The Nueces River flows out of some of Texas’s most beautiful landscapes in Real County. From 2,400 feet elevations of limestone encrusted mountains to open valleys, the area is a treat for the eyes. And in the waters that flow through here lives the state’s most unique freshwater fishing challenge-the Guadalupe bass.
Dwelling in only a handful of river drainages in the Edwards Plateau, they are a small bass with the state record weighing just 3.71 pounds.
Cousins Amos and Jaxon got a chance to go on a special Guadalupe Bass catch-and-release conservation mission to raise awareness to the species and to stream health in Texas.
The trip is part of the Wild Wishes® program founded by me and my wife Lisa in 2014. It grants wildlife encounters to children who have a terminal illness or have lost a parent or sibling. At the time of this writing we have granted 90 wishes.
We are now finding ways to train these young people to become wildlife conservationists. We have realized no one could better understand wildlife that is threatened, endangered, or in need of attention than children who have faced enormous struggles themselves.
The trip started in Lost Maples State Natural Area, a gorgeous area that is considered a sanctuary for Guadalupe bass. And despite catching numerous largemouths, we found no Guadalupes.
Our next stop was in a roadside stream near Camp Wood, and once again we found no Guadalupes. However, we did find an incredible concentration of gorgeous Rio Grande cichlids and had a great time catching and releasing them.
This river had plenty of flow which is the preferred haunt of this species and within 10 minutes Jaxon’s father Josh caught a Guadalupe.
Jaxon followed suit five minutes later.
And within two hours we all had caught Guadalupe bass.
While standing next to Amos in the stream, he reflected on the day.
“This is such a beautiful place Mr. Chester. I thank God we got to fish it,” he said.
“Indeed, my friend,” I replied.
The boys were surprised to learn introduced smallmouth bass has caused hybridization problems with this species that is uniquely Texas. After spending time in them, they were concerned about the health of streams and asked in-depth questions about water quality, pollution, and the impact of dams and drought.
Young people can ask big questions about nature if you give them the opportunity, and that was part of the goal of this Wild Wishes trip.
The Guadalupe bass, like other “black bass” including largemouth, smallmouth, and spotted bass, is not a pure bass at all but a member of the sunfish family Centrarchidae.
Through these two boy’s heart for fishing and wildlife, thousands of people will learn about the Guadalupe bass and maybe even decide to take a trip to the Hill Country in pursuit of them. They are, after all the Texas State Fish and deserve to not only survive but thrive.
And so do children.
When they go through tragedies or face health trials spending quality time in God’s Creation can do wonders. I am grateful for the opportunity to spend time with this wonderful family and pursue a fish that has always intrigued me.
I believe one of the greatest opportunities we have to grow the number of anglers in America is by investing in children who are facing challenges. When we show them love through the investment of time and teach them a skill like fishing that is not only fun but is a peaceful experience, then we give them something they can carry through life. Teaching a child to play football will likely only last through high school and maybe college. Ditto for other sports. Fishing is a lifetime pursuit, and there is something healing about being in nature.
And the children of today need as much healing as possible. These statistics show our communities are full of children who could use mentoring in a fishing setting.
*Forty percent of children have no father in their life.
*Of all children born in the U.S. now 50 percent will see their parents divorced.
*Approximately 20 percent of girls and eight percent of boys will be sexually abused before they are 18.
*Suicide is the second casing lead of death for age 10-24.
*Each day in our nation, there is an average of over 3,041 attempts by young people grades 9-12.
Those numbers are heart-wrenching, but in my opinion, it is no surprise that since our culture has shifted away from more outdoors time we see more hopelessness. By taking children in your neighborhood, church and extended family fishing, you can make significant positive inroads into their life and inspire them with a gift that will continue giving into old age.
Our outreach works a lot with the foster system, and many foster homes and organizations are very willing to take kids to fishing events and welcome these kinds of activities. There are opportunities out there for those willing to go beyond themselves and use fishing to make an impact on a child’s life.
There might be some who say this is the wrong demographic, and the proper way to grow an industry is to target the affluent and families with enough disposable income to spend freely fishing.
I say that’s dead wrong.
We should take ever kid fishing that wants to go.
The best way to grow an industry is to capture people’s hearts, and there is no better way to win hearts than spending time with hurting children on the water catching fish. This will create memories that last a lifetime, and people who love fishing because someone showed them love through fishing.
And I have seen it firsthand.
When Jaxon released his first Guadalupe bass back into the clear waters of the Nueces, he looked up and said, “Let’s do this again. This is awesome!”
Yes, it is little buddy.
Yes, it is.
(By the way, we’re already planning a return trip.)
Chester Moore, Jr.