Hunting and fishing licenses for 2021-2022 went on sale beginning Aug. 15. As the new hunting and fishing license year begins on Sept. 1, new catfish harvest regulations will go into effect which impact Belton Lake as well as other lakes in the state.
According to a March 2021 press release from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopted the following changes to the length limits and bag limits for blue catfish and channel catfish:
The current statewide regulations for blue and channel catfish consist of a 12-inch minimum length limit and a 25-fish daily bag limit that combines both species. The changes remove the minimum length limit (fish of any length could be harvested) and retain the 25-fish daily bag. However, of the 25 blue or channel catfish that could be harvested per day, anglers will be limited to harvesting no more than 10 fish that measure 20 inches or longer.
Two new exceptions to the statewide regulations for blue and channel catfish were adopted. The first category follows the no minimum length limit and 25-fish daily bag limit for blue and channel catfish from the approved statewide regulations but further limits the number of fish 20 inches or larger that could be harvested per day to five and further limits the number of fish 30 inches or larger that could be harvested to one. A total of 12 locations were approved for this category. Following are the locations and their current regulations.
Six locations that are currently under statewide regulations: Lakes Belton (Bell and Coryell counties), Bob Sandlin (Camp, Franklin, and Titus counties), Conroe (Montgomery and Walker counties), Hubbard Creek (Stephens County), Lavon (Collin County), and Ray Hubbard (Collin, Dallas, Kaufman, and Rockwall counties).
Three locations currently under a 30- to 45-inch slot length limit: Lewisville (Denton County), Richland-Chambers (Freestone and Navarro counties), and Waco (McLennan County).
Two locations currently under no minimum length limit and a 50-fish daily bag limit but with harvest limits of five fish that measure 20 inches or longer: Kirby (Taylor County) and Palestine (Cherokee, Anderson, Henderson, and Smith counties).
Lake Tawakoni (Hunt, Rains, and Van Zandt counties) currently is under similar regulations: no minimum but with harvest limits of seven over 20 inches and two over 30 inches.
The final new exemption category is a 14-inch minimum length limit and a 15-fish combined daily bag for blue and channel catfish. Locations for this category, which are currently under statewide regulations, are: Lakes Braunig (Bexar County), Calaveras (Bexar County), Choke Canyon (Live Oak and McMullen counties), Fayette County (Fayette County), and Proctor (Comanche County).
Additionally, two reservoirs will be added to an existing blue and channel catfish regulation category: no minimum length limit and a 50-fish bag limit with the additional restriction that no more than five fish of 30 inches or larger could be harvested per day. Those reservoirs are Lake Livingston (Polk, San Jacinto, Trinity, and Walker counties), which has a 12-inch minimum length limit and 50-fish daily bag limit, and Lake Sam Rayburn (Jasper County), which is currently under statewide regulations.
So, to summarize the new regulation as it pertains to Belton Lake, as of Sept. 1, there will be no minimum length limit on blue catfish and channel catfish. Additionally, the daily bag limit for blue catfish and channel catfish will be 25 fish. Of these 25 catfish, a maximum of five catfish may be 20 inches or greater. Further, of these 25 catfish, a maximum of one catfish may be 30 inches or greater. These limits apply to the two species combined.
To summarize the new regulation as it pertains to Stillhouse Hollow Lake, as of Sept. 1, there will be no minimum length limit on blue catfish and channel catfish. Additionally, the daily bag limit for blue catfish and channel catfish will be 25 fish. Of these 25 catfish, a maximum of 10 catfish may be 20 inches or greater. These limits apply to the two species combined.
John Tibbs, the Catfish Management Coordinator for the state, and one of two local biologists responsible for managing the fisheries in Belton and Stillhouse Hollow, had this to say:
“These new regulations are based on a considerable amount of catfish data and are designed to improve or at least maintain fisheries quality in Texas Reservoirs. The statewide regulation will provide some protection for fish between 20 inches and 30 inches, which will improve fishing quality in reservoirs with high harvest. The special regulation on Belton will reduce harvest of catfish between 20 and 30 inches, which will increase numbers of blue catfish reaching 30 inches. That means that over the next few years Belton anglers should see improved numbers of blues in the 20- to 30-inch size range, as well as more trophy blue catfish.”