Since I posted my article last week on Texas catfish noodling I have received countless emails and phone calls from people about this article with questions and comments. The overwhelming majority of people who have contacted me are against the proposed legalization of catfish noodling in Texas. I have spoken with a number of journalists in the last few days, people from Texas Parks and Wildlife, as well as a variety of Texas catfish anglers and the overwhelming majority of people agree that legalizing noodling for catfish in Texas is a step in the wrong direction.
I try to shy away from addressing too many “local” topics on Learn To Catch Catfish but that is difficult to do sometimes. This is an issue I am passionate (and opinionated) about and because this is such a hot topic I wanted to address some of the more common questions I have heard as well as some highlights from some of the conversations I have had.
I also want to clarify that when I addressed HB2189 the other day my understanding was this was being proposed with a provision that noodling would not be permitted during the flathead catfish spawning period (which seems to a major concern for the majority of people). Once I finally got to read the documents I found that there are no provisions regarding the spawning period.
I am serious about trophy catfish conservation regardless of the species of catfish. North Texas Catfish Guide Service has a strict catch and release policy on all catfish over ten pounds. In the last 24 months I have kept one catfish over 10 lbs, and that was yesterday, because it inhaled a hook and floated when we tried to live release it. Yes, I keep catfish when I fish with my clients (if they choose to) but I also release all trophy catfish and actually release far more catfish over the course of a year than I keep.
Yes, I discuss jug fishing and trotlines often and while I have not set a trotline in years and rarely go jug fishing any longer, I still promote the catch and release of catfish over ten pounds (regardless of the method in which they are caught) and also proactively promote selective harvest (see ethical catfishing with setlines)
Here are some of the highlights of the more common questions and comments regarding Texas catfish noodling over the past few days.
Why Catfish Noodling Should Not Be Legalized In Texas
And some answers to some of the comments I have received.
The short version of why I don’t feel noodling should be legalized in Texas is:
- It’s working against the states effort to create trophy catfish fisheries
- It will increase hand fishing activity putting further strain on flathead catfish populations
- There is no current stocking program for flathead catfish
- Removing larger more sexually mature brood fish will damage flathead populations
- Other states have done enough research to prove that it will damage flathead catfish populations
- State Representative Gary Elkins and others shouldn’t be involved. Let’s let Texas Parks and Wildlife manage our fisheries, they know what they are doing
My answers to some of the key points that have been sent to me:
Texas has a lot invested in trophy catfish conservation. Of recent, Texas Parks and Wildlife has put a tremendous amount of effort into management of trophy catfish populations with the goal of creating trophy fisheries. An experimental 30-45 inch slot limit was put in place on Lake Lewisville, Lake Waco and Richland Chambers that prohibits anglers from keeping catfish that are between 30 and 45 inches. Only one fish over 45 inches may be kept as part of the daily bag. The research is being lead by John Tibbs from the TPW Waco office. This was done in response to the increased interest in catching trophy class blue catfish in Texas to see what the effects of the slot limit would be (in regards to creating trophy fisheries). The study is being conducted through 2016 and at that point similar slot limits could be placed on other Texas reservoirs. What does all this mean. There is rapidly growing interest in catching trophy class catfish on rod and reel (for both blue and flathead catfish populations), and the state is working to increase the opportunities available to anglers. Is this really the direction we want to go as a state, when there is so much invested in developing trophy catfish fisheries.
Catfish noodling is already taking place in Texas – Yes, I am aware as are most people that spend time on Texas lakes and rivers that noodling does take place. That being said, it is illegal and the people that do it are VERY low key about it and work very hard not to get caught (though many do), but it is illegal. Regardless of what the law is from speeding to jaywalking and everything in between there are always going to be people that break the law.
There is a small amount of people that will participate, and legalization is not going to increase the activity (seriously?) – I keep having “estimated” numbers of people that noodle thrown at me of 1500-2000 people. There is no factual date that I have been able to find to back this up for Texas (but have found references to those numbers for other states). Recycling information doesn’t make it true. If there are indeed 2000 people in Texas who are hand fishing, there is absolutely no doubt that this will increase if legalized. The masses are law abiding citizens who don’t want to get in trouble, don’t want to be fined, and quite simply want to “play by the rules” so they are not noodling now. If you think for one second that if grabbling is legalized there won’t be an increased interest from the “hey I want to try that” people out there you are wrong. Missouri did a significant amount of research in regards to the legalization to catfish noodling and estimated that they had a group of 2,000 people noodling when it was illegal and if legalized that number would increase to 13,000.
Some noodlers will practice catch and release – While this may be true, there is no evidence to support this. As with any group of anglers there will be some who practice catch and release, some who practice trophy catch and release and some who will keep everything they can catch. Noodlers will target larger more sexually mature fish that will damage existing flathead catfish populations.
What if the state implemented reduced bag limits – Reduced bag limits for hand fishing would certainly help from a conservation perspective but overall flathead catfish populations would still be vulnerable, because of the approach that is taken to catch these fish, especially during the spawn. Currently, Texas flathead catfish limits are 5 per person (versus 25 per person with blue and channel catfish) which is due greatly in part to the reduced populations of flatheads. There just quite simply aren’t the same numbers of flatheads as there are blues and channels.
Money from the stamp required could be placed towards managing catfish populations - While this is good in theory, just because Texas collects a fee for a stamp does not necessarily mean that those funds will be applied to the stocking and management of flathead catfish, and in most instances this has proven to be true. In addition, if you look at the Texas flathead catfish stocking history you can see there there is literally no activity in this area. There has been no significant activity since 1992 and the most recent significant activity prior to that was 1982.
Why is this being handled in the house? – My suspicion is because Texas Parks and Wildlife wasn’t willing to listen and someone, somehow managed to get a Gary Elkins to listen. I am amazed that with teachers losing their jobs faster than you can shake a stick at across the state, people losing their jobs left and right due to a poor economy and a wealth of other issues that need attention this guy is sitting around proposing law about catfish noodling. I think if I was in district 135 I would be giving Gary Elkins a call or sending him and email and voicing my distaste for the entire situation.
Here is an excellent article from Missouri talking about the negative effects of catfish noodling. Why “No” To Noodling. I would strongly encourage you to read this entire article.
Let’s Let Texas Parks and Wildlife Manage The Fisheries
Texas Parks and Wildlife does an excellent job managing our fisheries. With the exception of the boneheaded legalization of bow fishing for catfish ruling a few years back (which is now illegal) I cannot think of anything in recent years where anglers have sat back and said “what where they thinking”. They are aggressive in their management of fisheries and quick to respond when and where they are needed. The biologists at Texas Parks and Wildlife do an excellent job of fisheries management and stocking and everything in between. They are making major efforts to increase catfish populations (catfish are the number two most sought after game fish in Texas) and create trophy catfish fisheries.
Legalization of noodling is a step in the wrong direction in my opinion, especially at the hands of the House Culture, Recreation and Tourism Committee.
If Texas is going to legalize catfish noodling, it needs to be done at the hands of Texas Parks and Wildlife, not the State Representatives that have absolutely no knowledge or understanding of how this will effect catfish populations. Sure, they can legalize it in the capital and then pass it along to Texas Parks and Wildlife, but that’s putting the cart before the horse. The biologists need to have the opportunity to provide input on the subject, as they are the people who know how this will actually effect the states lakes and rivers. In additional, major rule changes are typically opened for public feedback and the anglers of Texas need to have the opportunity to give their input as well.
In the event Parks and Wildlife decides to proceed, there needs to be some serious consideration in regards to protection the flathead population during the spawn.
If this concerns you at all, you need to contact your state representative and let them know!