By JIM FOSTER
Special to the Parade
It’s that time again, beginning on February 17 and continuing through February 26, all Texas bays will be closed for crabbing. As in past years, any traps left in the water will be assumed to be abandoned and considered “litter” under state law, allowing volunteers to legally remove any crab traps they find despite the trap’s age.
Each year, Texas game wardens remove more than 2,500 illegal traps but there are many more still in the water to tangle fishermen’s lines, trap game fish and crabs through what biologists call “ghost fishing,” snag bay shrimpers’ nets and create an unsightly view of Texas shores. This not even mentioning the ones hit by flats boats running in shallow water.
In short these traps are a hazard for anyone on the bays and kill many game and non-game species. For example, in 2004 just one abandoned trap found in Corpus Christi Bay contained nine sheepshead, seven Gulf toadfish, six mangrove snapper, four black drum and three Atlantic spadefish, all dead.
Last year, volunteers, with the aid of numerous sponsors, removed roughly 1,400 traps. Each of those three-by-three-by-two foot commercially made traps is capable of holding and eventually killing numerous organisms, from crabs to fish to diamond terrapins.
The Coastal Conservation Association Texas, Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Program, and the Galveston Bay Foundation are providing needed support to the crab trap removal program. Additional donations came from numerous organizations and companies.
This year marks the 11th anniversary of Texas Parks and Wildlife, (TPW’s) Abandoned Crab Trap Removal Program, which since 2002 has led to the collection of more than 29,000 wire mesh traps, primarily on the mid and upper coast.
The bottom line is that if you’re a saltwater angler and don’t like the idea of hundreds of abandoned crab traps catching and killing game fish you could have landed, there is something you can do. You can be one of the hundreds volunteers willing to help get rid of these derelict traps along the coast.
Helping the volunteer trap removal program, TPW will provide trap drop-off sites at several locations in each major bay system along the coast starting Feb. 18, from 8 a.m. to noon, depending on the weather. Additionally, at all sites, dumpsters marked with banners will be available to receive traps for the duration of the closure.
It must be noted that traps cannot be removed prior to Feb. 17 or after Feb. 26. Volunteers working on their own are asked to report where and how many traps you collected so the department can keep track of the total number of traps removed.
For more information about the Abandoned Crab Trap Removal Program and how you can volunteer, contact your local TPW Coastal Fisheries Office or Art Morris at the Corpus Christi Field Station: (361) 825-3356 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Drop-off sites are as follows and the Lower Laguna Madre Contact is Mark Lingo at (956) 350-4490.
Adolfe Thomae County Park at Arroyo City is the trap drop-off site as well as the Port Mansfield Navigation District Ramp in Port Mansfield.