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Texas State Saltwater Fish

Red Drum Sciaenops ocellatus Adopted: June 17, 2011
Texas state saltwater fish
Texas State Saltwater Fish: Red Drum
Art: Duane Raver, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

In 2009, an attempt was made to designate an official saltwater fish for the State of Texas. At the request of avid tarpon anglers and conservationists in Texas, State Representative Brandon Creighton, of Conroe, prepared and introduced House Concurrent Resolution No. 136. It proposed that the tarpon (Megalops atlanticus) be named the official saltwater fish of Texas. The bill was referred to the House Culture, Recreation and Tourism Committee on March 25, 2009.

As far back as 1903, Charles F. Holder in his book entitled, "The Big Game Fishes of the United States", advocated Texas adopting tarpon as one of its state symbols because, as he wrote, "as sooner or later, the fame of this splendid fish and the remarkable fishing found along her shores will become one of the prime attractions of this region."


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By: CreightonH.C.R. No. 136


WHEREAS, The State of Texas has designated a select group of official symbols as tangible representations of the state's culture and natural history; and

WHEREAS, The pecan tree, the bluebonnet, the Guadalupe bass, and the mockingbird are examples of some of the natural specimens that help denote the great beauty and diversity of our vast state; and

WHEREAS, In keeping with this custom, the designation of the tarpon as the official State Saltwater Fish of Texas will provide suitable recognition of the aquatic life that inhabits the rich ecosystem of the Gulf of Mexico and the coastal estuaries of our state; and

WHEREAS, Given the scientific name Megalops atlanticus, tarpon can live for more than 60 years and vary in size from juveniles that are as tiny as baitfish to adults that can grow to eight feet in length and exceed 200 pounds; the species is a longtime Texas resident, having lived in the region since the prehistoric era; and

WHEREAS, The tarpon, fondly known by anglers as the "silver king," is found in the open waters of the Gulf to a distance of more than 50 miles offshore, and it also inhabits inland estuaries along the coast and will depart its saltwater home to swim up rivers; this diverse range makes the tarpon uniquely accessible to a wide range of fishing enthusiasts, including those pursuing the species on seagoing boats and those casting lines from the shore or fishing piers; tarpon are not often eaten in the United States, but the spirited fight they put up when hooked makes them a popular quarry for anglers, many of whom employ catch-and-release methods to help preserve the population; and

WHEREAS, A rich history surrounds tarpon fishing in the Lone Star State; in the first half of the 1900s, the Gulf Coast waters were world famous for their abundance of the fish, with dignitaries such as President Franklin D. Roosevelt traveling to Texas to try their luck at landing a tarpon; and

WHEREAS, Today, this prized sport fish remains capable of drawing large numbers of anglers and generating significant recreational revenue to boost the state's economy; moreover, Texas is playing a central role in efforts to insure the longevity of the species; the work of several state conservation organizations, ongoing scientific research by The University of Texas Marine Science Institute, and funding from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department are providing marine biologists with a better understanding of the ecology of the tarpon population in the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean; and

WHEREAS, A majestic fish that has played a prominent role in the development of the Gulf Coast sport fishing industry, the tarpon continues to remind us of the grandeur of our undersea world, and it is indeed a fitting addition to the notable roster of official state symbols; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the 81st Legislature of the State of Texas hereby designate the tarpon as the official State Saltwater Fish of Texas.

Though testimony, on April 14, 2009, by Scott Alford and Jimmy Durham was well thought out, passionate and convincing, there was concern within the members of the Culture, Recreation and Tourism Committee that there was another choice that might suit a greater majority of Texans.

House Concurrent Resolution No. 136 made a good case for Megalops atlanticus but, after discussion and a public hearing, was allowed to expire in committee.

82nd Regular Session of the Texas Legislature

When the next regular session of the Texas Legislature convened (gathered) in January, 2011, it became clear that a fish other than the tarpon was destined to become the official state saltwater fish of Texas.

State Representative Dennis Bonner brought with him a proposal to name the red drum (known as redfish by many Texans) the official state saltwater fish. In the Senate, the same proposal was made with Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 41.

The redfish was held in high esteem by saltwater fishermen in part do to its remarkable "come-back" after years of commercial overfishing. In order to save the redfish along the Texas Gulf Coast, the Gulf Coast Conservation Association, founded in 1977 by fourteen recreational fishermen, managed to get laws passed banning the sale of redfish. The ban on the sale of redfish caused commercial enterprises to look elsewhere for profits. With the ban on commercial fishing, tightened recreational fishing regulations, saltwater fishing stamps, a saltwater hatchery, and the support of avid redfish anglers up and down the Texas Coast, redfish began to repopulate Texas coastal waters.

Filed on April 7, 2011, Rep. Bonner's House Concurrent Resolution No. 133 called for the adoption of the red drum (redfish) as the "official State Saltwater Fish of Texas."

H.C.R. No. 133


WHEREAS, The lands and waters of Texas are home to a diverse range of animals, and a select number of these species have been recognized as official state symbols as a result of their significance to our history and culture; and

WHEREAS, A particularly rich natural environment is found along the Texas Gulf Coast, and of the many distinctive plants and wildlife found in that region, the red drum (Sciaenops ocellatus) is particularly deserving of recognition; and

WHEREAS, Also known as the redfish and the bull red, this majestic saltwater fish spends the first three years of its life in bays along the coast before heading into the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico; it also demonstrates the hardiness and adaptability so often found in the Lone Star State, swimming up rivers on occasion and also taking up residence in certain inland reservoirs; and

WHEREAS, Perhaps the most distinctive characteristic of the fish is its Texas-sized stature; at three years of age, the typical red drum is two-and-a-half feet long and will grow larger over the course of its long life; the biggest red drum caught in Texas waters was 54.25 inches long and weighed nearly 60 pounds; and

WHEREAS, The fish's size, along with its power, speed, and delicious flavor, has made it one of the most popular game species in Texas waters; whether wading through the shallows, casting with fly rods, or trying their luck in pier or surf fishing, anglers of all types prize the red drum as a catch; as a result, the fish plays an important role in boosting recreational tourism; and

WHEREAS, In decades past, redfish also helped drive the state's commercial fishing industry and at times made up as much as 35 percent of its landings; overfishing and illegal netting took a toll, however, and by the early 1980s the drum population had dropped to dangerously low levels throughout the Gulf of Mexico; fortunately, state officials responded to the situation by enacting legislation and adopting wise management and enforcement measures, including the development of a revolutionary hatchery; today, numbers have rebounded to the point where the state has one of the best red drum fisheries in the nation; and

WHEREAS, An environmental success story as well as an awe-inspiring and much-sought-after resident of the Gulf Coast waters, the red drum is a celebrated member of our natural world, and it is indeed a fitting symbol of the Lone Star State; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the 82nd Legislature of the State of Texas hereby designate the red drum as the official State Saltwater Fish of Texas.

The red drum became the official saltwater fish of the State of Texas when Governor Rick Perry signed House Concurrent Resolution No. 133 on June 17, 2011.


Bozka, Larry. "Remarkable, Resilient Redfish." Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine. Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, Jun 2011. Web. 10 Apr 2012.
"The CCA Story." Coastal Conservation Association. Coastal Conservation Association, n.d. Web. 10 Apr 2012. .
"House Concurrent Resolution No. 133." The Texas Legislature Online. The State of Texas, 2011. Web. 29 Sep 2011. .
"House Concurrent Resolution No. 136." The Texas Legislature Online. The State of Texas, 2009. Web. 29 Sep 2011. .
Alford, Scott. "The Case for Tarpon as The Texas Saltwater Fish." The Houston Chronicle. The Houston Chronicle, 19 Apr 2009. Web. 24 Mar 2012. .
The State of Texas. The Texas Legislature. Texas Statutes. Austin: The State of Texas, 2011. Web. .

Texas state saltwater fish
Fisherman Casts for Redfish at Laguna Madre
Photograph: James Forte

Additional Information

Red Drum (Sciaenops ocellatus): Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

Red Drum in Texasadobe document: Brochure from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

Remarkable, Resilient, Redfish: Sporty red drum have run a gauntlet of adversities in order to survive, By Larry Bozka.

Sciaenops ocellatus Red Drum: Smithsonian Marine Station at Fort Pierce, Florida.

Texas Fish & Game Magazine: Official website.

Sciaenops ocellatus - (Linnaeus, 1766) Red Drum: A network connecting science with conservation - NatureServe Explorer: An Online Encyclopedia of Life.

Sciaenops ocellatus (Linnaeus, 1766): Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) Here you will find authoritative taxonomic information on plants, animals, fungi, and microbes of North America and the world.

State fish: Complete list of official state fish from NETSTATE.COM.

More symbols & emblems: Complete list of official Texas state symbols from NETSTATE.COM.

Texas Reds (Saltwater Strategies)

Texas Reds (Saltwater Strategies), by Chester Moore Jr. 212 pages. Publisher: Texas Fish & Game Publishing Co., L.L.C. (October 2003)

Long before the speckled trout was the most popular species on the Gulf Coast, redfish were the big prize. As recently as the mid 1980's, anglers greeted reports of big trout catches with far less enthusiasm than tales of tailing reds in the shallow flats. In my region, trout were mainly by-catch for anglers seeking reds.

How times have changed... some diehard speckled trout anglers give redfish disparaging nicknames like "golden croaker on steroids," "crab carp," and "fool's gold." On the other hand, some of the most affluent anglers on the Gulf Coast have found a deep appreciation for the redfish in recent years with the advent of the Redfish Cup tournament series.

Where, When and How to Wadefish Texas

Where, When and How to Wadefish Texas, by Bink Grimes. 250 pages. Publisher: Texas Fish & Game Publishing Company, LLC (October 1, 2004)

Where, When and How to Wadefish Texas is the most comprehensive Texas Gulf Coast wadefishing book ever printed. We cover every bay system from Sabine Lake to South Padre Island complete with maps displaying over 250 of the best GPS wadefishing hotspots in Texas.

Every serious Texas wadefisherman should have this book.

Larry Bozka's Saltwater Strategies: How, When and Where to Fish the Western Gulf Coast

Larry Bozka's Saltwater Strategies: How, When and Where to Fish the Western Gulf Coast, by Larry Bozka. 264 pages. Publisher: Bozkabooks (1988)

This book is about coastal fishing and addresses the subject in a style entirely unique to the author. Cover to cover, Bozka weaves an always entertaining blend of education, anecdote and foresight. Seasoned coastal anglers will sense his passion and admire his accuracy. Newcomers will close the book fully prepared and afire with enthusiasm. -- Doug Pike...Houston Chronicle, TIDE, Field & Stream

This work presents readers a comprehensive instruction on fishing the incredibly productive waters of the Western Gulf of Mexico. Bozka's book is a must-read for saltwater anglers of every level, from the beginner to the most seasoned old salt.

Plugger: Wade Fishing the Gulf Coast

Plugger: Wade Fishing the Gulf Coast, by Rudy Grigar; edited by W. R. McAfee. 201 pages. Publisher: Texas Tech University Press (October 15, 2003)

From a pioneer in catch-and-release and a legend in saltwater wade-fishing. Rudy Grigar, one of America’s most notorious characters of saltwater wade-fishing, lends the inimitable voice of experience to these yester yarns of the coastal waters of Texas and Louisiana. A fisherman’s fisherman, Grigar claimed to have caught more than a million pounds of fish in his sixty years along the coast. Yet fervent and abiding concern for those waters spurred his commitment to a catch-and-release policy for all fish under three pounds and to Gulf Coast conservation. His tales and tips are the bible of those now wading the Plugger’s favorite spots.

Glory of the Silver King: The Golden Age of Tarpon Fishing

Glory of the Silver King: The Golden Age of Tarpon Fishing, by Hart Stilwell. Edited and with an Introduction by Brandon Shuler. 152 pages. Publisher: Texas A&M University Press (April 7, 2011)

A tribute to a fish, a sport, and a time now past . . .

Through a series of chance encounters over several years, fishing guide and journalist Brandon Shuler unearthed multiple drafts of a nearly finished manuscript by an almost forgotten Texas sports writer, Hart Stilwell. Titled “Glory of the Silver King,”the manuscript vividly captured the history of tarpon and snook fishing on the Texas and Mexico Gulf Coast from the 1930s to the end of Stilwell’s life in the early 1970s.

Stilwell was a seasoned outdoors journalist with a passion for salt-water fishing. Now, with Shuler’s careful research, editing, and annotation, this lost manuscript has found new life as both an entertaining “fish tale” and a historical snapshot of a region’s natural heritage. It successfully conveys the thrill of fishing for these once abundant species at the same time it tracks—and laments—the rise, decline, and eventual fall of their fisheries in Texas (which Shuler is able to report are now experiencing a rebound).