AUSTIN, Texas – In 2010, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) and its conservation partners embarked on an ambitious mission to restore and conserve 10 self-sustaining populations of the unique Guadalupe bass – the state's official fish – within a decade.
This spring, TPWD is celebrating achievement of that goal and bringing anglers to the party with a unique promotion.
"To celebrate, TPWD is partnering with the Texas Council of Fly Fishers International, San Gabriel Fly Fishers, Bass Pro Shops and Living Waters Fly Fishing on a prize giveaway program to reward anglers for catching the state fish," the agency said.
Until March 31, 2020, any angler who catches one of 40 tagged Guadalupe bass from the San Gabriel River or its tributaries will be entered into a monthly prize drawing. Each monthly winner will be given a choice of one item from an assortment of prizes provided by supporting partners, including fly rods, fly fishing packs, fly fishing vests, landing nets, fly fishing toolkits, fly assortments and $50 gift cards to Bass Pro Shops.
Additionally, the prize giveaway is intended to raise awareness of the unique and high-quality fisheries for Guadalupe bass and other stream-dwelling fishes in central Texas.
Many Lone Star anglers already appreciate pursuing this species of black bass found in no other state. A recent study by TPWD and Texas Tech found that stream fishing in central Texas generated an annual economic impact of $71 million during a 16-month period. Forty-two percent of anglers surveyed specifically target Guadalupe bass.
“The San Gabriel River is a prime example of the tremendous stream fishing opportunities available in central Texas within or just a short drive from major urban centers,” said Marcos De Jesus, TPWD Inland Fisheries District Supervisor for San Marcos-Austin. “Central Texas streams provide quality bank, wade, and kayak fishing opportunities for Guadalupe bass, largemouth bass, Rio Grande cichlid, and various species of sunfish and catfish.”
Tim Birdsong, a fisherman who also happens to be Habitat Conservation Branch Chief for TPWD added, "Guadalupes fights harder than any other species I've caught," he said. "They know how to move their bodies in current, and they are inextricably linked to flowing water. They hang out just behind the current and move out into it to ambush."
Sadly, though, the Guadalupe no longer is found in some of its range, mostly because of development, which is what promoted the public-private restoration effort.
"We see this as an urgent time to do something meaningful to protect the species," the biologist said, pointing out that population in the Hill Country has increased by one million people during the past decade.
"Fourteen species of fish are found in the Hill Country and nowhere else in the world," he added. "We're really concerned about urbanization and demand on our spring-fed rivers."
In collaboration with landowners and other partners, TPWD is working to preserve intact populations of Guadalupe bass in Brushy and Gorman creeks and the Pedernales and lower Colorado rivers. The fish also were recently restored to the South Llano River, Blanco River, and Mission Reach of the San Antonio River.
"Efforts to restore Guadalupe bass to the namesake Guadalupe River are ongoing, along with efforts to assess the status of Guadalupe bass in the San Gabriel River," TPWD said. "Future directions include assessing the status of native Guadalupe bass populations in Cibolo Creek and the upper San Antonio and Medina rivers and assessing the status of refuge populations of Guadalupe bass in the Nueces, Frio, and Sabinal rivers."
The lower Colorado River below Austin boasts a trophy fishery for Guadalupe bass, and, in fact, that's where Bryan Townsend caught the record, 3.71-pounds, on a crawfish-pattern fly in 2014. Birdsong added that about 60 percent of anglers targeting the state fish cast flies as they wade or drift.
The Llano River, a tributary of the Colorado, is another good choice. "Around Kingsland, you have a different kind of river channel with granite outcrops," Birdsong said. "It's a great area to wade fish."
Designated the official state fish of Texas in 1989, the Guadalupe is green in color. It doesn’t have the vertical bars typical to smallmouth bass and its jaw doesn’t extend beyond the eyes, as in largemouths. Also, its color reaches much lower on its body than in spotted bass.
To learn more about efforts to conserve Guadalupe bass, you can review online TPWD’s 2018 Annual Report for the Guadalupe Bass Restoration Initiative.
More information about the prize giveaway is available from the San Gabriel Fly Fishers.