Game wardens seize thousand of feet of illegal gill nets

HARLINGEN — Three sweeps of the Rio Grande by Texas Game Wardens within the past week again resulted in another major haul of illegal gill nets set by Mexican fishermen.

Ira Zuniga, public information officer for the Texas Game Wardens, said Sunday the patrols upriver from the mouth of the Rio Grande toward Brownsville occurred three times last week.

“They were able to, in the three-day operation, get 33 gill nets,” Zuniga said. “Some of the fish were dead, and those that were alive were released, everything from tarpon to non-game fish, but lots of tarpon and snook.”

Zuniga said the game wardens can patrol as far as 20 miles up the Rio Grande but these details are concentrated on areas where there are Mexican fishing camps on the south side of the river.

“They know that they’re legal (gill nets) on their side but not on our side, and they just tend to stretch the net across onto our side,” Zuniga said. “Our guys were lucky to be there at the right time and seize the ones that were on our side.”

Between 7,000 and 10,000 feet of nets were confiscated and destroyed by the game wardens, according to the wardens’ Facebook page. Gill nets, which are banned in Texas waters, are indiscriminate killers.

Illegal trotlines and crab traps also were removed from the river.

Zuniga noted that just because it is hunting season in Texas, state waters are not being ignored when it comes to enforcement.

“We’re still in hunting season, coming up to the end, and we’re pretty busy with just making sure everybody’s doing the right thing when it comes to hunting and fishing,” he added.