Outdoors Notebook — Seatrout freeze regs, drawn hunt deadlines, Hunter Extravaganza Show

Lynn Burkhead
For the Herald Democrat

It’s hard to remember right now in the heat of summer, but it wasn’t all that long ago that February’s disastrous and deadly freeze upended things across the Lone Star State in repeated waves of arctic air and snowfall that sent temperatures plunging statewide.

As the recovery from the deadly freeze continues for Texas fisheries and wildlife, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has extended the emergency spotted seatrout regulations in the Laguna Madre for an additional 60 days this summer and fall. The previous regulation changes were put into effect by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission on April 1 and ran until yesterday on July 29. Now, the emergency regulations will continue through Sept. 27, 2021.

Pertaining to spotted seatrout — or speckled trout, as many saltwater anglers know them — these emergency rule regulations are in place for the bays and beachfronts of the state's Upper and Lower Laguna Madre bay systems. Those emergency regulations include a three fish bag limit; a minimum size length limit of 17-inches; a maximum size length limit of 23-inches; and no fish over 23-inches being able to be retained by anglers.

While the emergency regulations are in place for now, additional fine tuning of regs for spotted seatrout could be coming in future months.

“The data from our Coastal Fisheries biologists clearly shows declines in spotted seatrout populations in multiple Texas bays,” said Carter Smith, TPWD executive director, in a news release. “While the 60-day extension of regulation changes is warranted now in the Laguna Madre, additional focus on trout fishery recovery in the San Antonio and Matagorda Bay systems is needed as well. The Department’s next step is working with the TPW Commission this fall to further evaluate the data, to solicit additional public input, and ultimately to secure Commission guidance on what management and regulatory actions may be necessary to facilitate the quickest recovery possible.”

First TPWD Drawn Hunt Deadline — As summer runs its course and the calendar prepares to change over from July to August, fall is on the minds of most Texas hunters right now with dove, teal, and early archery whitetail seasons being only a few weeks away now.

With that in mind, the first deadlines are approaching for those wanting to draw a permit in the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s drawn hunts program for this fall and winter. If you’re interested in Alligator, Alligator Management, Private Land Dove, and/or Youth Only Alligator permits, then keep in mind that this weekend serves up the first such deadline on Sunday, Aug. 1.

After that, other TPWD drawn hunts application deadlines arrive on the 1st and 15th of each month for various categories of public hunts including archery deer, gun deer, pronghorn antelope, mule deer archery and gun, exotics, and plenty more.

Such deadlines include this year’s Hagerman NWR archery hunt application deadline, which is a month off now, scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 1st. If you’re hoping to draw a 2021 Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge bowhunting permit this year, the cost is $3 to enter the drawing, $80 to hunt if you actually get drawn, and the application process is completely online at https://tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/hunt/public/public_hunt_drawing .

With the Big Mineral, Sandy, and Godwin units open for this fall’s archery deer hunts, hunt segment dates are as follows: Segment A is Nov. 5-7, Segment B is Nov. 19-21, and Segment C is Dec. 3-5. The TPWD website indicates that there will be 202 bowhunting permits available this year; that drawn hunters must provide proof of successful IBEP course completion, and that anyone drawing a permit will have to provide an archery proficiency test score of 80% or higher.

For information on the 2021 Hagerman NWR whitetail bowhunts, contact the refuge office during business hours at (903) 786-2826 or visit the TPWD drawn hunts web page.

And for information or to apply for other drawn hunts across the Lone Star State, visit TPWD's Drawn Hunts page at https://tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/hunt/public/public_hunt_drawing . For e-mail answers to questions about the Drawn Hunts program, contact hunt@tpwd.texas.gov . And for phone information about the hunts, call (512) 389-4505 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Hunter Extravaganza Shows Approach — The month of August arrives on the calendar this weekend, and that means that after last year's COVID-19 cancellations, it’s time for the Texas Trophy Hunter's Association to host its annual Hunter Extravaganza shows across the Lone Star State for the 45th time.

Specifically, TTHA plans three different Expos next month for the cities of Houston, Fort Worth, and San Antonio. In addition to the chance to buy hunting gear and book hunts for the upcoming fall seasons, many of the annual event’s marquee attractions return including Joe Martin’s Snakes of Texas rattlesnake exhibit, big game mount contests, and hunting seminars hosted by the likes of Dr. James C. Kroll and Jim Miller among others.

Dubbed the “Granddaddy of all Hunting Shows!”, the TTHA Hunters Extravaganza will be held next weekend in Houston at the NRG Center from Aug. 6-8; at mid-month in Fort Worth at the Fort Worth Convention Center from Aug. 13-15; and in late August down in San Antonio at the Freeman Coliseum Expo Hall from Aug. 20-22.

Ticket prices are $5 for a one-day kid pass (ages 5-12), $12 for a one-day adult pass, and $15 for a weekend pass. Also note that parking costs vary per venue. For more information on the TTHA events, including the local Hunters Extravaganza Show in Cowtown, visit www.ttha.com.