas bays.
But their numbers have dwindled so low that for the first time ever, Texas banned gigging of flounder last month and slashed catch limits.
Those restrictions could help it recover naturally. But helping it quite unnaturally is what 11 News found taking place at the State’s Sea Center in Lake Jackson.
State biologists are trying to reproduce flounder artificially by extracting eggs and sperm, incubating them in tanks and setting the baby flounder (called fingerlings) loose in the Gulf.
It has already worked to increase the number of redfish, which some believe dwindled in past years after famous New Orleans chef Paul Prudhomme popularized the dish "blackened" redfish.
But now, after the state used the hatchery in Lake Jackson to introduce some 25 million baby redfish into the Gulf each year, the population has recovered.
"You’re catching more redfish coast-wide," said biologist Jennifer Bixby.
In Freeport, two sport fishermen have their own homegrown project under way to increase the fish population in Texas waters.
"We in Texas believe we can do this," said Gary Belvin of Deer Park.
He and Tom Hilton of Arcola have been building artificial reefs. The reefs are about the size of a big Christmas tree and made of concrete and steel bars. They’re full of holes and passageways. Working with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the two men have sunk them off the coast near Freeport.
"What you want to do is provide a refuge to keep fish from getting eaten," said Hilton.
He said divers found that the artificial reefs were working to attract fish, in particular, red snapper. The two fishermen hope to increase the population of older snapper closer to shore so that anglers won’t have to go miles off the coast into federal waters in order to find the bigger fish.
In what some might see as one more example of Texas going it alone, the Lone Star State is the only state that has refused to enforce the federal government’s stricter catch limits in state waters. Some sport anglers have argued for years that federal regulators were too strict with catch limits.
"It’s not that we’re trying to be Texas ********. We believe we can do this. With our Parks and Wildlife, we can do this," said Belvin of their efforts to increase the snapper population in Texas waters.
 

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Tom and Gary were just on 11 news talking about it.
 

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Whats with the about face the Feds are spewing? Lip service? I saw the news and it was stated the feds are going to increase limits in the gulf for next year due to the surprising federal snapper numbers. Thats sure a bit different than the reports earlier this year when they were talking complete closure. Lip service. I'll believe it when I see it in B&W on the limit chart. Sorry to be so pessimistic BUT Thanks Tom & Gary Great job!
 

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Howdy,
Thanks for the feedback guys - go to www.Reef-Man.com and check out the video of the Channel 11 news story.

We are making another run on Monday and afterwards will be deploying the towfish to scan the imagery of how they look - will post up Monday.

Give a reef for Christmas! The gift that keeps on giving....

All the best,
Tom
 

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Same here. I was also about to post the link. That is certainly a welcome affirmation of what we have been saying for years -- and has gotta make people wonder why the feds keep reiterating their doomsdayesque snapper reports and predictions.
 
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