Most people people with paddles anyway know we have things pretty good here in the Texas Hill Country, lots of water, lots of good water and plenty of places to get a canoe or a kayak into a clear, fast-moving stream.
We're not claiming there's unlimited opportunity, of course, because Texas remains a private land state and paddlers and river anglers have to mind their business when looking for a place to launch and take out after a day on the water. But if you know where to go and when to go, a self-propelled angler can have a pretty good time on the Colorado or the Llano or the Blanco or any of the other rivers right here at home.
Texas Parks and Wildlife wants to know how much people are using those rivers and how much emphasis they're placing on the Guadalupe bass, the Texas state fish and an inhabitant of all those shallow, clear streams. Texas Tech graduate student Zachary Thomas is conducting an online study that will focus on that use and he hopes will help TPWD decide on management strategies for Guadalupe bass and all the other fish in the Hill Country streams.
"The study really came about because of all the Guadalupe bass restoration work (TPWD has) done in the past two years," Thomas said from his office on Tech's field station in Junction. "A lot of that work has been done here on the Llano and I wondered if anybody had looked at the Guadalupe in terms of recreational fishing."
A denizen of fast, clear streams only found in the Texas Hill Country, the Guadalupe bass is a relatively small, aggressive native bass that has come to symbolize Texas stream fishing.
Unfortunately, before fisheries managers really understood the unique role Guadalupes play in stream ecology, smallmouth bass were stocked in many streams and lakes and that posed a threat to the Guadalupes. "We've had issues with hybridization with other fish," Thomas said.
The smallmouth/Guadalupe hybrids made for good fishing at times but they almost wiped out the native Guadalupe genes. Texas Parks and Wildlife saw what was happening and has been searching for pure strains of the smaller native fish to refresh their populations in the streams.
Angler use will be a big part of the restoration efforts, because that can help determine where some of the money is spent, especially on stocking, management of populations and possibly on new access areas for stream anglers. Thomas is trying to find out where, how much and when anglers are taking to Hill Country streams, as well as how big a role Guadalupe bass play in their fishing trips.
"We're doing the study online," Thomas said, "because with our current licensing system there's no way to differentiate river anglers from other anglers. The study will be a way to focus restoration and management efforts in the future."
Thomas said the survey will remain online for four months and that the results then will be compiled and passed to TPWD to help direct efforts to individual streams getting the most use.
To take the survey, which is confidential, go to https://www.research.net/s/HillCountryFishingSurvey. There's also a form there to fill out to win free fishing rods or fly rods for taking part in the study.