AUSTIN – The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is seeking public comment on proposed changes to the regulations on passive fishing gear (jug lines, minnow traps, perch traps, throwlines, and trotlines), which includes adding requirements and specifications for floats and reducing the valid period for gear tags to reduce the negative impacts of abandoned passive fishing gear in Texas public waters.

“Abandoned passive fishing gear is not easily identified and can harm fish and wildlife resources and present a nuisance and safety hazard to recreational users of public water bodies,” said Jarret Barker, TPWD assistant commander for Marine Enforcement. 

“These proposed changes would aid in identifying and monitoring lawful passive fishing gear and help facilitate the removal of abandoned gear.”

The proposed changes would require that passive fishing gear have properly marked gear tags and floats attached to aid in distinguishing active fishing gear from abandoned fishing gear and litter. 

These changes include adding a customer number from a valid fishing license on the gear tag and marking all passive fishing gear with floats that are at least six inches in length and not less than three inches in width. 

Floats for recreational anglers can be any color other than orange. 

Commercial fishing license holders will be required to use orange-colored floats.

The changes would also reduce the period of validity for a gear tag from 10 days to four days to shorten the fishing time between angler inspections of their gear. 

Scientific investigations conducted by the department show that fish mortalities as a result of “ghost fishing” (the continuing of effect of unattended passive gears) can increase after four days. 

Such devices can continue to fish and represent a danger to fish and other aquatic organisms when they are abandoned. 

Requiring the gear tag and the accompanying gear to be checked more frequently than 10 days should reduce those unintended mortalities.

Additionally, the removal of abandoned fishing gear will have the additional benefit of reducing threats to human health and safety.

The proposed regulation changes will be available for review in the Sept. 27 edition of the Texas Register. 

The public comment period is open through Nov. 7, when the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission will meet to vote on adopting these changes.

Comments on the proposed changes may be submitted to Jarret Barker by phone 512-389-4853 or email jarret.barker@tpwd.texas.gov

Comments also may be submitted via the department’s website at www.tpwd.texas.gov/business/feedback/public_comment/ or in person at the commission meeting Nov. 7 in Austin.