Outdoors Notebook — Proposed catfish regs, Zebra mussel warning and new CWD find

Lynn Burkhead
For the Herald Democrat

As the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission gets ready for its virtual public hearing on March 25, inland fisheries biologists with the Texas Park and Wildlife Department are proposing a few changes to catfish regulations for the 2021-22 license year.

Specifically, TPWD says in a news release that they are seeking changes to length and bag limits for blue and channel catfish at the statewide level along with a few changes at the local level.

At the statewide level, TPWD is proposing to remove the 12-inch minimum length limit for blue catfish and channel catfish. While that would allow for the harvest of any size blue or channel cat, the current statewide daily bag limit of 25 (both species combined) would be retained.

The agency does note, however, that of the 25 blue whiskerfish that could be harvested daily, their statewide proposal would limit anglers to harvesting no more than 10 blues that measure 20-inches or longer.

The agency is also proposing other changes to statewide blue and channel cat regs, including further limiting the harvest of trophy sized whiskerfish at 12 lakes across the state.

A few of those water bodies are found here in North Texas, including Lake Lavon (Collin County), Lake Lewisville (Denton County), Lake Ray Hubbard (Collin, Dallas, Kaufman, and Rockwall counties), and Lake Tawakoni (Hunt, Rains, and Van Zandt counties). At such water bodies, the agency wants to further limit the number of fish 20-inches or larger that could be harvested each day down to five and further limit the number of fish 30-inches or larger that can be harvested down to one.

TPWD does note that a five-fish bag limit will still apply to catfish anglers on all community fishing lakes as well as those water bodies lying totally within a Texas state park.

In addition to commenting at the virtual meeting on March 25 — which is limited to three minutes — other opportunities to provide comments for or against these proposals exists through several different channels.

Those options include commenting online through March 24 (www.tpwd.texas.gov) or by phone or e-mail to Ken Kurzawski at 512-389-4591 and ken.kurzawski@tpwd.texas.gov.

Aquarium Products Bring Zebra Mussel Warning — TPWD and other natural resource agencies across the country are warning consumers and aquarium supply stores that certain “moss ball” aquarium plant products are possibly contaminated with zebra mussels and should be removed from store shelves.

TPWD says in a news release that the “moss ball” products are actually a species of algae that form green balls up to a few inches in diameter. They are sold under a variety of names such as “Beta Buddy Marimo Balls,” “Mini Marimo Moss Balls,” and “Marimo Moss Ball Plant.”

Sold either separately or in combination with Betta fish sales, such moss balls are believed to have been imported from the Ukraine and could contain the highly destructive mussel that has invaded many lakes and river systems across Texas including nearby Lake Texoma and Lake Ray Roberts.

CWD Confirmed in Lubbock County — Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) has been discovered in a free-ranging 8 ½-year-old mule deer in Lubbock County, marking the first positive detection of the disease in that county according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

TPWD says in a news release that the positive CWD tissue sample from Lubbock County was gathered as a part of routine deer mortality surveillance efforts across the state. The case was confirmed during testing at the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (TVMDL) in College Station on Feb. 26th.

Because eradication is thought to be impossible once CWD becomes established in a deer population, TPWD says that its cooperative work with landowners, hunters, and other agencies is vital in trying to keep the disease contained to a small geographic area and prevent it from spreading elsewhere across the state.

During the current sampling season, the agency has collected more than 13,000 tissue samples across the state and confirmed CWD in 11 free ranging mule deer and five white-tailed deer, all being found in areas previously contaminated with CWD.

TPWD notes that CWD was first recognized in 1967 in captive mule deer in Colorado and has now spread to captive and/or free-ranging deer in 26 states and three Canadian provinces.

In Texas, the disease was first discovered in 2012 in free-ranging mule deer along a remote area of the Hueco Mountains near the Texas-New Mexico border. Since that time, the prion-borne disease has been detected in 213 white-tailed deer, mule deer, red deer and elk in Dallam, El Paso, Hartley, Hudspeth, Kimble, Lavaca, Medina, Uvalde, and Val Verde counties. Of that figure, TPWD says that 148 of the confirmed CWD cases found across the state have been connected to deer breeding facilities and release sites.