Featured photo courtesy of Greg Hume
Texas’ largest freshwater fish species, the alligator gar, has become increasingly rare as these gargantuan river dwellers have struggled against fishing pressure and altered and reduced river flows – threats that I wrote about in a blog a few months back. Fortunately, there’s now an important opportunity for you to stand up for alligator gar in Texas.
Fixing the threats from altered river flows represents an ongoing, long-term challenge — but one that all of us associated with the Texas Living Waters Project are committed to meeting, with your help. In the meantime, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) has proposed several new rules that would take immediate steps to reduce fishing pressure.
You can give alligator gar a helping hand by submitting comments on TPWD’s proposed rules to help them get adopted by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission. The deadline for you to weigh in is March 19.
As part of its annual review of fishing regulations, TPWD has proposed four specific rule changes governing harvest of alligator gar. Those changes are now open for public comment through March 19. Some of those changes will, undoubtedly, engender opposition from folks who don’t want to see the harvest of massive alligator gar curtailed. I will be weighing in to support the proposed changes. Care to join me?
Here’s how: You can provide comments online through the TPWD website. Comments for each proposed change have to be entered separately. You can weigh in on any one or more of those changes. The website is a touch unwieldy but stick with it – alligator gar have been around since the time of the dinosaurs and, with your help, we can minimize the chance they disappear on our watch.
To provide comments, at the top of the form you will need to enter your name, county of residence, and whether you have a hunting or fishing license. Anyone can comment, regardless of whether you have a license. After entering that information, scroll down to the Alligator Gar heading, where you will find four specific proposals.
1. 48-inch Maximum Length Limit (Trinity River)
The first rule proposal related to alligator gar will only apply in the Trinity River, which is the state’s alligator gar hotspot, and calls for setting a maximum length limit of 48 inches for harvesting alligator gar. The idea is to protect the mature fish from being harvested and allow them to stay around to reproduce. This is important because alligator gar mainly reproduce during the rare times that river flows are high enough to give the gar access to natural flood plains along the river – if they are harvested before they are able to spawn, the alligator gar population as a whole could shrink.
You can select any of four choices (Agree, Disagree, No Opinion, or Disagree specifically on…) and, if you want, add written comments that explain why you agree (or disagree) with the rule. While written comments are not necessary, they do make a bigger impact – especially if you are able to share a personal story or experience.
2. Drawing for Harvest Opportunity (Trinity River)
The second rule proposal would create a limited exception to that maximum length limit in the Trinity River by allowing anglers to enter drawings to harvest one alligator gar per year that is longer than 48 inches. This proposal is a bit more nuanced and I recognize people will have different positions. Again, I’ll be supporting this proposal. I certainly understand that others may disagree.
The simple reality is that many people who invest in and support conservation of a species do so because they may get to harvest a large specimen. Most of the funding for fish and wildlife conservation comes from hunting and fishing licenses and federal fees on gear for hunting, fishing, and related activities. Creating a maximum length limit as the default while allowing occasional exceptions is a major step forward.
3. Nighttime Prohibition on Bow Fishing (Statewide)
The third rule proposal, which will apply statewide, would ban bow fishing for alligator gar at night. Alligator gar are commonly harvested using a bow and arrow with fishing line attached to the arrow. This new rule provision would prohibit using that harvest method at night. The use of lights to stalk gar at night makes them too vulnerable to overharvest so I will be supporting this proposal as well.
4. Mandatory Harvest Reporting (Statewide)
The final proposed rule applicable for alligator gar, which is a statewide provision subject to one narrow exception, would require anyone harvesting an alligator gar to report that harvest to TPWD. The simple reality is that we know far too little about how many alligator gar there actually are in Texas waters and about how many are being taken every year. This reporting requirement will provide important information and I will be supporting it.
Please keep standing up for alligator gar and for all fish and wildlife resources of Texas. Click here to submit your comments on TPWD’s proposed rules to protect alligator gar.