May 16, 2011
Hold them nets, that is. Maybe it's time we play our cards like the Texans. No fish taken in a net may be sold there. End of story.
No need to fret and fuss and have hissy fits (heard of those?) over every new loophole the commercials dream up in their endless attempts to get around Florida's gillnet ban of '95.
We now wind up with netting laws either being broken blatantly or bent into legal pretzels that leave even law enforcement folks in a don't-quite-know paralysis.
The problem is worsened by nutso positions from a handful of rural judges and legislators who plainly want large-scale netting continued at any cost, and with no regard for the overall abundance of fish populations.
Bottom line: Commercials want to take those wild animals and sell 'em. Daddy did it, and we have every right to do the same.
Well, Texas (and virtually all other states) have fought this over-exploitation commercial abuse for many decades.
The correct remedy always seems to be the same: Take the dollar sign off the wild animal. Don't sell him.
With limited exceptions (such as hook-and-line fisheries in some cases), public wildlife should not be sold for personal profit. Instead, sought-after animals should be taken only on a family level, for personal use, subject to whatever tight limits are necessary in order to maintain populations.
All citizens, equal.
It was in the early 1980s that Texas officials began phasing out commercial nets, first in half of their coastal bays. It didn't take long to establish that fish were two and three times more plentiful wherever the nets were banned.
Then followed the complete prohibiton against all commercial food-fish netting, including cast nets or smaller seines. Interestingly, no amendment campaign or great public outcry was necessary because wildlife officials themselves were attuned to a conservation ethic, unlike the commercial influence that undermined Florida's saltwater management for so long (and still threatens it).
That same conservation ethic prompted Texas to develop fish hatcheries that regularly plant more than 25 million redfish fingerlings and some eight million seatrout in waters now teeming with both and allowing far greater personal bag limits for Texans.
And yet, many of us cling to the notion that some commercial netting, such as cast netting of mullet, may be possible without depleting the stocks.
Patience wears thin, however, when subterfuges blossom in the legislature, for instance, that would convert allowable seine nets into gill nets, all under the guise of saving baby fish.
As the nonsense continues, you have to wonder whether we should just deal a final hand of Texas Hold 'Em and enjoy new levels of fish abundance.