Flounder population numbers cause concern for conservationist, anxiety for fishermen

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has some concerns about the flounder population in Calhoun County.

For professional fishing guides and commercial fishermen – the Southern Flounder- which is the largest of the 25 flat fish species in Texas – is a key part of their economic success.

The public was invited to discuss the dwindling flounder population in Calhoun County at the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Office.

“The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has some data that leads them to believe that the flounder population is in a slow, steady decline,” said RJ Shelly, County Extension Agent for the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Office in Calhoun County.

It’s a topic that fishing guides like captain Shawn Harvey – take seriously.

“It’s my livelihood, I guide full time down here in Port O’Connor – it’s what I do, I want to continue doing it for years to come,” Harvey said.

Fishing for flounder, often called gigging, is also more than just an economic concern. It’s a cultural one.

“Recreational fishing of course it’s a pastime, it’s a Texas tradition for many people to get their kids involved,” Harvey said. “My job is taking people out nightly and when they bring their little kids with their smiles and grins, and the elderly people, you have handicap people that can’t walk around as much. It’s really a joy to take other people. I don’t want to give that up.”

Harvey says he and other fisherman have doubts about the ways fishing is regulated in Calhoun County.

“They don’t come out and do the surveys at nighttime, they don’t ask us what we’re bringing in,” Harvey said. “I’ve been doing this since 2011, I know other guides that have been doing it for 20 years many of them have never been asked how many fish do you catch, what are you bringing in. It’s an unknown. The hard part about it is that there are too many unknown variables into this to really make a decision going forward.”

Wednesday night’s discussion just part of the beginning of the process – Texas parks and wildlife will propose new flounder regulations to the commission in January.