Robert Sloan Outdoors: Invasive species battle

Robert Sloan Outdoors: Invasive species battle

Heading into the July 4 weekend leads us to an array of fishing options. On the coast, your best bet is to fish the jetties with live shrimp, finger mullet or mud minnows. It’s a sure thing that there will be plenty of boats fishing the rocks, which is why live baits will rule at the Sabine jetties.

On Sam Rayburn and Toledo Bend, live minnows fished over brush piles are best for numbers of crappie in 15 to 22 feet of water. Catfish are best on trotlines baited with live perch, small pieces of shrimp or chicken livers. Bass fishing is an excellent nighttime option. Buzz baits and topwater plugs fished along the edges of grass have been good from midnight till dawn.

As of July 1, boaters must drain all water from their boat and on-board receptacles before leaving or approaching a body of fresh water anywhere in Texas.

“The new Texas Parks and Wildlife Department regulation is designed to help combat the further spread of zebra mussels and other invasive species,” says Ken Kurzawski with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. “It applies to all types and sizes of boats whether powered or not: personal watercraft, sailboats, kayaks/canoes, or any other vessel used on public waters.”

The regulation requires the draining of livewells, bilges, motors and any other receptacles or water-intake systems coming into contact with public waters.

“Live fish, including personally caught live bait, cannot be transported from the water body where the fish were caught in or aboard a vessel in water from the water body where the fish were caught,” says Ken Kurzawski. “Personally caught live bait can be used in the water body where it was caught.

“Anglers are allowed to transport and use commercially purchased live bait if they have a receipt that identifies the source of the bait. Any live bait purchased from a location on or adjacent to a public water body that is transported in water from that water body can only be used as bait on that same water body.”

Anglers participating in a fishing tournament confined to one water body may transport live fish in water from that single water body to an identified off-site weigh-in location, but all water must be drained and properly disposed of before leaving that location. Anglers are required to possess documentation provided by tournament organizers that identify them as participants in the tournament.

Movement from one access point to another on the same lake during the same day does not require draining, and there is an exception for governmental activities and emergencies. Marine sanitary systems are not covered by these regulations.

“Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and a coalition of partners are working to slow the spread of zebra mussels by reminding boaters to Clean, Drain and Dry their vessels before traveling from one lake to another,” says Kurzawski.

Texas game warden BWI enforcement efforts

Law enforcement officers across the U.S. have been gearing up for Operation Dry Water – the nation’s boating while intoxicated (BWI) awareness and enforcement campaign.

Alcohol use is the leading known contributing factor in recreational boater deaths in the United States.

“Texas game wardens as well as our law enforcement partners will be on heightened alert for those violating boating under the influence laws,” said Cody Jones, TPWD Law Enforcement Assistant Commander for Marine Enforcement and Texas State Boating Law Administrator.

In 2013, officers from across the country contacted 144,044 recreational boaters and made 290 BWI arrests during one three-day weekend. Thousands of law enforcement officers, along with their boating safety partners, are educating boaters about the dangers of boating under the influence of drugs and alcohol.

“Game Wardens will continue to remind Texans through education and enforcement to always have a designated driver while boating on our lakes and rivers,” said Danny Shaw, TPWD Law Enforcement Deputy Director. “Our purpose is to provide everyone an opportunity to safely enjoy themselves on the water and return home at the end of the day. We will have enhanced Game Warden patrols through the remainder of the summer and our officers will be on high alert for those who choose to place themselves and others in danger by drinking and operating vessels on our public waters.”

In addition to having a designated driver, TPWD stresses the following four key points to decrease boating and water related accidents, injuries, and deaths:

1. Wear a life jacket. Seventy percent of persons who died in a boating accident would be alive today if they had worn a life jacket.

2. Use the ignition safety switch, commonly called a “kill switch,” to stop the engine if you fall overboard. Don’t be stranded or run over by your own boat.

3. Learn how to swim.

4. Take a Boater Education course from Texas Parks and Wildlife. It could save your life.