Green Guide

Freshwater inflows, license changes improve Texas crab catch

Posted 3:11 p.m. Wednesday
Updated 3:13 p.m. Wednesday

— Changes to the commercial license program and more freshwater inflows have led to some of the best catches of blue crabs in Texas since crab numbers started declining in Galveston Bay in the late 1980s.

Rain and flooding have increased freshwater inflows, which benefit the crab population because the animals thrive in brackish water, according to Glen Sutton, a crab biologist with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

Sutton said the state's implementation of a crab license buyback program in the early 2000s has reduced the number of permitted anglers looking for crabs in the bay. Now there are 200 licenses in the state, compared to 400 several years ago.

"It's getting better," Sutton told The Galveston County Daily News (http://bit.ly/2pVZ14Q ). "We bottomed out around 2007. It didn't show any signs of recovery for a few years after that, until around three or four years ago where we began to see increases. This year has been really good."

Crabbing season is 11 months out of the year. It closes down in February, so the state can retrieve any abandoned traps. Crabs caught must be male and measure at least 5 inches between the two spine rides along their shells, according to Lance Robinson of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

The state limits commercial crabbers to setting 200 traps a year. Recreational crabbers also need a fishing license and are limited in the type of traps they use, Robinson said.

Sutton said the crabs still suffer from the multitude of fish that eat them and the population's unbalanced male to female ratio.

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