Management of red drum in a Texas estuary - a case study.
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In September 1974 the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission banned the use of plastic baits on trotlines because these baits were thought to be selective for small (<500 mm) red drum (Sciaenops ocellata). The size of red drum landed by commercial fishermen before (1972-1974) and after (1974-1978) the ban was compared with the size of fish collected during Texas Parks and Wildlife Department trammel net surveys in order to determine whether the ban had any effect on either the commercial catch or fish availability. Fish landed by commercial fishermen were significantly larger after the ban than before; therefore, it appears that elastic baits are selective for small red drum and that the ban resulted in the desired effect. The larger red drum in the commercial landings as compared with trammel net caught fish may have resulted from such factors as fishing method (hook size and bait type), fishing location and/or culling. The reason for the increase in size of trammel net caught red drum after the ban is not clear but may involve a complex series of effects such as year class success, changes in recreational fishing pressure or general decrease in commercial harvest. While this study does not prove conclusively that the ban on plastic baits altered the size composition of commercially harvested red drum, it does indicate that the desired result was achieved. Studies of the effects of management regulations of fish populations are necessary to evaluate the effectiveness of such regulations.