Drought conditions are threatening the Texas annual white bass fishery in a number of ways.
If a reservoir drops so low that connection to the river is lost, the fish won’t be able to swim upstream where they are more vulnerable to angling. Water access for both boaters and bank anglers may be reduced or lost. More importantly, the fish may not be able to spawn, reducing the numbers of fish available. If drought conditions continue for years, the white bass fishery may decline to the point anglers lose interest. This can result in a significant loss to local economies.
“Many Texas reservoirs, including several in Central Texas, currently provide excellent white bass runs,” said Dave Terre, chief of management and research for TPWD’s Inland Fisheries Division. “Changing climate and increased water demands increase the chance that we will lose the connection between rivers and reservoirs necessary to sustain white bass populations unless we take this important fishery into account when making decisions about water management and reservoir operations.”
Terre also pointed out that the connections between rivers and reservoirs are important not just for white bass but also for a number of other species, including catfish and non-game species.
“We stand to lose these important fisheries if connectivity is not maintained,” he said. “As our reservoirs get older and suffer from siltation and degradation of fish habitat, drought conditions will exacerbate the problem. Unfortunately there is no easy or quick fix. Solving these problems will take cooperation between the agencies managing the reservoirs and the fisheries with support from the public. Water could be managed in such a way as to maintain connectivity. Physical improvements could be made in river-to-reservoir transition zones. Watershed management practices could be used to decrease siltation rates. And water conservation measures are always helpful in maintaining reservoir levels.”
Texas is part of a national movement to address the multiple problems facing reservoirs. The Reservoir Fisheries Habitat Partnership and the Friends of Reservoirs Foundation were established to coordinate efforts, generate public support and facilitate funding.
“TPWD has launched studies to demonstrate the importance of maintaining river-to-reservoir transition zones from biological, recreational and economic standpoints, “Terre said. “We are working with the public, other agencies and grass-roots partners who support fish habitat improvements in our reservoir systems.” –Larry Hodge, TPWD