Texas fishing has experienced many changes in the last 20 years. What
has not changed are the excessive daily bag limits for crappie, white
bass and channel and blue catfish.
The daily bag limits for those popular game fish species remain 25 fish
per day. That's too many fish for one fisherman to kill in a day.
The golden rules in Texas fishing regulations are made to protect
largemouth bass. The statewide daily bag limit on bass is five per day,
14-inch minimum size. There are 15 exceptions to the statewide bass
limit, however, most more restrictive than 5-14.
There are three exceptions to the statewide crappie limit, all more
lenient. Two of the four catfish exceptions are more lenient. The lone
exception to the white bass limit also allows a more lenient harvest.
Largemouth bass may be getting increasingly sophisticated and more
difficult to catch, but that's hardly the case with catfish, crappie or
white bass, which North Texas anglers commonly refer to as sand bass.
Most catfishing is done with natural bait. Crappie anglers probably buy
more live minnows than all other Texas fishermen combined. A sand bass
pro who knows how to use modern sonar is seldom shut out on sand bass,
which will eagerly bite an elongated two-inch lead slab painted white or
According to Ken Kurzawski, the regulations director for Texas Parks and
Wildlife's inland fisheries division, fishing limits are based on a
combination of biological and social considerations.
"When we do creel surveys, we rarely talk to anglers who have caught
limits of fish, so it's hard to factor what an appropriate limit would
be," Kurzawski said. "Our field biologists monitor fish populations via
creel surveys and routine gill net samples. We have no biological
evidence that 25-fish limits hurt the fish population."
Some states, particularly in the Southeast, have no bag restrictions for
prolific species such as catfish, crappie or white bass. Others are
tightening the limits. In some Missouri lakes, for instance, the daily
crappie limit is 15 fish. That's the limit Garland crappie fishing pro
Wally Marshall would favor for Texas.
"Not only do I think we should cut the daily crappie limit from 25 to
15, I think we should increase the minimum size limit from 10 inches to
11 inches," Marshall said. "I think our crappie fishing would improve."
I hear the same kind of comments from serious catfish fans, many of whom
already release all the big fish they catch. Most Arkansas waters have a
10-fish daily limit on catfish, and Arkansas author Keith Sutton said
restrictive limits on catfish in other states invariably improve the
In researching two books on catfishing, Sutton has visited most of North
America's catfish hot spots. The most restrictive limit, almost a
catch-and-release fishery, is Canada's Red River.
"I was there in 1999, and every channel catfish that I caught was bigger
than any channel catfish I've ever caught in Arkansas," Sutton said.
"They ranged in size from 17 to 35 pounds."
TP&W officials say that experimental bag limits for crappie and white
bass did not influence either population. Some fish species, Kurzawski
said, appear to be more influenced by environmental conditions than by
fishing limits. And some species, such as catfish and crappie, are
considered more desirable food fish.
Catching and eating fish is great. I love fresh fish and often bring
home enough for my family to eat. There's nothing wrong with catching
and eating fish. This is 2005, however. Texas has a million licensed
freshwater anglers and hundreds of thousands of youth anglers who are
exempt from fishing license requirements.
In more ways than you can imagine, fishermen have evolved faster than
fish. From a social perspective, a 25-fish limit is at least 10 fish too
TEXAS BAG LIMITS
Largemouth and smallmouth bass
Striped and hybrid striped bass
Channel and blue catfish