Here on the Texas and Louisiana border, Sabine Lake is formed from the confluence of the Neches and Sabine Rivers. Many anglers that reside in SETX and SWLA, such as myself, call Sabine Lake home. It is composed of a very unique ecosystem and is much different than any other place along the Coast. One other unique aspect of the lake is that both states share a common border. However, one thing that is not shared between the two are the laws and regulations for recreational anglers. In fact, they are nearly complete opposites from each other.
Here in a little bit, I will touch on some of the specifics between the controversial laws but for now, I want to bring up another topic. I believe that if both sides do not come up with equal laws, than there is a chance that Sabine Lake could become a "Tragedy of the Commons".
WHAT IS "THE TRAGEDY OF THE COMMONS"?
The Tragedy of the Commons occurs when a individual uses a limited resource and acts out of their own self interest, despite the consequences of the whole. The problem then begins to grow when several individuals act in the same way until the resources are depleted; if not depleted, then the remaining population may become small and undersized. In this case here, the limited resource’s are the gamefish of Sabine Lake and the majority of anglers are the ones who will suffer.
TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE PROPOSAL
Back in 2014, all along the Texas coast, the Speckled Trout limit was 10 per person. Long story short, the Lower Laguna Madre’s Trout populations were down, so TP&WD implemented a 5 Trout limit all the way up to Matagorda County. They are now proposing to apply the same 5 Trout limit along the whole Texas coast. This means that Sabine Lake will have a 5 trout limit, ONLY for the Texas side!
Now this is where the laws get controversial— once this change happens, the bag limits for Trout will be nearly polar opposites of each other.
TEXAS vs LOUISIANA LIMITS
It is no secret that Louisiana limits are by far more favorable to anglers than any other state. Yes, parts of their fishery are like nothing else on the Gulf Coast but that does not apply to the whole state. Where the issue on our end occurs is the daily possession limit of game fish. As I stated before, their laws vs Texas laws are nearly opposite of each other.
TEXAS DAILY BAG LIMIT
Redfish- 20"-28" Max and limit of 3
Trout- 15" with 1 over 25" and limit of 10
Flounder- 14" and limit of 5 (limit of 2 between Nov. 1 to Dec. 14)
LOUISIANA DAILY BAG LIMIT
Redfish- "16"-27" Max and limit of 5
Trout- 12" and limit of 15
Flounder- No size and limit of 10
So to keep my blog from running away into other topics, let us just focus on the proposal of changing the Trout limit on Sabine. Let’s just say that the law gets passed and in Texas, you are only allowed to have a bag limit of 5 trout per person.
If fishing in Texas, you could have a boat with 4 people, and at best, you would be able to keep 20 trout….
If fishing in Louisiana, you could have a boat with 4 people, and at best, you would be able to keep 60 trout….
These limits follow for every angler on Sabine Lake and one could see the vast numbers of the allotted amount of Trout being kept after a full year of fishing—according to the different state limits.
The potential with the numbers above should be frightening to any angler that has spent their amount of time on the lake. With these numbers and the ease of potentially harvesting 3X the Texas limit, it is obvious that the only reason a angler would claim to need this many fish is strictly out of greed—either financial or personal gain. This all refers back and derives from The Tragedy of Commons.
*The size limit of trout has also been another controversial topic between others on Social Media but I will save that for another blog I believe.*
WHAT IS HAPPENING ON SABINE LAKE
So as some anglers and guides look at it, one of the benefits of Sabine Lake is, of course, the difference in bag limits between the two states. It is entirely to easy to live in Texas, purchase a Louisiana license, launch in La and fish nearly the same waters and keep more fish.
It’s literally a 1/4 mile drive over a bridge to the La launch! 600 yards separates 2 different ideas of conservation and laws for the same body of water. There is literally a guide that claims to have his business in Port Arthur, Texas and goes by “Louisiana Limits”!
Once and IF the 5 trout law gets passed, this is when the true demise of Sabine Lake will begin. Not only will local Texas anglers flock to the short sprint over to La, but so will other anglers from across the state! Rather you hire a guide or DIY, why would you spend you money and time chasing 5 trout? Why would you fish anywhere else on the Texas Coast when you could just head on over to Sabine Lake, drive 1/4 mile on the other side of the bridge and keep 15 Trout! Per person! That logic is hard to argue with a vast majority of anglers.
By being separated by a very short distance and having such wildly different laws, it is a disgrace to the betterment of Sabine Lake. With this attitude, the future of Sabine Lake is being jeopardized and that is strictly because of the 2 uncommon laws.
A CALL FOR COMMON WATER LAWS
It is no secret, the past few years of rain has been nothing but bad news for Sabine Lake; it has not helped the population of Trout one bit! However, if you have spent any time at all, you know that the fishing is at a all time low. I have been fishing Sabine for 20 years and this is as bad as I have personally seen it. I don’t target trout year round but I do my fair share; I have not caught a trout over 22” on Sabine in the past 4 years. This summer, I spent 2 nights fishing on , arguably, the best lighted pier on the lake. Within those 2 nights, we landed 3 keeper Trout! I am not claiming to be the best Trout fisherman but I believe it says a lot about our local fishery!
That being said, a conservation act needs to be implied to ensure a healthier stock of Trout for Sabine Lake. I believe that Texas Parks and Wildlife are implementing the proper laws to make Sabine Lake better.
However, it is pertinent that TPWD works with LWF to come up with a common law for the lake. I am challenging the CCA chapters to get involved and every wildlife official, county and parish representative to meet on the same page for the common good. Sabine Lake has been separated for entirely too many years and now it is time implement a conservation effort towards it. In order to do so, we need support from the locals of both states.
I am writing this blog because I have seen a major change in the lake that I call home. I have spent countless days and hours on her and never have became discouraged from catching fish; this year, I have hit that low feeling of discouragement. Currently where I sit and as I write this, I see the downfall of our lake, unless something is done. Something has to be done! I believe that the laws being proposed will bring nothing but good for Sabine Lake. I just hope the both parties can collaborate and get on the same page; that is a key factor for a healthy estuary on Sabine.
My only other hope is that anglers will take conservation into their own hand and keep only what they need. When people decide to keep more than their fair share, The Tragedy of the Commons happens. I just want people to realize that there is not a unlimited supply of fish in our lakes and that we are our own worst enemy. We should be taking steps towards keeping our lakes, marsh’s, bayous, estuaries and the coast healthy. This is not about what is best for us, it is about what is best for OUR water!