REGULATE CAST NET HARVESTING ON LAKE FAYETTE, FAYETTE COUNTY TX

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REGULATE CAST NET HARVESTING ON LAKE FAYETTE, FAYETTE COUNTY, TX

STATEMENT OF PURPOSE:     WE THE UNDERSIGNED CONCERNED SPORTSMEN PLEAD THAT THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT (TP&W) ADOPT NEW REGULATIONS REGARDING THE USE OF CAST NETS ON LAKE FAYETTE.  WE PLEAD THAT HARVESTING TILAPIA AT LAKE FAYETTE WITH CAST NETS BE LIMITED TO FIVE TILAPIA PER PERSON, PER DAY FOR NON-COMMERCIALLY LICENSED FISHERMEN, THAT CAST NETTING BE UNLAWFUL WITHIN THE “BASS SPAWNING SEASON” AS DEFINED BY THE TP&W AS FEBRUARY, MARCH, APRIL AND MAY https://tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/wild/species/lmb/ THAT THOSE WHO ARE COMMERCIALLY CAST NETTING FOR TILAPIA BE REQUIRED TO HAVE A VALID COMMERCIAL FISHING LICENSE TO DO SO AND ONLY THEN WITHIN THAT PART OF THE YEAR THAT DOES NOT FALL WITHIN THE BASS SPAWNING SEASON AND THAT LAKE FAYETTE BE RESTOCKED WITH FLORIDA BASS TO MITIGATE THE DECLINE IN THE 16" AND GREATER BASS POPULATION DUE TO CASTNETTING.  THE TEXAS LEGISLATURE HAS DELEGATED TO THE TP&W THE FULL AUTHORITY FOR MANAGING FISH AND WILDLIFE RESOURCES IN THE STATE. ACCORDINGLY, THIS PETITION IF DIRECTED TOWARDS THE DECISION MAKER;  TP&W EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR MR. CARTER SMITH. 

NATURE OF THE PROBLEM:   The problems associated with unregulated cast netting are many. As it stands, unregulated cast netting takes place on Lake Fayette ALL year long and along the entire lake’s shoreline.  Cast netters harvest fish by deploying cast nets up to 14’ in diameter either from boats and/or by walking the shoreline.  At present, there are no cast netting regulations governing when it is allowed, where it is allowed, the number of Tilapia that may be removed from the lake per cast netter/per day, or a requirement that cast netters have a valid commercial license.  It is our belief that cast netting is the root cause of the decline in the slot bass (16"-24”) population and the dominant vegetation, Marine Naiad.  Cast netting leads to the death of and/or increased stress placed on spawning bass, the destruction of spawning and grass beds, ecological and environmental damage, and can and sometimes leads to conflicts between fishermen and cast netters, especially during the Spawning Season.

We have specific concerns with cast nets being deployed concurrent with the Texas spawning season which is defined by the TP&W as the months of February, March, April and May. The vast majority of cast netting occurs within the shallow, calm, vegetated waters adjacent to the lake’s shoreline herein referred to as “Spawning Flats”, and within a depth range of 2 -8 feet of water. This is the depth of water utilized by the male bass to build their nests as cited in the following TP&W online article https://tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/wild/species/lmb/ and where the female bass lay their eggs.  It is along the shoreline, in these shallow waters, where most of the Spawning Season anglers focus their attention when fishing.  Allowing cast netting concurrent with the Spawning Season leads to situations where cast netters are tossing cast nets in front of, behind and sometimes alongside the fishermen trying to enjoy the lake.  Studies have been done to show that catching bass off beds within the Spawning Season does not harm the fish or disrupt the spawning process, as the bass return back to their nest.  In contrast, cast nets sink to the bottom due to weights placed around the net’s perimeter.  They are then dragged through and across the Spawning Flats within which the bass reside during their pre-spawn, spawn and post-spawn reproductive life cycle.  Many bass relocate from deeper water during the pre-spawn cycle to the shallower Spawning Flats to commence building nests.  Female bass then lay their eggs within the nests and the eggs then hatch during the spawn cycle.  Many of the newborn fry will remain in a group or school during the spawn and post-spawn life cycle.  Dragging cast nets across, over and through the Spawning Flats in order to intentionally capture fish, results in netting mature bass, the destruction of spawning beds, eggs and newly hatched fry.  This reduces the survival rate of the current year spawn and can result in the death of (either through stress and/or illegally retaining) mature bass, and the ongoing decline in Fayette’s slot limit (16”-24”) population.  This does not have to happen, and the parties hereto request that the TP&W take the necessary action to mitigate the practice of cast netting concurrent with the Spawning Season.  Conflicts between cast netters and fishermen on Fayette occur only because there are no regulations currently in place to outlaw cast netting within the Spawning Season.  The appropriate passage of a simple regulation outlawing cast netting during the Spawning Season would eliminate such conflicts, while at the same time help to insure a successful bass spawn which in turn should help turn around the ongoing and steady decline in Fayette’s bass population 16” and greater. 

Additionally, much of the existing and newly emergent vegetation critical to the spawning life cycle and health of Fayette’s slot limit population is ultimately uprooted and destroyed.  Fayette’s dominant vegetation is Marine Naiad. Vegetation surveys show it to be in a steady decline similar to the slot bass population.  In summary, cast nets are detrimental to the Spawning Flats habitat, eggs, fry, adult male and female bass and shallow vegetation critical to the life cycle of all the organisms as well as the quality of the water itself.

RECENT INCIDENT:  In February of 2020 a small boat of five cast netters got caught in a storm around 10PM. Two swam to shore, three drowned. It is time to amend and enforce the regulations governing cast netting on Lake Fayette. 

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH: Please show your support by signing this petition and help save or lake, save our bass, and save lives.