With the start of a new hunting and fishing season beginning September 1, Texas anglers and hunters are already purchasing licenses for 2019-2020.
Here are the changes license holders should expect to follow:
In March of this year, the Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPW) Commission adopted several rule changes related to public safety and conservation management that will go into effect this hunting season. The Texas Legislature also passed two significant laws that will impact hunting and fishing hobbyists.
Emergency engine cutoff devices now mandatory for powerboats
Powerboat operators of boats less than 26 feet in length must have the boat’s cutoff switch attached to them when the boat is moving, following the passage of House Bill 337. The bill was passed in order to reduce the number of boating-related injuries and fatalities on Texas waterways, and “Texas will be the seventh state to require mandatory use of emergency engine cutoff devices in at least some powerboats, joining Louisiana, Alabama, Arkansas, Nevada, New Jersey and Illinois.”
Limits on alligator gar
Alligator gars, native to Texas and prized for their distinct prehistoric appearance, have long been a trophy fish for anglers. But, according to The Coastal Conservation Association, TPW had to make changes due to “concern…about the lack of harvest data,” and due to “an increasing interest in alligator gar fishing in the Trinity River driven in part by online videos and televised fishing shows.”
New alligator gar regulations, per TPW, are as follows:
- Except on Falcon Reservoir, anglers now need to report all alligator gar harvest within 24 hours using the My Texas Hunt Harvest mobile app.
- New rules for harvesting alligator gar on the Trinity River include a 4-foot maximum length limit, a nighttime prohibition on bow fishing, and a drawing to allow a limited number of anglers to harvest one per year over 48 inches.
Other new freshwater fishing regulations this year include daily bag limits on largemouth bass from Lake Lakewood, Mill Creek Lake, and public waters located in Hardin, Newton and Liberty counties, and “anglers can now harvest up to five Alabama bass of any length from Alan Henry Reservoir.”
According to TPW, the following new rules apply to saltwater fishing:
- Spotted seatrout now has a coast-wide 5 fish bag limit.
- When fishing for sharks in state waters, anglers are required to use non-offset, non-stainless steel circle hooks, except when fishing with artificial lures.
- Cobia’s minimum size limit increases to 40 inches.
- Texas Parks and Wildlife Department now manages the private recreational red snapper season in federal waters.
New opportunities to hunt antlerless white-tailed deer
The new rules established a hunting season on antlerless white-tailed deer in 21 counties in south-central Texas, and in 20 counties in northeast Texas.
Where antlerless deer last year could only be taken during a four-day period of the general deer season in some of these counties, under the new rules “hunters in the 20 affected Blackland Prairie counties will be allowed to take as many as two antlerless deer during the first 16 days of the two-month-plus general deer season and tag them with an antlerless deer tag from their general hunting license.”
Harvest reporting for antlerless deer is now mandatory in some south-central Texas counties. TPW states that “Reporting can be done online, through the My Texas Hunt Harvest mobile app, or through the Outdoor Annual mobile app once you have downloaded both apps.”
No hunting license necessary for feral hogs
Legislators passed Senate Bill 317 to address the 1.5 million feral hogs in Texas that cause around $400,000,000 of damage each year. The new law exempts anyone hunting on public lands from needing a license to hunt feral hogs.
- Establishment of javelina season in 6 counties in the South Plains
- Implementation of antler spread restrictions on mule deer in Lynn County
- Legalization of arrow gun for methods of take while hunting
Daily bag limits on northern pintails during duck season will decrease statewide from 2 to 1 in the daily bag limit for the 2019-20 hunting season.