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  1. #1
    SouthTxGatorGarGuide EXTREMEBOWFISHING's Avatar
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    **new texas alligator gar restrictions in the works**

    JUST CAUGHT WORD FROM A FEW PEOPLE AND CONFIRMED WITH TPWD. A MEETING WAS HELD AT FALCON LAKE AND TACKLE REGARDING ALLIGATOR GAR HARVEST BY BOW-FISHERMAN DURING THE SPAWNING MONTHS. NEW REGULATIONS ARE HEADED OUR DIRECTION POSSIBLY SHUTTING OFF HARVEST COMPLETELY DURING MONTHS OF SPAWN. Just spreading the word, anyone catch wind of this yet.

  2. #2
    Big Twisty Sorny's Avatar
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    Not good, several of us from Bowfishers of Nebraska have fished TX for gator gar in the past and plan to in the future as well. Let me know if there is anything we can do!!!
    El Presidente Bowfishers of Nebraska!

  3. #3
    SouthTxGatorGarGuide EXTREMEBOWFISHING's Avatar
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    link to page that has article about meeting http://www.tackleandrods.com/lake/flash.htm its in the first article

  4. #4
    BFZ Thread Starter elmoresho's Avatar
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    I wouldn't know anything about the experience

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  6. #6
    Dogfish Whisperer fishon's Avatar
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    Never good to hear them shutting down times on bowfishing. Hope the best for all of you from Texas. I hope to be able to bowfish for one someday
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  7. #7
    SouthTxGatorGarGuide EXTREMEBOWFISHING's Avatar
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    Quote from article writen about meeting Tpwd was present. Steve Ralls

    "These guys all caught nice fish this week.. And so did some other folks.. Just not a lot of em..

    One thing of note is that maybe a mouse colored spinner or a gold skirt is doing a little better than the generic chart/white..

    There have been more fish caught in areas that might indicate that some movement towards the shallows is taking place. The creek channels on the edges of flooded flats, just off the edges are starting to collect some fish. Typical pre spawn fish..

    It is not unusual for these fish to be here and back off several times each spring, with the passing of major fronts, not unlike the one that is visiting us now.. And again this year it appears that they will be up and down more than a cheap hookers panties..

    A wacky rigged senko is also catching some fish.. Throw it at the base of a hardwood and let it sit.. Roll one up and hit it twice before you move it.. I'm talking about Bugler.. We're not in Colorado..

    Fish it slow..

    The PAW commission board met on Wednesday and Thursday, and they discussed a lot of things.. And during that discussion they talked about and authorized the director to make an "Emergency" regulation to stop the taking of Alligator Gar during the spawn.. If they can figure out when that might take place.

    And all of this is due to the fact that the commissioners on the board have faulty information. I don't fault the board.. All they know is what they are told by the people at inland fisheries.

    And for the most part it is purely conjecture..

    I am not sure what else has to be done to convince them that gar are adversely affecting the fishing on Falcon.

    Our regional PAW biologist, using PAW's numbers, estimates that there are at least 20,000 gar in Falcon.

    Lets say that of the 20,000 gar in the lake, they only eat every other day. So to make it simple then we'll use the number of 10,000 fish in the lake eating every day.. But let's say that only 5% (five percent) of a gars diet is bass.. (which we know is bull**** but that's what we'll say..)

    So if five percent of 10,000 gar eat a bass a day, then that is 500 bass a day being eaten..

    And I am not good at math but I think that adds up to 182,500 bass per year.. And that is only if bass make up 5% of gars diet.. And I refer you to the statement above.. The part about bull****..

    And according to the only serious stomach content study ever done, and that was at Lake Guerrero, done by the Aggies no less, that said stomach contents were about 60% bass.. 60%!! 60 damn Percent!

    Hell.. I'd hate to do the math on that one.. Aw ****.. Let's do it anyway..

    So if 60% of 10,000 gar ate a bass a day.. Let's see.. Naught form Naught... That's 6,000 bass a day! 6,000 times 365 is... 2,190,000 bass per year..

    Holy ****.. Maybe that has something to do with the numbers of bass shocked up being 66% less than a year or so ago.. In back to back studies..

    Now that is hard data.. But the powers that be don't see a correlation there.

    Now I'm not an idiot, (some people might argue) and I know that right now the gar are not eating that many bass.. But two years, three years, and four years ago they were eating bass like Rosie eats Twinkies.. Because we were loaded.. I mean freakin loaded with bass.. Now we are freaking loaded with gar..

    Gar are opportunistic feeders and if there are a lot of bass they are gonna eat a lot of em.. It don't take a biology degree to figure that out..

    Show me some research.. Come on TPWD!! Show me some freaking data to substiantiate your claims..

    You got Nothin..

    And I got a lake full of gar..

    This makes about as much sense as the global warming bull**** or Obammacare.. Stay tuned for more.."

  8. #8
    SouthTxGatorGarGuide EXTREMEBOWFISHING's Avatar
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    article

    Quote from article writen about meeting Tpwd was present. Steve Ralls

    "These guys all caught nice fish this week.. And so did some other folks.. Just not a lot of em..

    One thing of note is that maybe a mouse colored spinner or a gold skirt is doing a little better than the generic chart/white..

    There have been more fish caught in areas that might indicate that some movement towards the shallows is taking place. The creek channels on the edges of flooded flats, just off the edges are starting to collect some fish. Typical pre spawn fish..

    It is not unusual for these fish to be here and back off several times each spring, with the passing of major fronts, not unlike the one that is visiting us now.. And again this year it appears that they will be up and down more than a cheap hookers panties..

    A wacky rigged senko is also catching some fish.. Throw it at the base of a hardwood and let it sit.. Roll one up and hit it twice before you move it.. I'm talking about Bugler.. We're not in Colorado..

    Fish it slow..

    The PAW commission board met on Wednesday and Thursday, and they discussed a lot of things.. And during that discussion they talked about and authorized the director to make an "Emergency" regulation to stop the taking of Alligator Gar during the spawn.. If they can figure out when that might take place.

    And all of this is due to the fact that the commissioners on the board have faulty information. I don't fault the board.. All they know is what they are told by the people at inland fisheries.

    And for the most part it is purely conjecture..

    I am not sure what else has to be done to convince them that gar are adversely affecting the fishing on Falcon.

    Our regional PAW biologist, using PAW's numbers, estimates that there are at least 20,000 gar in Falcon.

    Lets say that of the 20,000 gar in the lake, they only eat every other day. So to make it simple then we'll use the number of 10,000 fish in the lake eating every day.. But let's say that only 5% (five percent) of a gars diet is bass.. (which we know is bull**** but that's what we'll say..)

    So if five percent of 10,000 gar eat a bass a day, then that is 500 bass a day being eaten..

    And I am not good at math but I think that adds up to 182,500 bass per year.. And that is only if bass make up 5% of gars diet.. And I refer you to the statement above.. The part about bull****..

    And according to the only serious stomach content study ever done, and that was at Lake Guerrero, done by the Aggies no less, that said stomach contents were about 60% bass.. 60%!! 60 damn Percent!

    Hell.. I'd hate to do the math on that one.. Aw ****.. Let's do it anyway..

    So if 60% of 10,000 gar ate a bass a day.. Let's see.. Naught form Naught... That's 6,000 bass a day! 6,000 times 365 is... 2,190,000 bass per year..

    Holy ****.. Maybe that has something to do with the numbers of bass shocked up being 66% less than a year or so ago.. In back to back studies..

    Now that is hard data.. But the powers that be don't see a correlation there.

    Now I'm not an idiot, (some people might argue) and I know that right now the gar are not eating that many bass.. But two years, three years, and four years ago they were eating bass like Rosie eats Twinkies.. Because we were loaded.. I mean freakin loaded with bass.. Now we are freaking loaded with gar..

    Gar are opportunistic feeders and if there are a lot of bass they are gonna eat a lot of em.. It don't take a biology degree to figure that out..

    Show me some research.. Come on TPWD!! Show me some freaking data to substiantiate your claims..

    You got Nothin..

    And I got a lake full of gar..

    This makes about as much sense as the global warming bull**** or Obammacare.. Stay tuned for more.."

  9. #9
    Double Tapped! Joe Nichols's Avatar
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    Who ever wrote that article sounds like they want Gar shot? Did I read that wrong?


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  10. #10
    I got shafted! steven's Avatar
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    TPWD are dicks when it comes to pushing anti bowfishing legislation. They are also getting pressured hard from rough fish r&r anglers. I know they read these forums and that's why it scares the hell out of me to see some of the things that get posted.

  11. #11
    The pepper peddler Stickemdeep's Avatar
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    Well crap this ain't good
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  12. #12
    SouthTxGatorGarGuide EXTREMEBOWFISHING's Avatar
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    Article was written by someone on our side tpwd is trying to stop the harvest

  13. #13
    I got shafted!
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    It is a blog written by Falcon Lake Tackle. He writes very interesting blogs about the gar and the lake. In just about every blog, he has been begging bowfishermen to come down there and kill all the gator gar for a long time. He has done some ride-alongs with TPWD and done surveys of alligator gar.

  14. #14
    I got shafted! Missile's Avatar
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    I think ark has a closed spawn season also may 1st-July 1st.
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  15. #15
    No mention of TPWD anywhere of this. He said PAW commission, whoever that is, unless he means Parks And Wildlife.
    TBA is currently checking on this rumor and will keep everyone informed. I will say, that if this is true we will need strong
    numbers in TBA. At this point we are at an all time low on members. Even with the inclusion of Lone Star Bowhunters and Traditional Bowhunters of Texas we would be well below what is needed to fight CCA or even BASS (which they may be on our side)

  16. #16
    that would be bad for are plans this year

  17. #17
    I got shafted! mx1alex's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Missile View Post
    I think ark has a closed spawn season also may 1st-July 1st.
    If that's true I wonder how it will affect the US Open since it falls within those dates and some of Bull Shoals and Table Rock are in Arkansas.

  18. #18
    SouthTxGatorGarGuide EXTREMEBOWFISHING's Avatar
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    I spoke with ken kersawski with tpwd. This is not a rumor here is his direct contact info 512-389-4591

  19. #19
    Big Twisty Sorny's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mx1alex View Post
    If that's true I wonder how it will affect the US Open since it falls within those dates and some of Bull Shoals and Table Rock are in Arkansas.
    I think thats just for Gator Gar harvest.
    El Presidente Bowfishers of Nebraska!

  20. #20
    I got shafted! DOMESHOT's Avatar
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    I was planing on going south in April !!! This is really going to hurt us
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  21. #21
    Old Goat CRACKCORN's Avatar
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    I thought the blog was just talking about doing this on Falcon lake. Maybe I'm reading it wrong.

  22. #22
    I got shafted! Missile's Avatar
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    Sorry I was referring to gator gar
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  23. #23
    I got shafted!
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    But back here at Falcon, we are still open for business, due to nothing but luck and location..

    And if you have been paying attention you will remember that I was talking about the TPWD coming down this week to do a study on the alligator gar. Well they did.. And we were involved.. All the way down to the slime..

    We put out some gill nets to see what we could catch. And these were not your run of the mill gill nets. These were heavy duty nylon, two hundred feet long, with 4" webbing, and floating nylon top ropes.. If these gill nets were trucks they'd have balls hanging under the back bumper.. They were stout..

    We set them out in about a twenty acre area in Goose Bay, the southernmost creek in the Tiger trilogy.. So keep in mind that we were checking a minuscule area of the lake.

    We observed the area for a while, and saw a lot of surface activity. And there had been a lot of reports of gar hanging out in this area as of late.. But I hear that from a lot of places.. We picked it because of the reports and because of it's semi-protected location from high winds, if they decided to blow.

    We set four nets and monitored them for several hours. And although we saw a lot of gar activity on top, we captured no fish.

    We left the four nets out overnight in about a ten acre area. Three in open water about ten to twelve feet deep, and one in a wooded flat about six to eight feet deep.

    The next morning we had fifteen gar in the nets.. None in the shallow net.. So we set four more in the same general area encompassing about a twenty acre area.

    During the course of the day, nine more fish were caught. And four nets were left out the second night, that yielded only four more fish.

    So in all we collected twenty eight fish, from about thirty pounds to a bit over a hundred. I am not sure that a true giant could get caught in these nets.. But he could get tangled I guess.. Most all of these gar were caught around the gills.. Guess that's why they call em gill nets..

    All fish were brought to the shop and processed, which included aging and sexing, (not to be confused with sexting, although we did take a lot of pics..) We also weighed, measured, and checked stomach contents.

    We found most every kind of fish in their stomachs, but many fish had nothing in their bellies at all. We found mostly carp, some tilapia and bass, and some big gizzard shad. Which confirms what I believed, that gar are pretty much gonna eat what they can catch. I doubt if they have very discretionary pallets when it comes to eating.. If they can catch it, they'll eat it.. Other studies in the past have shown that they prefer black bass..

    And you know that I believe that.

    And there is no doubt that they are the ultimate predator on Falcon. Or most any freshwater lake for that matter.

    And if I took anything away from this adventure it is that it has overwhelmingly confirmed to me that we have an incredible population of gar. And a bunch of big ones..

    And even after removing these fish from this one section, there was still a lot of surface activity in the area. And we were working a very small area of the lake, when you consider the size of Falcon, even at this level.

    Here's a few Pics of the carnage..

    I'll be back up to speed before long..




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  24. #24
    SouthTxGatorGarGuide EXTREMEBOWFISHING's Avatar
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    weigh em.JPG

    Boatload.JPG

    Pullemin.JPG

    pics from study by tpwd

  25. #25
    team bloody decks Delawareriver's Avatar
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    T shirts and shorts! I miss those warm days. Thanks for the information
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  26. #26
    I got shafted! steven's Avatar
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    A long read, but I'd bet our days of fishing for gator gar in Texas are numbered. They even out right say that the current harvest is sustainable for the population yet they are pushing this crap anyway.

    TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION

    NOVEMBER 7, 2013

    TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT
    COMMISSION HEARING ROOM
    4200 SMITH SCHOOL ROAD
    AUSTIN, TEXAS 78744

    COMMISSION MEETING

    MR. DAUGHERTY: Good morning, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Dan Daugherty. I'm one of the research biologists at Heart of the Hills Fisheries Science Center with our Inland Fisheries Division and I'm pleased to be here this morning to provide you guys this update. I apologize in advance because I'll be pointing at this screen back here because it's the only one that we all can see from time to time.

    I know a number of you are new to the Commission since the last briefing, which I believe was in November of 2010; so I just wanted to begin by briefly mentioning why Alligator Gar are really an important fisheries resource here in Texas. First, the species has undergone a significant range reduction. You can see in blue the historic range encompassed 14 U.S. states and the Gulf Coast of Mexico. Yellow you see here is the current distribution of the species, including eight states in the U.S. and the Gulf Coast of Mexico.

    So most of the Midwest drainages they're now extirpated from. Fortunately, Louisiana and Texas are two definite stronghold states for Alligator Gar that remain in the United States; but really what makes Texas unique is that we have continued trophy fishing opportunities in Texas. Louisiana, while they're ubiquitous throughout the state, they are commercially fished and remain recreationally unmanaged. So we're the only state that really provides both a large number of populations and the trophy fishing quality.

    So in an effort to keep that trophy potential here in Texas, we began managing Alligator Gar actively in 2009 with the institution of the one per day regulation. Within our Inland Fisheries Division, we prioritized Alligator Gar as a species for research and management and we identified the particular data needs that we really needed to address going forward with our management, what the critical data needs were.

    Some of those are what I'm going to talk about today. They include estimating harvest, quantifying reproduction of Alligator Gar in our systems, understanding habitat use and movement patterns in our systems, and determining the appropriate geographic scale of management. That's a new area that we're getting in to, and I'll talk about that at the very end.

    To this end, we've conducted a number of experiments in a number of systems, number of studies, special management projects with our management staff, research projects within our research program to address these data needs and that's what will be the focus of the talk today. So the first thing I want to talk about was estimating harvest. The first thing you need to do though is to put harvest into some kind of context so we know what is sustainable. So the first thing we had to do was develop a population model and so what we're doing is taking information like life span, the rate at which the fish die, the growth rate of the fish, and then also harvest, fecundity, the number of eggs produced, the survival of those offspring, so on and so forth and we put that into a population model and if we keep everything constant except for harvest, we can simulate what happens when we change harvest on the population.

    And you'll see here in this picture -- well, I'll come back here. You have time and years here across the X axis and the number of fish in the population across -- along the Y. The three trajectory lines that you're seeing on that graph are showing the change in population abundance at three different harvest rates and those are 5, 10, and 15 percent. You can see that if we harvest at 5 percent per year, the population is able to maintain itself. Essentially, that's a harvestable -- sustainable harvest rate.

    Whereas when you increase harvest to 10 and 15 percent, we see appreciable declines over time in those populations and we're talking at 10 percent harvest, that's about a 50 percent decline in fish numbers over a 25-year period and at 15 percent harvest, we talking about over a 70 percent decline over a 25-year period.

    These are very low harvest rates. When you think about bass, you think about Crappie, you think about other species, catfish, typical harvest rates for those species are 20 to 50 percent. So we're showing really very, very sensitive -- that Alligator Gar are very, very sensitive to overharvest and so maintaining a sustainable harvest level is very important.

    So given that graph was showing us that our harvest goal was 5 percent or less, that was a rate that was sustainable. With that, we can now go out into the populations and determine what our harvest rates are currently and how we do this is typically tag release return studies and you can see in that upper picture, that's an Alligator Gar with the -- with what's called Floy tag or a spaghetti tag and we go out and we tag a large number of fish, release them back into the population, and then solicit our anglers at -- through the media and through boat launch signs such as you see in the lower picture, to report tag returns -- or to report catches of those tagged fish back.

    And so for every 100 fish that we have tagged out in the population, the number of fish that come back reported from anglers gives us an idea of harvest or exploitation. We've conducted those estimates in three systems -- the trinity, both in the Middle Trinity and the Lower Trinity; the Middle Brazos; as well as Choke Canyon Reservoir. And you'll that all of our current rates of harvest are below that 5 percent threshold that we were talking about before. The Trinity is 2 to 4 percent, Brazos is right around 2 percent, Choke Canyon is at 2 percent.

    So currently, we believe that our one Alligator Gar per day limit is effective at the current rates of harvest. However, that doesn't mean that future harvest rates are going to continue to increase. We know that our popularity of our fisheries is increasing. Excitement and popularity of Alligator Gar as a species, as a destination fishery in Texas. We know that our current -- our harvest levels in the future may continue to rise, so it's very critical that we continue to monitor harvest rates as we progress in time.

    The next thing I wanted to talk about was quantify and reproduction and what we really need to know related to that is how often are Alligator Gar spawning, how variable are those spawning events from year to year, and what kind of factors, environmental factors, in the system are influencing the success of those year classes or that reproduction effort in a given year.

    And so over the last few years, we have developed the techniques. I'm not going to talk in great detail about this because I don't have time, but we've developed the techniques to be able to accurately age Alligator Gar and when you can accurately age Alligator Gar, you can take a sample of fish, you can age each individual fish, and you can put that -- you can put that into a year class. So a three-year-old fish caught in 2013 was produced in 2010. So we can put -- you take a sample and you can compartmentalize each individual based on the age into what year class it was part of.

    And what you're seeing here is essentially an age distribution that's compartmentalized into what year those fish were produced and so the larger -- you start to -- you can take this and turn it into a reproductive success measure. So the larger bars are showing years there was really good reproduction going on. The small bars, obviously very weak production going on. Somewhere in the middle is an average over time.

    And so we've done this for the trinity River. We've aged over 100 fish in that system and there's some really interesting data to point out in this illustration, which I'm going to talk about now. The first thing I would like to call your attention to is this is a 46-year chronology. So the oldest fish that we've aged in this sample was 46 years old and that's bringing you back into the 1960s. And what you can see first is there are 17 missing bars on that graph out of the 46 years. So 37 percent of the time, either reproduction did not occur or reproduction was completely unsuccessful. So four out of every ten years, Alligator Gar in the Trinity River, based on our samples so far, have not had successful reproduction.

    The next thing I would like to point out is that if you look kind of over time --

  27. #27
    I got shafted! steven's Avatar
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    COMMISSIONER JONES: Say what you just said again. I'm sorry. Just say that statistic.

    MR. DAUGHERTY: The last point?

    COMMISSIONER JONES: Yeah, one more time.

    MR. DAUGHERTY: Okay. There's 17 missing year classes on here. If you look at the graph, there's 17 times where there's no yellow bars. So what that's telling you is, is that based on our sample, no reproduction -- either no reproduction occurred in that year or the reproduction that did occur was unsuccessful. So four out of every -- that's 37 percent of the time, which is roughly four out of every ten years on average.

    COMMISSIONER JONES: Okay.

    MR. DAUGHERTY: The next thing I would like to point out is that if you look over time, trends and time, you see that prior to 1990, we had a rather abundant string of strong year classes. From 1964 to 1990, there was -- there were nine strong -- very strong year classes produced. If you look in the 23 years since then, which is roughly about the same amount of time, we're talking about two and particularly one really strong year class produced in 2007.

    So what that's telling us is that in recent history, we've had frequently less strong reproduction. The last 20 years or so has been really supported by one strong year class of Alligator Gar in that system. The other thing I pointed out was it's important for us to look at influential factors of things that we think are influencing the spawning success of Alligator Gar.

    One thing that we noticed is there appears to be some pretty strong links to hydrology in the system or how often the system is flooding or water levels in the system. You can see here is a couple illustrations in recent history. 2007 was that very strong year class that I talked about that's pretty much supported the population over the last 20 years in terms of new recruits to the stock. That was the year we had very high water levels in the spring and spring is the spawning time for Alligator Gar. We show that as a very strong signal in the population age distribution. However, the years that follow -- '09, '10, and 2011, drought years we're all quite familiar with that. We have very, very, very little production of Alligator Gar. So it alludes to strong links between hydrology and reproductive success of Alligator Gar.

    The next study that I want to talk about, which also has some links to hydrology, is a habitat moving -- habitat and movement study that we conducted in the Lower Trinity River in 2009. The Lower Trinity River being, just for clarity, being the Livingston Dam tail race to the Coast. So 180 kilometers or 110 miles roughly of river there. We tagged 51 fish with these telemetry tags you can see in this picture. That allows us to follow the fish around in the system for the duration of the study, and we did that for a 22-month period.

    And what we found, a lot of the behavior and movement that we saw of fish, habitat use behavior and movement that we saw for the fish that we had tagged was really related to flows. And so there's another, you know, mention of hydrologic links. In normal -- under normal flow conditions, main channel pool habitats, so the deeper water. You can see here in yellow on these channel bends and so on and so forth, were very important habitat for Alligator Gar. An individual would move between pool habitats over a home range of roughly 37 miles of river or roughly a third of the river reached.

    The interesting thing was in the winter in the cold water period, those fish would also use main channel pools during normal flow conditions; but they would select a single pool and pretty much spend the entire winter there. So it shows the importance of these pools for over wintering habitats. Fish are very lethargic. Probably not moving around, not feeding. These are areas that are providing them protection from current and so on and so forth at those low metabolism periods.

    During high flow, we saw a completely different pattern of habitat use. As you can see in the picture, those fish would use the highlighted habitats in yellow. When the water would -- when the water levels would increase and the banks would flood, it would flood old channels like this Oxbow lake here in yellow. Those fish would move out of the main channel and utilize those Oxbow habitats or off on the floodplain. And what those really provide is velocity refusal. The velocity in the main channel of the river under flood conditions is very, very high. Those fish would move to the off channel areas where the flow rates were reduced. Another thing important in terms of reproduction is when those flow rates occurred in the spring and those habitats would flood in the springtime, they provided important connections to optimal spawning habitat and in this inset picture, you can see what really kind of constitutes optimal spawning habitat for Alligator Gar.

    These back water areas, low velocity, flooded vegetation, that occurring during a warm water period in the spring when the temperatures are optimal for spawning are absolutely important. And likely, this is what the scenario was in 2007 when we produced a strong year class. Likely, these areas that you see in the picture now would be dry when we don't have high flow events.

    The last thing I want to talk about is a new area of research for us that's come kind of as a result of some of the results of the studies that I've talked about already, is the management scale for Alligator Gar. I mean the question we're talking about specifically is at what geographic scale do we need to manage these populations?

    We can use some of that information I just talked about to kind of illustrate why this is important. If you look at the distribution of the fish that we had tagged in our telemetry studies, so each of these little black dots that you see is a location that a fish was tagged in that study, tagged and released. We had essentially a Upper River Group and a Lower River Group and those fish pretty much stayed in the those areas for the entire 22- month study period.

    So essentially, the Upper River fish never interacted with the Lower River fish. Conversely, the Lower River fish never really interacted with the Upper River fish. So one question we have is do we have distinct groups within -- along that river continuum such that we would want to be managing those groups independently?

    The other interesting thing that we came across is these few fish that were tagged, I think there were six individuals total that were tagged in the very lower portion of the Trinity River, 78 percent of those fish ventured out into Trinity and Galveston Bay at some point during the study. That we thought was kind of curious since we think of Alligator Gar is a freshwater fish for the most part, they appear to be using the saltwater habitats. And so we started investigating this a little farther talking to the Coastal Fisheries folks and Coastal Fisheries, as you know, has a long-term gillnet data set that they collect in the spring and fall every year and low and behold, the gillnet efforts in Galveston Bay have netted over 2,000 Alligator Gar in the coastal habitats over the last 25 years.

    And so we started looking beyond that. Well, what did we see on the other -- you know, all the bay systems. They've netted over 24,000 Alligator Gar in the coastal bays in the last 25 years. So there's a lot of Alligator Gar in our coastal habitats. Not just our freshwater rivers and reservoirs as well. And so in our lower river systems that are directly connected to these bay habitats, you know, we don't know how -- we don't know how the -- these river fish and these bay fish are interacting.

    It may be that they are distinct populations. It may be that the river fish are utilizing habitats in the bay that are critical for the river populations to persist or vice versa. So we're very interested in trying to figure out what scale of management we should be working with here. Is it a whole system level or some localized level related to that?

    So going forward, we're going to continue to monitor harvest of Alligator Gar. That's critical to maintaining our trophy fishery quality. We're going to work -- continue to work on determining the flow rates in our river systems that ensure periodic successful reproduction of Alligator Gar and the results of that study I just talked about, which by the way is going to be conducted in another system that we'll be able to characterize, we're going to do that in the Lower Guadalupe and San Antonio Bay system. That will address our needs to be able to understand managing at the proper geographic scale for Alligator Gar.

    And with that, I really thank you for your time and interest and I'll be happy to answer any questions you have.

  28. #28
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    COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Commissioner Scott.

    COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Just a quick comment. Whenever y'all go to catch some of these and stuff, I grew up down there in that part of the world. I'd be interested in going out. I might drag another Commissioner.

    MR. DAUGHERTY: Okay.

    COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: How old do these Gars get to be? What's their natural life pattern, I guess?

    MR. DAUGHERTY: Well, interesting enough, a couple years ago there was one that was -- it was actually caught in a gillnet in Mississippi and they sent the -- well, let me back up a second. The way you have to age these fish is using the otoliths and so what you do is you have to sacrifice the fish and you essentially cut the skull open. It's essentially the inner ear bone, equivalent to the inner ear bone. Take that piece, take that structure out. You section it. You look at it under a microscope and they have what are called annuli, just like tree rings. And so you have to count up the tree rings and it gives you the age.

    This fish I was speaking about in Mississippi was caught in a gillnet. I can't -- does anyone know the length on that? Nine, eight, close to nine feet in length, 346 pounds or something like that. It was just huge. And they actually sent the otoliths to our Heart of the Hills Fisheries Science Center to have it aged and we aged -- two individuals aged it. One aged it at 90 years old. One at 94.

    COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Wow.

    COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: Wow.

    MR. DAUGHERTY: So, yeah. Independent ages, so we know it was -- it was a geezer. There's no doubt about that. We have aged fish in Texas up to 60, but they are definitely one of the most long-lived fish out there.

    COMMISSIONER JONES: A couple of questions. Have you done any study or are you doing any study of the fish in inland waters? Not rivers, but lakes --

    MR. DAUGHERTY: Yes.

    COMMISSIONER JONES: -- and ponds and whatnot?

    MR. DAUGHERTY: Yes. If you recall from the slide that I gave on that different harvest estimates, Choke Canyon Reservoir was on that list. We have just completed three years of market capture on Choke Canyon Reservoir. We tagged I think 676 fish in three years in that system.

    COMMISSIONER JONES: Do they -- are they a predator to other fish in -- particular on inland waters and ponds and whatnot?

    MR. DAUGHERTY: Alligator Gar are definitely are piscivorous. Meaning that their diet is other fish and probably small mammals and ducks and all kinds of things. They are an apex predator. You know, similar to a shark in a marine environment. The information -- I mean, you know, this is not a well-studied species. You know, this interest in Alligator Gar has really kind of ramped up in the last 10 to 20 years; so we don't have that really long, long, long history like Largemouth bass management or research.

    However, there have been three or four studies of diet for Alligator Gar and the credible research out there suggests that they are an opportunistic feeder. And really what that essentially means is, is that they are feeding -- their diet is consisting of what is available in the environment proportionally speaking. So if you have a large number of forage fish and very few sport fish, which is typically -- you know, there's typically a large base of forage and a lower base of sport fish. You would see that in the diet. The Alligator Gar would be eating a large number of foraged, relatively few sport fish. They're not targeting any particular species. They may -- there have been some data out there on White bass in the springtime when White bass congregate in the upper portions of reservoirs, you may see an uptick in the diet in White bass; but it's just an opportunity thing.

    So to answer your question, yes, they do -- I mean they obviously do eat fish. The favorite diet items based on research has been rough fish; so carp -- nonsupport species, carp, buffalo, sucker, freshwater drum are probably the top four species that Alligator Gar are known to eat.

    COMMISSIONER JONES: And I guess to follow up, have we determined one way or the other whether if you stock, for instance, a private tank, pond, whatnot and there's Alligator Gar present, whether they will consume what you've stocked, whether it's catfish or bass or whatever, I mean?

    MR. DAUGHERTY: I can't say that we would know that for sure. I don't think there's been any data out there to say one way or another in that particular instance. If you're talking particularly about our State stockings of reservoirs, I doubt there would be much issue between Alligator Gar and the stocked individuals because of the fact that usually our stockings are conducted into complex habitat; so it's providing cover to the -- let's say, for instance, we stock, you know, fingerlings of Largemouth bass. Those individuals are stocked into cover. So Alligator Gar typically are not found in the dense cover. They're found out in the open -- more open pelagic water and so likely the fish being stocked into the habitat, the complex habitat, they're not going to interact that much.

    COMMISSIONER JONES: Well, I'm curious about this because during the last -- during the -- well, I guess we're still in a drought. But during the summer, couple of summers ago when we got literally no rain and lakes, ponds, and whatnot dried up all over the state, the pictures that you-all have in the hallway out here, I have a lake that did that in my hometown on my family's place and the last fish standing were the Gar.

    MR. DAUGHERTY: Right. Doesn't surprise me in the least. I mean you --

    COMMISSIONER JONES: And what's interesting about that is I was particularly interested when you were indicating that, you know, you were discovering that they -- we thought they were freshwater, but now looks like they may be able to survive in saltwater, brackish, and freshwater.

    MR. DAUGHERTY: Uh-huh, right.

    COMMISSIONER JONES: And, again, during that drought, they were the last fish in the little puddle as big as -- as big around as that --

    MR. DAUGHERTY: Right.

    COMMISSIONER JONES: -- area of the --

    MR. DAUGHERTY: Yes, sir.

    COMMISSIONER JONES: -- floor, probably 3 feet by 4 feet and the water was only --

    MR. DAUGHERTY: Inches deep.

    COMMISSIONER JONES: -- 2 inches deep, 3 inches deep. You could see their backs, you know, and very little oxygen in there obviously; but they were surviving.

    MR. DAUGHERTY: The other interesting thing is Alligator Gar do breathe atmospheric oxygen.

    COMMISSIONER JONES: I believe that.

    MR. DAUGHERTY: Yeah. Oh, yeah.

    COMMISSIONER JONES: Because there was a trail. There was -- I think they walk because -- I'm not kidding you. There was a trail in the mud about 2 inches deep from where one apparently was outside of this little puddle of water and --

    MR. DAUGHERTY: He made is way back in?

    COMMISSIONER JONES: -- he made his way. You could see the trail where he made his way over to the little mud puddle. So I'm sitting there thinking how did he get from there to there because there's no water? But you could definitely see the trail that he made to get to the water source.

  29. #29
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    MR. DAUGHERTY: Yeah.

    COMMISSIONER JONES: So they are a fascinating fish.

    MR. DAUGHERTY: They are. They are.

    COMMISSIONER JONES: But I am concerned because if -- I'm concerned about whether if they populate a lake, a pond, a whatnot, will they eventually consume all of the fish, the other fish that are in there?

    MR. DAUGHERTY: Just thinking primarily from a biological standpoint, typically that doesn't occur because essentially it's -- I mean it's detrimental to the stock of fish. If they eat themselves -- literally eat themselves out of house and home, you know, they're just -- they have nothing else to eat, so typically that doesn't occur. In a small, very enclosed --

    COMMISSIONER JONES: Well, if you would like a place -- if you would like a place to study that, I've got a place for you because I have no doubt that when the rains came back, the first fish that popped out of wherever they hid their, you know, larva or whatever it is they do --

    MR. DAUGHERTY: Right.

    COMMISSIONER JONES: -- I have no doubt they're back in there.

    MR. DAUGHERTY: I believe it. I believe it. I mean, well, and you know as we've talked about before, you know, the -- when you have a high flow event or you have connection of things like ponds to, you know -- where did the water come from that filled your pond? I mean it must have -- it came from a stream or --

    COMMISSIONER JONES: There's an artesian well.

    MR. DAUGHERTY: Okay.

    COMMISSIONER JONES: But the evaporation of the drought zapped the water.

    MR. DAUGHERTY: Oh, okay.

    COMMISSIONER JONES: It couldn't -- it couldn't sustain the lake.

    MR. DAUGHERTY: Right. Well, you get a -- you know, like we said before, when you get a high flow event, rain event connects, you know, rivers and ponds and backwater areas and so on and so forth, that is a key a lot of times for fish like Alligator Gar to move up into those areas. A lot of times they get -- they move up in those areas. They stay there. They may spawn. They may just take advantage of those areas for the low velocity that -- you know, getting out of the high flow event in the river. And then they lose the connection when the water goes back down and they're essentially stranded and that's -- I'm sure that's exactly what you've seen and maybe some young fish, too, if the spawning -- if the high flow event occurred during a spawning period.

    And they will -- I will put my last paycheck on the fact that they'll be the last fish in the water if you don't get another connecting event. No doubt.

    COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Bill, are you sure yours were Alligator Gar and not Longnosed or Spotted?

    COMMISSIONER JONES: No, I think they were -- they were Alligator Gar. I'm positive.

    COMMISSIONER SCOTT: How much wine was involved on that?

    COMMISSIONER JONES: No, no. I've got --

    COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: Before the fish started walking, how much wine was involved?

    COMMISSIONER JONES: I've got pictures to prove it. I'm telling you that fish -- I thought somebody had taken a motorcycle and driven out across the -- I said, well, who's been out in the middle of this lake and I look in the little water.

    COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Commissioner Morian I think has comments or questions.

    COMMISSIONER MORIAN: I've got a couple of questions. Are you monitoring the method of harvest at all?

    MR. DAUGHERTY: We are doing some. Dan Bennett, who is one of our management biologists over in Tyler, conducted -- has been working really close with a lot of the boat fishing clubs over there on the Trinity River over the last four to five years and he's collected some pretty interesting data. He conducted an angler survey -- well, he conducted a survey, an angler survey, over there and based on the results of his survey, suggested about 70 -- 77, I want to say, percent of the Alligator Gar harvest was by bow anglers. The remaining --

    COMMISSIONER MORIAN: 70 percent?

  30. #30
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    MR. DAUGHERTY: 77 percent. The remaining 23 percent was hook and line, jug line, so on and so forth, yeah. So the majority of our effort is definitely coming from the bow angling community.

    COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Well, I've seen an increase in traffic on the Trinity River where the bow hunters are looking for the trophy Gar and, you know, harvesting the oldest. I don't know enough about them to know if that's sustainable, but it looks like there's going to be a problem at some point if you can take one Gar a day and all you're taking with a bow, obviously it's a terminal event. But taking the oldest fish, it seems like that's going to be a problem sooner than later; so we need to look, at some point, look at method of harvest I would think and then also look at the size and the number.

    MR. DAUGHERTY: Right.

    COMMISSIONER MORIAN: And be interesting to see what your studies, the future. I find it very interesting, which leads to my next question. It looks like putting this data out to the fishing community as we learn about these fish, would be an important component because people don't know about them. I mean they don't know that fish might be 60 years old.

    MR. DAUGHERTY: We've done a lot of out -- we've tried our best to do a lot of outreach events.

    COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Yeah.

    MR. DAUGHERTY: It came from the very start, even the ones that I did myself, the personal experience I can speak from, a lot of people didn't even realize there was a difference between an Alligator Gar and Longnose Gar and Spotted Gar. I mean they thought a Gar was a Gar was a Gar and, you know, they're very different life histories. You know, we never -- well, I shouldn't say never. But we have not seen any issues in terms of spawning success or population declines for the Longnose and Spotted Gar; but, you know, Alligator Gar are a completely different beast.

    COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Completely different, yeah.

    MR. DAUGHERTY: And people don't realize there's a difference between the species is where we were really running into problems. Because a lot of times with people -- you know, we'll say, you know, they don't reproduce successfully every year and we might get a year class every, you know, ten years or whatever and they say, oh, I see small Gar every year, every year I'm not fishing I see small Gar. And I'm like, yeah, but, you know, they're not Alligator Gar probably and --

    COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Well, I can see putting out printed material into the fishing community that -- identification, the difference in life span.

    MR. DAUGHERTY: And people are very interested when you start talking to them about it.

    COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Yep.

    MR. DAUGHERTY: It's amazing, you know. They show an appreciation for it, definitely.

    COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Okay, that's my comment. Thank you.

    COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Commissioner Scott.

    COMMISSIONER SCOTT: When I grew up down in Port Arthur, we had Alligator Gar in the bayou and it ran between the Texaco and Gulf Oil refinery and that was way before there was any Water Quality Act or anything. So that bayou was actually -- I mean there was crude oil flowing down and the only thing alive was Alligator Gar, so I actually was joking. They are tough critters.

    MR. DAUGHERTY: Yeah, yeah, they definitely are.

    COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Anybody else have comments or questions? If you go to your slides, you've got the one of my son in there, which I want to --

    MR. DAUGHERTY: Oh, did we? I didn't...

    MR. SMITH: Yeah, sure, Dan. Feign surprise.

    COMMISSIONER LEE: How did that get in there?

    COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Go to the Alligator Gar.

    COMMISSIONER JONES: Is there a lawsuit to follow?

    COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: No, no lawsuit. But I want to mention this because of Reed's I thought very on the -- to the mark comments. This is my son Phillip last June and this was a trip on the Lower Trinity and that's about a six-and-a-half foot Gar that he caught with a rod and reel and we released it, of course. But what was interesting was the guide who took us, used to be a bow guide and once he got educated to Reed's point about that fish being somewhere -- Craig Bonds, who was along as an observer to make sure that we didn't break the law, estimated that fish to be 40 to 50 years old.

    Well, you can't keep killing fish like that and not eventually have this thing collapse. Particularly where your spawn rates show from '07 forward, we haven't had a spawn and the spawns between '07 and before were very weak going back for almost ten years.

    MR. DAUGHERTY: Yeah, to about 1990.

    COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: So I think your comments, Reed, are really important that we remain very vigilante about killing these by bow. Catching them with a rod and reel is -- I mean it's fantastic fun, and these are beautiful fish. This doesn't really give you the color of this fish. I mean it is a beautiful fish. It's a prehistoric looking creature and it's -- why kill these fish just to kill them?

    It just doesn't -- I have a real concern that that's sports -- that's what we ought to be promoting and so I -- and also it concerns me given the spawn, the difficulties of Alligator Gar spawning, that we really stay on top of this so we don't find ourselves like Louisiana is now where they've got a lot of Gar; but they're all 2, 3, 4 feet and nothing in the 5, 6, 7, 8 feet and on range.

    And another thing that when we got our first major presentation on this, which I think was in May 2009, one of the things that Phil Durocher talked about doing was identifying spawning habitats and coming back with recommendations about whether we essentially make those off limits. And your presentation, this isn't a criticism, didn't really deal with that; but if you go to the slide, I want everybody to look at this, it's the one that says management goal, maintain existing...

    MR. DAUGHERTY: This one?

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