Hunters, fishermen bristle at regulations

As we reach mid-June, there is some super fishing going on, but it is also time to finalize your hunting spots. It has always been a blessing to live in an area such as Southeast Texas where outdoors folks have access to both hunting and fishing that is first class. There are, of course, other areas that offer certain outdoor offerings, but few of them can offer such a large variety of outdoor recreation.

There is a new regulation that affects Toledo Bend catfishing. There has been a 50 fish limit imposed with only five fish over 20 inches. This applies to blue and channel catfish only. The Opelousas cats have different regulations. Contact the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for regulations.

The marinas that are toward the north end of the lake cater to many cat fishermen. A 20-inch channel or blue catfish will have little edible flesh. Up in the north area where folks concentrate heavily on catfish, they are not happy for more and more restrictions being placed on recreational anglers. Bill’s Landing is one of the main marinas for catfishermen. There has been a petition going around for folks to sign if they don’t approve of the new regulations.

I am still getting complaints about the antler restrictions for East Texas whitetail deer. The fact is that the numbers of really irate hunters far outnumber the ones that I heard from in favor of the regulations. According to the hunters, everyone does not spend their money and time solely in search of a trophy buck. There are still folks that enjoy bringing venison home.

The deer that live in the Piney Woods, for the most part, sport antlers that grow up more than out. There are some really old big antlered bucks in East Texas that are illegal because of their antler’s spread. Besides that, there are bucks that have freak antlers that need to be removed from the herd. Most of those don’t make the legal measurement either.

A legal buck deer, according to the TPWD, is defined as having a hardened antler protruding through the skin AND at least one unbranched antler; or an inside spread measurement between main beams of 13 inches or greater; or six points or more on one antler. These restrictions are in place in 61 Texas counties (see map).

There are now longtime deer hunters that have decided to give it up because of so many restrictions. They are afraid that they will kill a nearly legal buck and be fined for it. Perhaps that’s what the plan is anyway. So whenever you settle on a hunting spot, be sure to learn the rules and regulations, before committing or signing a lease agreement.

Moving on to fishing, things are going full blast. That’s especially the case in saltwater and for white bass and catfish on Lake Livingston.

The red snapper season has opened in federal as well as state waters. The reports that have reached me have been that there is no problem catching the two-fish limit. I have not headed out, but the reports are that when the fishermen put out chum, the water turns red with feeding red snapper. With a two-fish limit, most of the recreational anglers have plans to take other species of fish while they are out in the blue water. King, ling, amberjack tuna, wahoo and plenty other species such Lane snapper are out there, too.

I’ve often wondered if the same federal regulations that apply to immigration are also in force for game wardens. Is it legal for state game wardens to check fishermen that are in federal waters? Also, what about state game wardens checking waterfowl hunters for federal waterfowl stamps? I’m not saying here that I’m necessarily against the practice. It just seems that sometimes things are legal and at other times there are different rules. Redfish of any size are not legal to retain in federal waters. There have been times when Texas game wardens were out there to check coolers, give tickets and confiscate redfish. The regulation is as far fetched, in my opinion, as allowing legal size redfish taken on rod and reel in the local bayous be retained, but not those caught on jugs or trotlines.

I know of more than one instance when anglers caught legal redfish at the jetty and they wanted to go on offshore. Even if the fish was caught within all regulations, it would be illegal to have it aboard in federal waters. It seems that once federal regulations are implemented for sport fishermen, they are never removed. Lake Sabine is a good example of strange regulations. Folks launching in Louisiana and legally licensed can retain a much more liberal limit than Texas fishermen fishing in the same lake.

Billy Halfin can be reached by e-mail at bhalfinoutdoors [at] aol [dot] com.