AUSTIN – Summer is a great time to explore the Texas coast. Longer days, family vacations and more than 350 miles of coastline make its shallow bays and estuaries the perfect spot for anglers, boaters and kayakers.

Yet, when people in different watercraft encounter each other in some spots, that can lead to user conflicts, and some boaters have damaged important ecological habitat.

All this is prompting fishing guides and others to call for a new code of behavior.

To reduce user conflict between boating groups, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) is urging everyone to think ethically when using shared coastal resources.

“By helping to conserve shallow water habitats through ethical boating and angling, we can all enjoy the coast for generations to come,” said Robin Riechers, TPWD coastal fisheries division director. “Fortunately, there is a rising tide of support, with good guidelines to help people do the right thing.”

TPWD and various coastal stakeholders and partners have worked for years to educate boaters and provide information about how to protect seagrass, while still enjoying the outdoors.

This emphasizes the simple message to Lift, Drift, Pole and Troll when navigating seagrass flats in a motorized boat. Besides avoiding citations for illegal uprooting of seagrass, this approach protects vital habitat that supports game fish and other species, decreases disturbances to wildlife and other people—and promotes safer and more ethical boating in Texas bays.

Through work with multiple coastal stakeholders years ago, the department developed ethical angler standards.

Multiple partners are complementing and spreading similar messages. One is the nonprofit group Flatsworthy, a coalition of fishing guides, paddlers, airboaters, fly-fishermen, wade anglers and others who drift-fish or enjoy poling the flats. 

The group promotes a Code of Angler Respect designed to curb destructive behaviors that are eroding coastal marshes, and also reverse a trend of inconsiderate behavior. 

Other examples include the Coastal Conservation Association, Coastal Bend Bays & Estuaries Program, Matagorda Bay Foundation and Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies.