November 29th, 2007 14:11 EST
Croaker Wars, Gulf Dead Zone Heating Up
The December issue of Texas Fish & Game magazine details efforts by a small contingent of guides and other anglers to renew the call to ban the use of Atlantic croaker as bait for speckled trout along the Texas coast.
For years, special interest groups have contended that croaker are too effective as bait for large speckled trout and that such use “decimates” the number of large trout in Texas coastal bays. Numerous past efforts to persuade the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department or the legislature to enact a ban have failed, but the croaker naysayers remain adamant.
As reported by Texas Fish & Game magazine executive editor Chester Moore, in an emotionally “hot” meeting in Matagorda, ban proponents shouted, “We need to plan for the future, so we don't end up like the Lower Laguna Madre!”
The “Laguna Madre” reference alludes to recent regulation changes enacting stricter limits in that bay system.
"Using croaker as bait is a very divisive issue, and it seems that fishing guides who don't fish with croaker are concerned that the use of it in East Matagorda Bay could cause irreparable harm to the fishery," Moore said.
Data presented by the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department at the Matagorda meeting shows that the fishery is healthy, and does not support the contention of a trout decline due to the use of croaker or any other factors. However, at the time of the meeting the fall '07 gillnet surveys were not in and some of the guides involved believe this will show evidence of increased usage of croaker during the past year.
In an unrelated story, Steve DiMarco, a Texas A&M University researcher, has found for the first time ever that parts of the Texas coast are showing signs of a locally generated “dead zone” area that resembles similar areas off the Louisiana coast.
The Louisiana dead zone is a large area in the northern Gulf of Mexico that contains hypoxia, or oxygen-depleted water. Such low levels of oxygen are believed to be caused by pollution from farm fertilizers as they empty into the Gulf from the Mississippi River, or by soil erosion or discharge from sewage treatment plants.
Read the full details in the November issue of Texas Fish & Game.
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