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  Go back to the News List! Fish bag limits: Too much of a good thing? 05/14/2005  
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Fish bag limits: Too much of a good thing?

09:39 PM CDT on Saturday, May 14, 2005

By RAY SASSER / The Dallas Morning News

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 chartreuse.

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 fishing.

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 many.


Fish species Limit Length
Largemouth and smallmouth bass 5 14
Striped and hybrid striped bass 5 18
White bass 25 10
Channel and blue catfish 25 12
Crappie 25 10

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