New hunting and fishing licenses go on sale August 15 and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, TPWD, is encouraging hunters to buy their licenses early and avoid the rush. Current licenses expire at the end of the month, and if you wait until the September 1 opening of dove season to purchase one you might end up standing in line.
Last year TPWD sold nearly 350,000 licenses during the four-day period around the opening weekend of dove season. Since it takes an average of five minutes to process a license sale it doesn't take many sportsmen to create a line.
Texas issues more than two million recreational hunting and fishing licenses annually trough 28 TPWD field offices, more than 100 state parks and some 1,400 retailers across the state. The total is closer to three million when commercial licenses and various permits are included. The annual revenue from the sale of hunting and fishing licenses totals approximately 81 million dollars which goes toward fisheries and wildlife conservation and law enforcement.
The cost of a license has not increased this year, and if you want the "Super Combo" which includes a resident hunting and fishing license and all five state stamp endorsements (archery, freshwater fishing, saltwater fishing with a red drum tag, upland game bird, and migratory game bird) the price is $64.
Licenses are available at many retail outlets such as Wal-Mart and Academy and at the TPWD office in Brownsville at 5460 Paredes Line Road or they can be purchased by phone or on line. The TPWD web site is http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us or call 800-895-4248. There is a $5 convenience fee for either option, and a major credit card is required. License sales call center hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday thru Friday. The online transaction system is available 24/7.
In addition to a hunting license, all wing shooters will need to purchase a game bird stamp. To hunt doves or teal in September a Migratory Game Bird Stamp which costs $7 is required. Duck hunters also need a Federal Duck Stamp, and they must have Harvest Information Program (HIP) certification. HIP certification will be printed on the license at time of sale after the purchaser answers some brief questions about migratory bird hunting.
An Upland Game Bird Stamp, which also costs $7, is required to hunt all non-migratory game birds, including turkey, quail, pheasant, chachalaca and lesser prairie chicken. When you get your Super Combo license package, which is the best bang for the buck, all these stamps are automatically included.
Hunter Education Certification is also required of any hunter born on or after September 2, 1971 and who is a least 17 years old. For hunters who are unable to take a hunter education class before hunting season the TPWD offers a one time deferral option.
The outlook for September's early migratory bird hunting in Texas looks promising. According to TPWD biologists, dove and teal are expected to be abundant. Timely rainfall throughout much of the state has yielded excellent range conditions. "I expect above average production this year, and hunt success should be higher provided the doves are not dispersed," said Jay Roberson, TPWD dove program leader. The Special South Texas Whitewing Season opens Saturday, September 1.
The early teal season runs from September 15-30 in South Texas and exceptional numbers of birds are expected to be headed our way. "There is lots of rain and water on the coast, and we're looking at the third highest population of bluewings on record heading this way, so it could be unbelievable," said Dave Morrison, TPWD's waterfowl program leader.
Both greenwing and bluewing teal numbers are approximately 50 percent above the long-term population averages. "This September teal season has the potential to be one of the best in the last several years," Morrison said.
There are some new regulations that take effect September 1 including a reduction in the bag and possession limit for trout in the Lower Laguna Madre. The daily bag has been cut in half, and anglers will be limited to five trout per day and five in possession. This new regulation includes all inside waters south of Marker 21 which is north of Port Mansfield.
"Basically, for the recreational fisherman the biggest change has to do with the spotted seatrout and reduction in the bag and possession," said Captain Ken Baker, with the TPWD. Baker, who is in charge of the game wardens working out of the Brownsville District office, explained that fishermen in the Lower Laguna Madre, Arroyo Colorado, Brownsville Ship Channel and all other area inland waters will be subject to the new limits.
Surf fishermen will not be affected, and you can still catch 10 trout from the beach or the jetties. The base of the jetties is the cutoff for the area covered by the new reduced limits. However, if you are in a boat fishing around the jetties you will need to comply with the new regulations. "If you are fishing in a boat and are out around the jetties or the surf and you happen to catch more than 10 spotted seatrout then you cannot transport those fish back into inland waters," Baker said.
"Another new regulation that will be effective September 1 is that those individuals that fish out in federal waters will be required to have a state fishing license and saltwater stamp to land those fish," Baker said. State waters extend out nine nautical miles, and until this September anglers fishing beyond that point were not required to have a state license.
Baker also warned that breaking state game laws can result in substantial fines. "Lately, we have caught a number of recreational fishermen that have gone over their limit in redfish or exceeded the size limit," Baker said. "Just a few days ago we caught some fishermen that were attempting to hide three redfish and it can be expensive. You can face fines in excess of $600 depending on the size of the fish, because you have to pay restitution to the state and the larger the fish the higher the cost."
It promises to be a banner season for hunting with plentiful numbers of doves, ducks, quail, and geese. Timely rains have also benefited whitetail deer, and this should be an above average year for antler development. Exciting Fall fishing is just around the corner, and the surf zone will soon be teeming with big redfish and tarpon. Just remember to get your hunting and fishing license early to avoid the rush.
Copyright 2007 Richard Moore