AUSTIN – The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission approved changes to the regulations on passive fishing gear (jug lines, minnow traps, perch traps, throwlines, and trotlines) to facilitate the removal of abandoned gear from public waters, make the presence of passive fishing gear identifiable to all users of public waters, and minimize the unintended take of aquatic resources.
Before approving the proposed changes, commissioners, in response to public input, reduced the valid period for gear tags from 10 days to six days (instead of the proposed four) to shorten the time between angler inspections of their gear and reduce the negative impacts of abandoned passive fishing gear in Texas public waters. Scientific investigations conducted by the department show that fish mortalities as a result of “ghost fishing” (the continuing of effect of unattended passive gears) can increase after four days. Such devices can continue to fish and represent a danger to fish and other aquatic organisms when they are abandoned. Requiring the gear tag and the accompanying gear to be checked more frequently than 10 days should reduce those unintended mortalities.
“Current regulations do not require the removal of the fishing device from the water when the date period on gear tags needs to be updated. Reducing the number of days from 10 to six will not change that, but it does require the angler to check the gear and retain or release any resource that is caught,” said Jarret Barker, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Assistant Commander for Fisheries Enforcement. “The device can remain in the water while the gear tag is updated.”
In addition to the changes in the length of the valid period for gear tags, changes were made to information required to be displayed on the gear tag. Anglers were given the option of including the 12-digit customer number from their license instead of their address.
“This allows some anonymity so someone can set out their gear without disclosing their personal information to other anglers while still allowing game wardens to identify the gear’s owner by using their customer number,” Barker said.
Other approved changes add the requirement that minnow traps, throwlines, and trotlines have floats attached to aid in distinguishing active fishing gear from abandoned fishing gear and litter. All floats used on juglines, minnow traps, throwlines, and trotlines must be at least 6 inches in length and not less than 3 inches in width. For these four gears, floats for recreational anglers can be any color other than orange, while commercial fishing license holders will be required to use orange-colored floats.
These changes will go into effect on February 1, 2020.