The Coastal Fisheries Division of Texas Parks and Wildlife has a big job, monitoring four million acres of saltwater, including the states bays and estuaries and out to ten nautical miles in the Gulf of Mexico. The annual spring gill net survey in the Lower Laguna Madre is underway, and is proving to be a banner year for the bay, as Texas Parks and Wildlife technician Melinda Dunks and her crew are hauling in huge amounts of trout and other fish.
Melinda Dunks Texas Parks and Wildlife Technician III, "Our catch rate this spring is almost double what it was last spring at this point." Parks and Wildlife catch rates are so high this spring that they are only setting two 600-foot gill nets rather than the normal three. Each net is set at dusk and then retrieved at first light so that the samplers can release as many fish as possible. And the fish that do not survive are donated to local charities. Dunks, "The homeless shelter in Harlingen, so they are always very excited when we start gill net sampling. They look forward to seeing us on Tuesdays and Wednesdays." This particular net north of Port Mansfield is packed with of trout, redfish, and black drum, and they are also catching half a dozen gar known locally as catan. "This is an alligator gar." And after carefully measuring the toothy creature, the gar is tossed back into the water.